Storage in a Corridor

Q: If I had a hallway (breezeway which connects two healthcare occupancies) which is greater than 8 feet wide (approximately 12ft) and beds and other equipment (usually broken chairs) are being stored on one side of the breezeway for more than 30 minutes, would this be allowed as long as the width is maintained at 8ft or greater?

A: Yes… it would be permitted according to section 18.2.3.4 of the 2012 Life Safety Code, provided the items stored in the corridor allow for a clear width of 8 feet in the corridor, and the items stored does not constitute a hazardous area. So, combustible items such as furniture would not be permitted if the total area of the stored furniture exceeds 50 square feet. Also, flammables would not be permitted to be stored in the corridor.

Another thing to look at is if the corridor could possibly be used by inpatients. If so, then the clear width must be maintained at 8 feet. But if there is no chance of inpatients using this connector corridor, then the required width would be 44 inches.

Corridor Projections

Q: I understand that with the adoption of the new 2012 Life Safety Code there is a change in corridor projections from 6 inches to 4 inches. Would this new code allow for a PPE cabinet to be recessed into the wall?

A: Yes… a PPE container that is recessed into the wall would be fine as long as the exposed portion does not project into the corridor more than what is permitted. When CMS published their Final Rule to adopt the 2012 Life Safety Code on May 4, 2016, they stated they will not recognize the NFPA Life Safety Code on corridor projections which allows a 6-inch projection. Instead, they are adhering to the ADA requirement of a maximum of 4-inches for corridor projections.

Carpet on Corridor Walls

Q: I have a nursing home that is over 20 years old that has carpet on the corridor walls below the handrails. I am been told that this carpet must be removed. I am not able to find any information on the 20-year old carpet that gives the flame spread rating. What are my options other than removing it?

A: It depends on who is telling you to remove the carpet and why. If you were cited by a state surveyor or an accreditation organization, ask them to please identify the standard and reason for the citation. They should be able to identify the precise standard, code, or regulation why the carpet needs to be removed.

I suspect the violation comes from 19.3.3.2 of the 2012 Life Safety code where existing interior finish materials have to be Class A or Class B on corridor walls, which would require a flame spread rating between 0 – 75, and a smoke development rating of 0 – 450.

If you cannot prove that the flame spread rating and smoke development rating of the carpet falls within these parameters, then you have no choice but to remove the carpet from the walls. After 20 years… it’s time for an upgrade.

Required Width of New Corridor

Q: We have a corridor that connects an existing elevator lobby on the 2nd floor of a three story hospital to a new addition. The corridor is used for the transfer of personnel and patients from one building to another. It is not an exit corridor; there are exits on each end of the connector. As designed the corridor is 7′-7″ clear. Is this width permitted, or do we need to re-design to get the 8′ clear width?

A: All corridors are exit access corridors and are part of the path of egress. They just aren’t all required to be 8 feet wide. Where there are no inpatients, the corridor can be 44 inches wide. In your situation, the corridor between the elevator lobby and the new addition would be considered an exit access corridor because inpatients are wheeled in this corridor. One may believe that this corridor would have to be 8 feet wide since inpatients use this corridor, but it is an existing condition that is connected to a new addition, which requires you to comply with Chapter 43 on rehabilitation, according to section 4.6.7.2 of the 2012 LSC.

Now, section 43.2.2.1.3 does define a modification as the reconfiguration of any space; the addition, relocation, or elimination of any door or window, the addition or elimination of load-bearing elements; the reconfiguration or extension of any system; or the installation of any additional equipment. Section 43.5.1.3 requires all modifications to comply with the requirements for new construction.

The question is, does the existing corridor have to comply with 43.5.1.3 and be modified to meet new construction requirements? I don’t believe it does, but that is a question for the authorities over design and construction of the healthcare facility.

