Smoke Dampers in Corridor Walls?

Q: In regards to suite separations, section of 2012 LSC requires walls separating suites to meet requirements for corridor walls, which have to be constructed to limit transfer of smoke. There don’t seem to be any requirements for smoke dampers in air transfer openings or duct penetrations through corridor walls – is this correct?

A: Well… you’re sort of correct. Corridor walls in fully sprinklered smoke compartments are required to be smoke partitions… not smoke barriers. The 2012 Life Safety Code does not require smoke dampers in HVAC ductwork that penetrate smoke partitions. But section 18/ prohibits the use of air-transfer openings in corridor walls.

Strange Observations – Adjunct Corridor Width

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

These portable X-ray units were double-parked in the adjunct corridor to the radiology control room.

The adjunct corridor is required to have 44-inches clear width, which is not present between thee two units.


Cabinets in a Corridor – Part 2

Q: Is there a codified requirement for doors in a cabinet mounted in a hospital egress corridor? We have worked on projects when a nurse server; i.e., pass through cabinet, was required by the local AHJ to have positive latching on the cabinet door in order to protect the sanctity of the egress corridor. But when it is just a typical cabinet (non-pass through), is there a danger to the egress corridor if the cabinet doors do not have positive latching?

A: The only code requirements that I can think of are corridor obstruction and projection. A nurse server that has an open pass-through to the patient room from the corridor is required to have a door that meets the requirements of of the 2012 LSC for corridor doors, such as positive latching, 1¾-inch thick solid-bonded wood core, and resisting the passage of smoke, because it needs to separate the corridor from the patient room. I think a typical cabinet that does not have a pass-though would not have to have a door that is positive latching because positive latching is only required when the door is separating a corridor from a room. If there is no pass-through, then there is no need for a positive latching door.

Cabinets in a Corridor – Part 1

Q: It appears that the LSC allows up to 50 square feet of unprotected storage but also includes language that suggests it may need to be protected in accordance with 8.7 depending on the level of hazard. It is my experience that storage in a nurse station (even if combustible) is acceptable because it is located in a normally monitored and occupied area. But what about PPE or patient information storage in closed cabinets away from a nurse station? Would this decision be left to the AHJ?

A: In a scenario as you described, I believe it is all about the cabinet and doors. Is the cabinet mounted in such a way that it projects into the corridor by more than 4 inches? If so, that would be a problem. If the doors to the cabinet were to be left open, would the doors project into the corridor more than 4 inches? If so, that too would be a problem. As long as the square footage of the stored items is less than 50 square feet, I don’t see a problem. The cabinet door would not have to meet the requirements for corridor door (i.e. resist the passage of smoke, positive latching hardware, 1¾-inch thickness, solid bonded wood core) as long as the LS drawings delineated that the corridor wall ran behind the cabinet.

Strange Observations – Wall Sconce Projection

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

Do you ever think about your corridor wall sconce light fixtures projecting more than 4-inches into the corridor…?

I do.

[Hey… AH: I made that change that you suggested.]

Strange Observations – Part 49

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

Sorry for another out-of-focus picture. I was still having difficulty adjusting to my new smart phone (I should have had my grand-daughter teach me how to use it).

Maximum corridor projections are limited to 4-inches, says CMS. This stairwell evacuation chair is mounted on the wall in the corridor… It had to be relocated.

Lockers in Corridors

Q: We have a behavioral health unit and our administration would like to install lockers for visitors. However, there is only one location for these lockers and that is in the egress corridor outside of the unit. I am telling them this not permitted. Am I correct?

A: Without looking at the situation myself, I would be inclined to say it is not permitted because of the following potential issues:

  • Obstruction of the required width of the corridor (6 feet)
  • When the doors to the lockers are left open they project more than 4 inches in to the corridor
  • Hazardous area open to the corridor (combustible material in the lockers are not separated from the corridor)

Now, there could be exceptions to the above, such as:

  • If the lockers are recessed into an alcove where they would not obstruct the required width of the corridor
  • If the lockers are recessed into an alcove where an open door would not project more than 4 inches into the corridor
  • If the grouping of the lockers was less than 50 square feet, then it does not constitute a hazardous area
  • If the locker doors did not have vents and had positive latching hardware, and the doors did resist the passage of smoke, then you could qualify under and for corridor separation.

