Dec 28 2015

Suite Definition

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: I can’t seem to find the definition of a suite in the Life Safety Code. What defines a suite?

A: Think of a suite as nothing more than a large room, with a lot of smaller rooms inside. You’re correct in saying the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code does not define a suite, but the 2012 edition has. That edition says a suite is: “An accommodation with two or more contiguous rooms comprising a compartment, with or without doors between such rooms, that provides sleeping, sanitary, work, and storage facilities.” And: “A series of rooms or spaces or a subdivided room separated from the remainder of the building by walls and doors.” There are different types of suites:

  • Non-patient care suites
  • Patient care non-sleeping suites
  • Patient care sleeping suites
  • Patient care suite
  • Currently, the 2000 edition of the LSC limits suites to the following sizes:
  • 5,000 square feet for patient care sleeping suites
  • 10,0000 square feet for non-patient sleeping suites
  • The 2012 edition has relaxed those limitations on suites, and hospitals are permitted to adopt that section of the 2012 Life Safety Code through the CMS categorical waivers. Since the suite is considered a room (no matter how large it is), it is subject to the rules and regulations that concern all rooms, mainly:
  • It must be separated from the corridor by appropriate corridor construction, including doors and windows
  • Entrance doors to the suite from the corridor must positively latch
  • Egress from the corridor, into the suite to get to an exit, is not permitted

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Dec 04 2015

Suite Wall Construction

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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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.

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Dec 12 2013

Suite or Intervening Room?

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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imagesCASFDPRG

An interesting question came up the other day concerning suites: “Just because one room has its path of egress through an intervening room, does it have to be identified as a suite on the Life Safety drawings?” Now, the room in question qualified under section 7.5.1.7 of the 2000 LSC which allows exit access through intervening rooms that are accessory to the area served. But section 7.5.1.7 is not discussing suites; that is covered in the occupancy chapters 18 and 19 for healthcare occupancies. The situation where this question was raised concerned a Dialysis Unit in a hospital that was part of the healthcare occupancy and an office that did not have direct exit access to the corridor, but through the main treatment area.

The person asking the question raised a very good point, and one that is not discussed much. There is an old saying: “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Does that mean that a room that has its egress through an intervening room is automatically a suite even if it is not designated as one on the LS drawings? I don’t think so.

If that is the case, then what is the difference between a suite of rooms, and a room that has its egress through an intervening room? According to 18/19.2.5, the same travel distance applies and the requirement to have two exit access doors remotely located from each other for any room or any suite of rooms (other than patient sleeping rooms) of more than 2500 sq. ft. applies to both. So is there any difference? I believe there is.

Suites of rooms are limited in size (5,000 sq. ft. for suites containing sleeping rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. for non-sleeping suites), but rooms that qualify by having their path of egress through an intervening room as described in section 7.5.1.7 are not limited in size. Where would that situation be present in a hospital? Possibly in an auditorium that is over 10,000 sq. ft. and exits through a vestibule to get to the exit access corridor. In a situation like that, I could understand that you would not want to identify it as a suite on the LS drawings, since it exceeds the allowable square footage for a suite. But it still qualifies under section 7.5.1.7 and is compliant with the LSC.

For situations that do not exceed the 10,000 sq. ft. limit, I’m not sure there is any advantage of not calling it a suite on the LS drawings. I believe it is personal preference: If it qualifies for 7.5.1.7, then there is no reason you have to call it a suite if you don’t want to. As long as you explain it to a surveyor, I suspect it would be okay. But, if there truly is no reason to not designate it a suite, I suggest you do so as long as it qualifies. Once it is identified on the LS drawings as such, then that makes it all the much easier during a survey for you and the surveyor. Once you leave an issue open for interpretation, you never know where the surveyor will take it. Take the ‘guess-work’ out of the mix for the surveyor, and you will have a smoother survey.

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Mar 02 2012

Changes With Suites of Rooms – Part 2: Non-Sleeping Suites

Category: Life Safety Code UpdateBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Previously, we discussed the changes that are in store for the patient sleeping suites, which are considerable. Now we are going to look at the few changes the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code will bring for non-sleeping suites when it is finally adopted.

Like the sleeping suites, non-sleeping suites that require 2 or more exit access doors, one of those doors is permitted to be to: 1). A direct exit (outdoors); 2). An exit enclosure (stairwell); or 3). To a horizontal exit. The authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) pretty much allowed this arrangement with the 2000 edition of the LSC, but now it is clearly written into the code.