My advice is as follows:

  1. Obtain a written interpretation from your state or local authority over design and construction.
  2. If it is possible and practical to do so, then widen the corridor to at least 8 feet;
  3. If it is ‘impractical’ to widen the corridor, then assess it for ILSM, and implement compensation activities as your policy dictates. You can then wait to see if the AHJ (i.e. a surveyor from your accreditation organization) considers it a deficiency, and submit your reasoning that it is impractical to resolve and see if they agree. If they do not, then you can submit a waiver request after the survey.

ABHR Dispensers in Business Occupancy Corridors?

Q: Can you give me some direction in the Life Safety Code on where alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) dispensers are not allowed in business occupancy corridors?

A: Take a look at section 39.3.2.1 of the 2012 LSC. It says hazardous areas shall be protected in accordance with section 8.7. Section 8.7.3.2 says “No storage or handling of flammable liquids or gases shall be permitted in any location where such storage would jeopardize egress from the structure unless otherwise permitted by 8.7.3.1.” Section 8.7.3.1 discusses the various methods to store flammable liquids. ABHR product is mostly alcohol which is a flammable liquid; therefore, it is not permitted in any location that would jeopardize egress (i.e. corridors).

Section 8.7.3.2 does not apply to healthcare occupancies because section 19.3.2.6 actually permits ABHR dispensers in egress corridors. Similarly, section 21.3.2.6 does as well for ambulatory health care occupancies. But, chapters 38 and 39 do not have any such language… therefore, ABHR dispensers are not permitted in egress corridors of business occupancies.

If you’re wondering, when the requirements in the core chapters (chapter 1 – 10) differ with the requirements of the occupancy chapters, the occupancy chapters govern (see section 4.4.2.3).

Connecting Bridge

Q: We have a connecting bridge between two of our buildings. On one side of the bridge is healthcare occupancy and on the other side is business occupancy. There is a 2-hour fire rated barrier between the bridge and the healthcare occupancy building. We have offices on the bridge, which are protected with sprinklers. What would the requirements be for these offices since they open into the egress corridor?

A: Since you have a 2-hour occupancy separation between the healthcare occupancy and the business occupancy, then you treat the bridge as if it is a corridor in a business occupancy. Each corridor has to have two exits, which in your case, one exit would be into the business occupancy building, and the other exit would be into the healthcare occupancy building. The offices on the bridge would have to meet the requirements for separation found in the business occupancy chapters. For new construction business occupancies, section 38.3.6.1 of the 2012 LSC requires the corridor walls to be 1-hour fire rated, unless one of the following is met:

  • Exits are available from an open floor area;
  • The space is occupied by a single tenant;
  • The building is protected throughout by an automatic sprinkler system.

For existing construction business occupancies (construction design approved prior to July 5, 2016) there are no requirements. However, if constructed between March 11, 2003 (the date the 2000 LSC was adopted) and July 5, 2016, a surveyor could expect that you be compliant with new construction requirements.

Corridor Door Louver

Q: Is there a code that says anything about adding a vent through a door that is in the corridor of our hospital?

A: Well… you might be able to do that legally on a very few specific corridor doors (i.e. bathroom doors, toilet rooms doors, shower room doors), but no, you cannot install a louver in a typical corridor door in a hospital because section 19.3.6.3.1 of the 2012 LSC says corridor doors have to resist the passage of smoke. Therefore, a louver in a door would not resist the passage of smoke.

Now, a very few specific corridor doors do not have to resist the passage of smoke as described in section 19.3.6.3.2 (1), and you would be permitted to install a louver in those doors.

Addressing Common Misconceptions Regarding Corridor Doors

Corridor doors are one of the most common components of the means of egress, yet their significance is often overlooked, possibly because there are so many of them in a hospital. This article will address the different concerns and issues surrounding corridor doors in a healthcare occupancy that may not be considered common knowledge.

