Suite Wall Construction

Q: I cannot find anywhere in NFPA on the wall construction of a suite wall. We’ve been building them as a smoke wall but the code doesn’t say anything.

A: You are correct… the NFPA Life Safety Code 2000 edition does not address the construction of the suite walls… directly. However, it does have something to say about it, in a round-about manner.

A suite is nothing more than a room, albeit a very large room with many smaller rooms inside it; but nonetheless, the suite is a room. Sections 18/19.2.5 (of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code) discusses the arrangement of the means of egress and how it relates to rooms. In this section, the terminology that the Life Safety Code uses, includes ‘room’ and ‘suite’ interchangeably. This section also uses the term “Suite of rooms”, which further reinforces the concept that a suite is a room. So, the conclusion is: If a suite is a room, then it must be protected in the same fashion as a room.

Sections 18/19.3 (same 2000 edition) discusses the requirements for protection, and sections 18/19.3.6 discuss the needs to protect corridors. Sections 18/19.3.6.1 says “Corridors shall be separated from all other areas by partitions…” So, what are the “other areas” that 18/19.3.6.1 is talking about? Rooms. Or more to the point for our discussion: Suites. Sections 18/19.3.6.2 discuss how the corridor walls are to be constructed; sections 18/19.3.6.3 discusses the requirements for corridor doors; and so on.

So, the construction requirements for walls separating suites from the corridors is covered under section 18/19.3.6. But that does not cover the construction requirements for walls separating suites from other areas other than corridors; such as other suites; or other rooms that are not part of the suite; and so forth. The 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code is rather silent on that subject, so the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) pretty much made an interpretation, and decided that the construction of the walls separating a suite from areas other than the corridor, must be the same as the construction requirements for a corridor wall. Not all the AHJs, but the AHJs that are national accreditors on healthcare pretty much came to this conclusion on their own

This made good sense, to the point that, when the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code was created, the Technical Committee decided that should be placed in the actual code itself; so they did. Take a look at section 19.2.5.7.1.2 in the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code:

“Suites shall be separated from the remainder of the building, and from other suites, by one of the following:

  • Walls and doors meeting the requirements of 19.3.6.2 through 19.3.6.5
  • Existing approved barriers and doors that limit the transfer of smoke”Section 19.3.6.2 through 19.3.6.5 is the section on corridor wall construction.So, a short and sweet answer to your question is: The walls for a suite need to conform to the requirements for corridor walls.

Section 19.3.6.2 through 19.3.6.5 is the section on corridor wall construction.

So, a short and sweet answer to your question is: The walls for a suite need to conform to the requirements for corridor walls.