Alcoves and Areas Open to the Corridor

Alcove Web 2When does a wide spot in the corridor have to meet the requirements for areas open to the corridor? This question was raised to me in regards to a clean linen cart parked in an alcove of the corridor. Does it have to comply with the section on corridor width or the section on areas open to the corridor? This is just one more example of an issue that is not clearly defined in the Life Safety Code and as best as I can tell, the answer lies with the authority making the interpretation of the code.

First we need to understand the two issues. According to section 18.2.3.3 of the 2000 edition of the LSC, corridors in areas that are intended for the housing, treatment or use of inpatients in new construction healthcare occupancies are required to be no less than 8 feet wide in clear and unobstructed width. In areas where inpatients are not expected to use the corridors, the clear and unobstructed width is required to be 44 inches. Corridors wider than the required width are permitted to have alcoves that contain non-combustibles as long as the alcove area does not exceed 50 square feet, and does not encroach on the required width of the corridor. If it exceeds more than 50 square feet, then the area could be classified as a hazardous area if it contained combustibles, and clean linen would most certainly be classified as combustible. So, the alcoves need to be no more than 50 square feet, if they are going to contain clean linen carts.

According to section 18.3.6.1, areas open to the corridor must comply with a variety of requirements, which includes smoke detectors. But if the alcove is considered a wide spot in the corridor, then it would not have to comply with section 18.3.6.1 and have smoke detectors. So, the question remains: When is an alcove just a wide spot in the corridor and when does it have to meet the requirements for 18.3.6.1 and have smoke detectors?  And if we are asking the same question for existing conditions, it gets a bit more complicated as sprinklers may or may not be required.

Anyway… When the Life Safety Code is not clear, then the answer is up to the authority having jurisdiction to make an interpretation and rule on the issue. The LSC actually says that (in so many words) in section 4.6.1.1. So, if I were the AHJ, I would say an alcove is just a wide spot in the corridor and does not have to meet the requirements for areas open to the corridor in sections 18/19.3.6.1. But, I’m not the AHJ, and they never ask me what I think anyway.