If there's one expert you want
onboard early during the design phase of a new addition or new
facility, it's a code and/or life safety expert.
Yet all too often, healthcare
projects go through the early design phases without bringing in
a code, life safety or any other healthcare specific consultant
to review the plans.
What's the big deal? Consider that this oversight can
potentially result in major reworking of the floor plan late in
the design stage, leading to massive costs and scheduling delays
for the building owner. These life safety experts should be a
part of concept meetings to offer their early input on egress
plans, existing conditions, occupancy concerns, effects of
multiple codes of record on the project and
The same advice applies to
renovation projects. Using an existing life safety plan as a
basis for even minor renovations can potentially lead to
problems down the road. Many fire protection plans identify
areas required by the Life Safety Code - areas that may not
reflect the existing building. Have the plans been adjusted in
the past to identify existing requirements? And are those
updates based on the original floor plans?
It's entirely possible that the
originally provided life safety features are no longer
identified on your plans. An example of this is a life safety
plan created for an existing facility that simply identifies the
requirements of an existing floor based upon the sections within
Chapter 19 of the Life Safety Code - 2000 edition without
looking historically at the construction.
A plan could be developed such
that an existing floor with less than 30 sleeping rooms is not
identified as having a smoke barrier - and on the surface would
be compliant with section 126.96.36.199.
However, if this floor had
undergone a major renovation in previous years, the intent of
the code is for that renovation to comply with the requirements
for a new health care occupancy. For a new health care
occupancy, a smoke barrier would have been required to separate
the floor into at least two smoke compartments as per section
188.8.131.52. Therefore, while the floor may have existed when the
new life safety plan was developed, a historical review would
have identified the requirement for the floor to comply with
provisions for the new construction.
While your life safety consultant
can be an important resource, remember, they're not the be-all
and end-all for a project's life safety requirements. No, that's
your authority having jurisdiction. By involving the AHJs -
whether they be local building/fire officials, the State
Department of Health or your facility's accrediting agency -
early on in the project, you'll be able to clearly identify any
codes and requirements that your project must meet.
About the Author: Eric
Babcock is director of the New York-Armonk Office for Jensen
This post is part of an ongoing
series from the IFMA Health Care Institute. To download the full edition of
Tips, Tricks & Traps to Avoid,