Converting the Lower Level to Business Occupancy

Q: Our life safety drawings list the basement level at the Hospital as healthcare. There are no patient services in the basement and only support services. I would like to change this to business, but my question is what do I gain as far as items such as hallway clutter, corridor clearance etc. I know the accreditation organization will want to inspect the support services that are located in the basement. My biggest problem is the basement hallways are consistently used as staging areas as new equipment is delivered to the hospital. Equipment can be in the hallways for weeks before it is installed or delivered to the end user.

A: That would be a great idea to designate the lower level as business occupancy… but make sure the facility qualifies for it. For starters, what is the Construction Type? You need to be at a minimum, Type II (222) construction type. You need a solid 2-hour fire rated horizontal barrier between the business occupancy and the healthcare occupancy. Is the lower level used as an exit level discharge? Does any of the upper healthcare occupancy floors egress through the lower level to get to the outside? If so, then the path of egress through the business occupancy that is used for the upper healthcare occupancy must meet all of the requirements for healthcare occupancy. Is there any service, care, or treatment activity for inpatients on the lower level? If so, at any given time how many inpatients would be on the lower level? This may be a sticky wicket as some AHJs do not allow even one inpatient in a business occupancy. Is the hospital’s cafeteria on the lower level? Again, if this is true, then you may often find inpatients in the cafeteria eating with their families. Not a good issue to have in a business occupancy.

Based on the Life Safety Code, advantages of designating the lower level a business occupancy are many… There are no corridor requirements in a space occupied by a single tenant so that means there are no requirement to separate rooms (other than hazardous rooms) from the corridors with doors; and if you have doors they don’t have to latch. You still have to maintain fire rated doors to exit enclosures. Required corridor width would be 44 inches if you have corridors so you are permitted to store non-combustible items in the corridors provided you have at least 44 inches width left over. You still have to maintain your smoke compartments and smoke barriers though, since you are one floor below a healthcare occupancy.