Q: We have a hospital that was built in 2008. We believe there is an elevator construction issue. When they built the elevator shafts they put smoke detectors inside at the top but no sprinklers. On the three exterior sides of the shaft (non-door side) they have cinder block wall. On the interior wall (door side) they have some cinder block construction but they also have in sporadic places two pieces of plywood with glue creating a 2-hour fire rated wall. The other issue is in between the glue there are holes or air pockets. Is this acceptable to use plywood to create a 2-hour fire rated wall or does it have to be cinder block top to bottom? Our construction type is Type II (222) and the elevator shaft serves 8 stories.
A: No… it is not acceptable to use plywood as part of the construction of a 2-hour fire-rated wall. First of all, Type II buildings are not permitted to have combustible construction on their structural members. NFPA 220-2012, section 4.3.1 says Type I and Type II construction must be those types in which the fire walls, structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are of approved noncombustible or limited combustible materials. Plywood is combustible, even if it is fire-retardant. So, the plywood has to go, and must be replaced with non-combustible materials in order to complete the 2-hour fire rated elevator shaft. NFPA 13 does not require sprinklers in a non-combustible elevator shaft that does not use hydraulic fluids. Assuming it is a traction elevator (i.e. cables and pulleys), then the elevator shaft is not required to be sprinklered. But to answer your question, the plywood is a problem and should not be there.