Headroom

Q: Is there a minimum height requirement for a fully sprinklered corridor?

A: Yes… you will find the minimum headroom height requirement in section 7.1.5.1 of the 2012 LSC. Means of egress must have a minimum headroom of 7 foot 6 inches, with ceiling mounted projections not less than 6 foot 8 inches from the floor. Now, they do allow a tolerance of ¾ inch for the ceiling mounted projections. There are a couple exceptions:

  • In existing buildings, the minimum headroom is 7 feet from the floor with ceiling mounted projections not less than 6 foot 8 inches.
  • Headroom in industrial equipment access areas is permitted to be 6 foot 8 inches.
  • The minimum ceiling height must be maintained for not less than 2/3 of the ceiling area of any room or space, provided the remaining ceiling area is not less than 6 foot 8 inches. Headroom on stairs must not be less than 6 foot 8 inches as measured at the most forward projection of the stair tread.

These headroom requirements are not dependent on whether or not the area is protected with sprinklers. In other words, you do not receive any breaks or credits if the building is sprinklered.

Headroom

image_01_en[1]Another area of the Life Safety Code that is not well known by many is the requirement for headroom, which is defined as the distance between the floor and the ceiling. The requirements for this issue are found in section 7.1.5 of the 2000 edition of the LSC, which says the means of egress must be designed and maintained to provide headroom not less than 7 foot 6 inches, with projections from the ceiling not less than 6 foot 8 inches nominal height above the floor. Ceiling projections that meet this definition would most likely be signs.

Normally, headroom is not an issue on the nursing units, but can be a problem in the support services areas in the lower levels, away from patients. It is not uncommon at all that during the life of a hospital or nursing home, new HVAC ductwork, electrical conduit and pneumatic tube systems are installed where the original designer of the facility never imagined them. Consequently, the easiest route for these utilities is to hang them from the deck in the corridors. Frequently on the lower level there may not even be room for a suspended ceiling and grid system to be installed, so they often times go with exposed duct and conduits on these lower floors. The actual headroom is sometimes compromised in order to get the mechanicals installed.

Actually, section 7.1.5 provides a break for situations like this as it says the minimum ceiling height (which is 7 foot 6 inches) must be maintained for not less than two-thirds of the ceiling area of any space, provided the height of the remaining ceiling area is not less than 6 foot 8 inches. Well, that is a break, so you can have small areas (no more than one-third of the space) at no less than 6 foot 8 inches as long as the remaining area has headroom of at least 7 foot 6 inches.

I actually got myself in a little bit of trouble with a client when I failed to turn the page of the Life Safety Code and I did not see the exceptions to the headroom requirements. In existing buildings, the headroom is permitted to be no less than 7 foot. I previously had identified that their headroom of 7 foot 2 inches was non-compliant, until a week later when I realized section 7.1.5 continued on the next page. I quickly identified my error to the client and corrected my report so I was sure they had accurate information.

So… That day I learned a valuable lesson: Always turn the page when researching the code.