The Life Safety Code (LSC) does not require corridor doors to patient rooms to have closers, but if they do have closers, then they can have the type that have hold-open friction-catch closer arms, that requires someone to physically close them.  Hospitals are defend-in-place facilities, so the question asked by some is why do we rely on people to accomplish the closing of the door rather than allow a closer to do it?

As mentioned, corridor doors to patient rooms are not required to have closers, and this is in accordance with section 19.3.6.3.11 of the 2012 LSC. But the Annex section of 19.3.6.3.5 says the concept of having corridor doors to patient rooms without closers allows staff to visibly see into the room to detect any fire or smoke condition. If the door had a closer, then the Annex section recommends the room be protected with a smoke detector. The basic premise of a healthcare occupancy is there is adequate staff on hand to make these observations.

Which brings us to the issue of those patient room corridor doors that have signage added, and coat hooks applied; would they be considered acceptable?

Coat hooks on a non-fire rated patient room corridor doors would be allowed. But a coat hook on a fire-rated door typically would not be acceptable (even if it is applied with adhesives) because any garments hanging from the coat hook would likely contribute to the fuel load of the door. But signage that was informational (i.e. contact precautions; oxygen administered; diet restrictions, etc.) would be permitted, even if they were combustible.

Are corridor doors that are located in a 1-hour fire barrier permitted to be only fire-rated for 20 minutes and not ¾-hour? The answer is no. If a corridor door is part of a fire-rated barrier that serves some other function, such as a vertical opening, exit, or hazardous area, then it must meet the most restrictive requirements of either. But where corridor doors are located in a 1-hour fire-rated barrier the corridor door must be at least a ¾ hour fire rated door, mounted in a fire-rated frame, with self-closing and positive latching hardware. Vertical openings are elevator shafts, mechanical shafts, stairwells, and the like. Exits are direct exits, horizontal exits and exit passageways. Hazardous areas are storage rooms >50 sq. ft. containing combustibles, soiled utility rooms, fuel-fired heater rooms, laundries >100 sq. ft., paint shops, repair shops, trash collection rooms, laboratories, and medical gas rooms (storage rooms with >3,000 cubic feet of compressed gas).

There is one exception to the above rule where a corridor door located in a 1-hour fire rated barrier must be ¾ hour fire rated: When the corridor door is also located in a 1-hour barrier separating the corridor from an atrium. According to section 8.6.7 (1) of the 2012 LSC, the atrium must be separated from adjacent areas with a 1-hour fire rated barrier, but the openings in the 1-hour fire rated barrier are only required to be same as is required for corridors. This means the doors in the atrium separation could be non-rated and only required to resist the passage of smoke, since atriums are only permitted in fully sprinklered buildings.

However, I don’t see where a patient room door would be part of any of these fire-rated barriers, although a patient room door could be part of a smoke barrier, separating smoke compartments. Even though the smoke barrier is required to be 1-hour rated, it is not a fire rated barrier, because the doors in a smoke barrier are only required to be 1¾ inch thick, solid-bonded, wood core doors, or of such construction to resist fire for at least 20 minutes, and must be self-closing. They are just like corridor doors in a non-sprinklered smoke compartment, but must have closers on them.

It’s important to realize that not all corridor doors have to meet the NFPA 80 requirements for fire-rated doors. However, if the corridor door is a fire-rated door, it must be compliant with the requirements of NFPA 80. If the door has a fire rated label, then it is a fire-rated door, and it must be mounted in a fire-rated frame, equipped with a self-closing device, and have positive latching hardware.  The problem that I observe in many hospitals is they installed labeled fire-rated doors in walls and barriers that are not fire rated. Therefore, even though the wall or barrier is not required to have a fire-rated door, the fact that the door is fire-rated means the organization must maintain it as such, according to section 4.6.12.3 of the 2012 edition of the LSC. So, if you have a fire-rated door in a corridor wall, and the corridor wall is not required to be fire-rated, then you must still maintain the fire-rated door to the requirements of NFPA 80, which includes annual testing.

