What is a Machine Room?

Malcolm Tatum

Machine rooms are spaces set aside in manufacturing plants, offices, and other buildings to house key equipment or machines that are used in the general operation of the facility. Sometimes referred to as a central equipment room or a rack room, the machine room will often be the site of telephone switching panels, controllers and other equipment that is necessary for the operation of a local computer network. Switches that control the flow of electricity and other utilities to various locations within the building are also normally located within the space. There is also the elevator machine room, which serves as the command post for controlling the operation of any elevators within the building.

One type of machine room controls the operation of a building's elevators.
One type of machine room controls the operation of a building's elevators.

In many facilities, access to a machine room is restricted. Only those who are trained to work with the equipment housed within the room are allowed to enter the room under normal circumstances. Exceptions to this rule would be the owners of the building, or key executives or officials who are granted keys or coded access in the event of an emergency. The idea behind this level of security is to ensure that unauthorized parties cannot enter the space and compromise the efficiency of any of the equipment installed within the room.

While the climate and general conditions that are maintained in a machine room will vary, based on the type or equipment housed in the area, there are a few basics that tend to apply in all types of equipment rooms. The temperature and humidity level is maintained at a constant level throughout the year, which helps to support the efficient function of the sometimes sensitive electrical components. It is not unusual for the space to also be lined with acoustical panels that help to muffle noise from outside the space. This is often done in order to prevent the noise of humming machinery from being heard outside the room, but can also serve the purpose of limiting any outside noise from entering the equipment area.

Because of the importance of the machine room to the overall function of the facility, backup power supplies are normally maintained within the space. In the event of a power outage, these auxiliary power sources often activate automatically, helping to maintain lighting and prevent the loss of any data recently entered into the computer systems within the building. The backup power supply also helps to maintain the fire suppression systems that are installed within the space, thus allowing the elevators and other essential services to continue operating while the building is being evacuated.

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