Q: Should the official Life Safety drawings for an existing space within a hospital show the rating on a fire barrier as it was originally built or as it is required to be rated according to the Life Safety Code? We have a soiled utility room that was required to be sprinklered and constructed with smoke resistant partitions according to the code in effect at the time it was constructed, but it was constructed to 1-hour fire resistance rated walls and a 45 minutes rated door. What should the Life Safety drawings reflect for the fire rating of the soiled utility room walls?
A: This may be a tricky question to answer. To be sure, Life Safety drawings are not construction drawings, so the actual type of construction for the barrier is not what is needed. The concept of Life Safety drawings is to indicate what fire-rating the Life Safety Code requires the barriers to be. This is not the same as saying the Life Safety drawings should reflect what fire rating the walls were constructed to. A case in point is in the lower level of a hospital, it is quite common for designers to specify cement block walls for the corridors since there is so much support services traffic in these areas. The walls where carts and pallets commonly travel will stand up to a lot more abuse than steel stud and gypsum board walls. But cement block walls often have a fire-rating of 2-hours or more, but that is not why cement block walls were chosen. The Life Safety Code may only require non-rated smoke resistant walls in the corridor, so that is what the Life Safety drawings should say; not the actual fire rating of 2-hour (or more). A surveyor will hold you accountable to what your Life Safety drawings say; so it is best to only identify what the Life Safety Code requires for the walls and barriers, rather than what they were actually constructed to. In the case of your soiled utility room that qualifies as existing conditions, I suggest the Life Safety drawings should reflect what is required for existing conditions.