Overall, I don’t think it is a good idea to start placing lockers in a corridor, but there are ways to accomplish it and still be compliant with the Life Safety Code.

Strange Observations – Part 48

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

I apologize for the photo being out of focus. I only had my new smart phone for a few days when I took this and I was having difficulty adjusting to the technology (okay… so I’m an old guy… deal with it).

The yellow sign is flexible, and is mounted on a magnet. Yet it projects more than 4 inches into the corridor.

Should I write it up …?

I did.

Fixed Seating vs. Seating Open to the Corridor

Q: I have a CEO that wants furnishings (seating) in the corridor. I informed her that would be acceptable if we maintained five feet and the furnishings are bolted to floor and follow the 2012 Life Safety Code. Well, this action would not make the furnishings aesthetically appealing, according to her. So, if the required width of the corridor is maintained and the furnishings are kept to one side of corridor and are not fixed to the wall or floor, will that meet the requirements of the Life Safety Code?

A: Assuming the seating arrangement is located in an area where inpatients would egress, and if the seating arrangement is in a wide spot in the corridor that does not obstruct the required 8-foot width of the corridor, then you do not have to meet the more restrictive requirements of (5) of the 2012 LSC, that does require the seating to be secured to the wall or floor. However, you do have to meet one of the nine (9) subsections of for corridor separation, most likely subsection eight (8) that requires:

  • Each area does not exceed 600 square feet
  • The area is equipped with smoke detectors
  • The area does not obstruct access to required exits.

But the problem with seating that is not secured to the floor or wall, is the chairs get moved around by un-informed individuals (i.e. visitors), and eventually they obstruct the required width of the corridor, or they obstruct access to required exits (such as an egress from a mechanical room). If you choose to go the route of, make sure you perform frequent walk-throughs of the area to ensure nobody is rearranging the furniture.

Corridor Doors

Q: I have a healthcare occupancy under existing construction. The building was built back in the 50’s and 60’s, with a major renovation in 1992. The available plans have indicated the fire-rated walls and doors, but there are other doors not specifically designated as smoke doors or fire-rated doors. My question is, what doors would fall under the description of corridor doors? Would it be all doors that exit directly into the egress corridor? Some of these doors are to normally occupied offices, some are to patient rooms, and some are to conference rooms that are only occupied during meetings.

A: Corridor doors are those that separate the corridor from a room, suite, or area. They are not cross-corridor doors that separate a corridor from another corridor. Do not be fooled by a double set of doors, as they can be either corridor doors (an entrance to a room, or suite), or cross-corridor doors (smoke barrier doors, or privacy doors in a corridor).

Here is a summary of the Life Safety Code requirements for corridor doors:

  • Corridor doors must comply with section of the 2012 LSC, and have certain requirements that they must meet, such as:
    • They must resist the passage of smoke (no holes in them)
    • They must be 1¾-inch thick, solid-bonded wood core
    • Constructed with materials that resist fire for a minimum of 20 minutes (NOTE: This does not mean the corridor doors must be 20-minute fire rated).
  • Corridor doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets and similar auxiliary spaces that do not contain flammable or combustible materials are not required to comply with the above requirements.
  • In smoke compartments protected throughout by automatic sprinklers the corridor door construction requirements listed above are not mandatory, but the corridor doors must resist the passage of smoke (no holes).
  • Corridor doors are not required to meet the NFPA 80 standards for fire-rated door assemblies, unless the door also serves a fire-rated barrier.
  • The clearance between the bottom of the corridor door and the floor (i.e. undercuts) must not exceed 1 inch.
  • The corridor doors must have positive latching hardware.
  • Corridor doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, sink closets, and similar auxiliary spaces that do not contain flammable or combustible materials are not required to have positive latching hardware.

You will notice section does not say anything about self-closing devices for corridor doors, because they are not required on corridor doors, unless the corridor serves another purpose, such as a smoke barrier, horizontal exit, or hazardous area.

Check with your state and local authorities before you make any modifications, to determine if they have other regulations or requirements regarding corridor doors.