Q: I am struggling with the Life Safety Code and need some clarification. I have an offsite clinic that is classified as a business occupancy with a basement measuring approximately 600 sq. ft. The buildings’ gas fueled furnace and water heater are located in the basement. I know we are restricted from storage of combustibles in spaces housing fuel fired equipment; but this is a large useable space that I believe can be safely used for limited combustible storage; medical & office equipment (no medical records or furniture) as long as we maintained a safe separation distance (minimum 36 inches on all sides) from the equipment. The basement is hardwired with interconnected smoke detectors connected to the main level for occupant notification. What is your opinion please?
A: Since this is a new use of the space, you need to comply with 126.96.36.199 of the 2012 Life Safety Code which refers to section 8.7. Section 188.8.131.52 would require the space to be either protected with sprinklers, or separate the hazardous area from all other areas with 1-hour fire resistive construction. The issue here is, section 184.108.40.206 considers any room used for storage (as well as furnace rooms) to be classified as hazardous, so there is no need to create a separation from the stored equipment from the furnace area. Just install sprinklers in the entire basement area, or make sure the barrier (i.e. the floor) is at least 1-hour fire rated.
You need to check with your state and local authorities to see if they have other regulations that would restrict the use of this space for storage.