Strange Observations – Part 42

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

This northern hospital was going for a woodsy theme in their Pediatric department. I wasn’t concerned that the wood logs were supporting the structure, but was very concerned about the flame spread rating in the corridor.

Without getting into a lot of detail, the interior finish is allowed to be Class C (76-200 flame spread) in corridors provided it is no higher than 48 inches above the floor, and the building is fully protected with sprinklers.

Well, this was a brand-new hospital, so the building was protected with sprinklers, but as you can see the wood posts are taller than 48-inches. The flame spread rating on interior finish above the 48-inch line in corridors would be limited to 75. Wood has a much higher flame spread rating than 75, depending on the type of wood used.

Now, solutions to a problem like this could be to coat the wood posts with fire-retardant coating that reduces the flame spread to an acceptable level. But that is not as easy as it sounds, since the flame retardant coatings are clear and proving it is on the wood is difficult. And it has a life of about 2-years, so every 2-years you need to re-apply the coating.

It would have been better to not use actual wood as an interior finish. Where are the architects in a situation like this?


Interior Finish

Q: I would like to know the 2012 Life Safety Code requirements for an audio testing room in a high rise hospital building. The floor, wall and ceilings are covered with cloth materials similar to carpet. The room has been protected by smoke detector and sprinkler.

A: The wall coverings that you describe would not be considered decorations, but rather interior finish. Section of the 2012 LSC requires interior finish to meet section 10.2 and limits them to Class A or Class B materials. Class A materials have a flame spread of 0 – 25 and Class B materials have a flame spread of 26 – 75. Both Class A and Class B have smoke development index of 0 – 450. So, make sure your wall coverings in the audio room meet these flame spread and smoke development ratings. These rating are not dependent on the presence of smoke detectors or sprinklers.

You may also want to discuss this issue with your Infection Control individual as cloth material would be difficult to clean.

Wood Chair Rails

Q: We recently had our annual state survey and the Life Safety surveyor tagged us on some wood chair rails that had been installed in a small dining room. Isn’t there an exception for wood chair rails?

A: Yes there is assuming the wood chair rails do not exceed 10 percent of the total wall and ceiling area. But I believe the issue that the surveyor is citing falls under section of the 2000 LSC. This section does permit Class A and Class B interior wall and ceiling finish in existing rooms. The term ‘existing’ is anything installed prior to the acceptance of the current LSC edition, which was March 11, 2003. Now, a wood chair rail is likely not a Class A or Class B material. A Class A material has a flame spread of 0 – 25 and a Class B material has a flame spread of 26 – 75. Red oak wood has a flame spread of 100, and a softer wood, such as a pine could have a flame spread anywhere from 75 to 230. So, if you can document what kind of wood the chair rail is made from it is a remote possibility it may qualify for the 26 – 75 Class B range, but not likely.

The exception to says Class C interior finish is permitted in existing rooms that are fully protected by automatic sprinklers and separated from the corridor by doors. Class C materials have a flame spread rating of 76 – 200, so it is possible that the existing wood chair rail would meet that exception, as long as the room is sprinklered and there is a door separating the room from the corridor.

But I’m having difficulty with the citation in the first place. Section 10.2.5 of the 2000 LSC says: “Interior wall and ceiling finish not in excess of 10 percent of the aggregate wall and ceiling areas of any room or space shall be permitted to be class C materials in occupancies where interior wall and ceiling finish of Class A or Class B is required.” This section was added to the LSC to allow wood trim. A chair rail qualifies as wood trim from my perspective. If the chair rail is as much as 6 inches high, that would mean in a room 25 feet x 25 feet, with 8 foot tall ceiling, there would be 1,425 square feet of aggregate total area, with 50 square feet of it being the wood chair rail, which is 3.5% of the total aggregate area of the wall and ceiling. How can the surveyor say the wood chair rail does not qualify for the 10 percent rule? Perhaps he is wanting you to prove that it does.

Find out what kind of wood the chair rail is made of. If it meets Class B rating in an existing room then you are fully compliant, based on If it meets Class C rating in an existing room that is sprinklered and separated from the corridor, then you are fully compliant based on If the chair rail is no more than 12 inches tall, and meets the Class C rating, then you should be fully compliant based on 10.2.5.