Also, one of the exits from a non-sleeping suite may be into and through an adjoining suite. The wall separation between the two suites must be equal to that which is required for the corridor walls. This means the wall must be 30-minute fire rated and extend from the floor to the deck above if the smoke compartment where the suites are located is not protected with automatic sprinklers. Otherwise, if the smoke compartment is protected with automatic sprinklers, then the walls would have to resist the passage of smoke and extend from the floor to the ceiling, provided the ceiling also resists the passage of smoke. The doors between the two suites would have to close and latch. Travel distance requirements automatically reset once you have entered into the adjoining suite.

Speaking of travel distances, the 50 foot travel distance limitations when exiting through two intervening rooms which is found in the 2000 edition of the LSC is gone in the 2012 edition. The maximum travel distance from any point in the non-sleeping suite to an exit access door is 100 feet, regardless of the number of intervening rooms. The drawing above represents the 50 foot travel distance rule for a suite with 2 intervening rooms, which is found int he 2000 edition of the LSC. That situation will no longer apply once the 2012 edition is adopted.  Maximum travel distance from any point in the suite to an exit must not exceed 150 feet for buildings that are not fully protected with automatic sprinklers, and is 200 feet for buildings that are fully protected with automatic sprinklers.

Those are the only changes to non-sleeping suites that I can see.

(Drawing courtesy of HCPro Inc.)

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Feb 29 2012

Changes With Suites of Rooms- Part 1: Sleeping Suites

Category: Life Safety Code UpdateBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Lots of changes are in store for suites of rooms when the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code is finally adopted, and the changes are all for the better. This posting discusses those changes that apply to patient sleeping suites and the changes are found in section 19.2.5.7.2 of the 2012 edition.

1). Suites larger than 1,000 square feet are required to have two exit access doors. The 2012 edition now allows one of these to be either a direct exit to the outdoors, an exit enclosure (stairwell), or a horizontal exit, in addition with the actual exit access door.

2). Constant supervision by staff is required in patient sleeping suites. Direct supervision of the patients is required, and may be through glass walls, although cubicle curtains are permitted. Any patient room that does not have direct supervision must be protected with smoke detection.

3). If the patient sleeping suite is arranged in such a way where direct supervision of each patient sleeping room is not possible by staff, then the entire suite needs to be protected with smoke detection. (Yeah, I know this seems to contradict number 2 above, but I don’t make this stuff up…)

4). Where two means of egress are required from a suite, one of the means of egress may be through an adjoining suite, provided the separation between the two suites meets the requirements for corridor separation. This means the walls separating the suites would have to be 30-minute fire rated and extend from the floor to the deck above, if the suites are not sprinklered. If the suites are protected with sprinklers, then the walls would have to resist the passage of smoke and extend from the floor to the ceiling, provided the ceiling also resists the passage of smoke. In both cases, the door separating the suites would have to close and positively latch. Also, travel distance requirements automatically reset once you enter the adjoining suite.

5). Suites are limited to 5,000 square feet. However the suite may expand to 7,500 square feet if the smoke compartment where the suite is located is totally protected by an automatic sprinkler system with quick response sprinklers, or if the smoke compartment is protected by an automatic sprinkler system with standard response sprinklers and a smoke detection system. Also, the suite may expand to 10,000 square feet provided there is direct visual supervision of all patient sleeping rooms by the staff, and the suite is protected with automatic sprinklers and a smoke detection system.

6). Travel distances between any point in the suite and an exit access door (or an exit door) cannot exceed 100 feet. The travel distance from any point in a sleeping suite and an actual exit cannot exceed 150 feet if the building is not protected throughout by automatic sprinklers, or 200 feet if the building is protected by automatic sprinklers.

These changes for suites are an improvement over the limitations found in the 2000 edition. The biggest impact on hospitals will be the area limitations, as the sleeping suites will have the potential to be as large as 10,000 square feet. There are many hospital ICUs constructed in the past two decades where the designer did not have a good understanding on the concept of a suite, and they were built larger than 5,o000 square feet. The hospital had to go back and redefine the boundaries of the suite or ask the AHJ for an equivalency or waiver. With the new 2012 edition, this should solve this problem for many organizations.

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