Non-Compliant Construction Type Above a Healthcare Occupancy

Q: I have an interesting one for you. We have an architect propose a construction type of Type V (111) for a 3-story building with the first-floor being Healthcare occupancy (a nursing home) and the upper 2 floors being Residential Board and Care occupancy (assisted living). There is a 2-hour floor ceiling assembly separating the nursing home and assisted living.

It is interesting to me because I am not aware that the LSC has ever allowed this in the past, but it appears to be allowed by the 2012 LSC in accordance with 18.1.3.5. The 2012 LSC Handbook also gives a good description. What I am worried about is CMS and accreditation surveys. This is against everything that has been engrained in our brains and it could be a major issue. Have you seen this or heard of this before?

A: Yes… this is a very interesting case. I cannot recall that I’ve seen this before, mainly because the 2000 LSC did not allow this arrangement. It was not until the 2009 edition of the LSC that this was clearly permitted. And I agree, the Handbook for the 2012 LSC explains this very well. I recall a conversation that I had with a representative from NFPA years ago on this very subject and he assured me it was not permitted (we were under the 2000 LSC at the time). So, I agree with you… It goes against what we’ve been taught. But times change, don’t they!

Unless you have other regulations preventing this arrangement, I would say that the NFPA codes and standards would permit it, but please check with your state and local authorities to see if they have any problems with it. I would not be too concerned about a nursing home being cited by a CMS surveyor or an accreditation surveyor since they follow NFPA rather rigidly (or are supposed to), and since the 2012 LSC does permit it, the nursing home may make the case that it is permitted if the surveyor is considering citing them.

Personally, I think it is poor insight by the healthcare organization to do this, as they will never be able to expand their healthcare occupancy beyond the 1st floor, and maintaining that 2-hour fire-rated barrier is a special challenge for anyone, let alone a typical maintenance staff of a nursing home that is often under-manned, and not trained well on technical issues. I suspect over a period of time the 2-hour fire-rated horizontal barrier will be compromised and not maintained properly due to a lack of understanding.