Where I often find this problem in hospitals is the smoke compartment. Some designer/architect sees that smoke barriers are required to be 1-hour rated so they specify ¾ hour fire rated doors. Again, a smoke compartment barrier wall is not a fire-rated wall; therefore, the conditions of 19.3.7.6 apply where 1¾ inch thick, solid-bonded, wood-core doors are allowed. Also, some designers/architects see that smoke barrier doors that are of such construction that resists fire for at least 20 minutes are permitted, so they specify 20-minute fire rated doors for smoke barrier openings. Again, this is not required to have fire-rated doors, but since the 20-minute fire-rated doors was installed, you must maintain it to NFPA 80 requirements, which means it must be mounted in a fire rated frame, be self-closing, and positive latching. I see a lot of 20-minute fire rated doors in smoke compartment barriers that do not have positive latching hardware, which is non-compliant with NFPA 80. The organization must maintain the door to NFPA 80, or simply remove the fire rated label, then the door is no longer a fire-rated door that is obvious to the general public, and does not need to be maintained as such.

The Final Question on Corridor Doors

Q: Are all types of corridor doors exempt from having to meet the requirements of NFPA 80?

A: The answer is no. If the corridor door is a fire-rated door, it must be compliant with the requirements of NFPA 80. If the door has a fire rated label, then it is a fire-rated door, and it must be mounted in a fire-rated frame, equipped with a self-closing device, and have positive latching hardware.  The problem that I observe in many hospitals is they used labeled fire-rated doors in walls and barriers that are not fire rated. Therefore, even though the wall or barrier is not required to have a fire-rated door, the fact that the door is fire-rated means the organization must maintain it as such, according to section 4.6.12.2 of the 2000 edition of the LSC. So, if you have a fire-rated door in a corridor wall, and the corridor wall is not required to be fire-rated, then you must still maintain the fire-rated door to the requirements of NFPA 80. Where I often find this problem in hospitals is the smoke compartment. Some designer/architect sees that smoke compartment barriers are required to be 1-hour rated so they specify ¾ hour fire rated doors. Again, a smoke compartment barrier wall is not a fire-rated wall, therefore, the conditions of 19.3.7.5 apply where 1¾ inch thick, solid-bonded, wood-core doors are allowed. Also, some designers/architects see that smoke compartment doors that are of such construction that resists fire for at least 20 minutes are permitted, so they specify 20-minute fire rated doors for smoke compartment openings. Again, this is not required to have fire-rated doors, but since the 20-minute fire-rated doors was installed, you must maintain it to NFPA 80 requirements, which means it must be mounted in a fire rated frame, be self-closing, and positive latching. I see a lot of 20-minute fire rated doors in smoke compartment barriers that do not have positive latching hardware, which is non-compliant with NFPA 80. The organization must maintain the door to NFPA 80, or simply remove the fire rated label, then the door is no longer a fire-rated door that is obvious to the general public, and does not need to be maintained as such.

Required Width of an Excess Access Corridor

Q: What is the required width for an exit access corridor in an office building?

A: That depends on the occupancy classification of the building. If the building is classified as business occupancy, then sections 38/39.2.3.2 of the 2000 Life Safety Code (LSC) would apply. The clear width of an exit access corridor in a business occupancy (office building) serving an occupant load of 50 or more, is 44 inches. But for occupant loads less than 50 persons, section 7.3.4.1 of the LSC would apply and the clear width is lowered to 36 inches.

When the Life Safety Code talks about the occupant load of a room or area, it is always calculated per section 7.3. Table 7.3.1.2 has occupant load factors that are used along with the gross area to determine the number of persons allowed. For a building classified as business occupancy the occupant load factor is 100 square feet per person. This means in order to have an occupant load of 50 persons you need 5,000 square feet of area.

If the office building is classified as an ambulatory health care occupancy, then according to section 20/21.2.3.2, the required width of the corridor is limited to just 44 inches. There are no deviations for less than 50 occupants.