Sprinklers in an Elevator Equipment Room

Q: Is an elevator equipment room required to be sprinklered in a hospital? A consultant recently told us that NFPA 13 requires us to install sprinklers inside our elevator equipment room.

 A: This is one of those “it depends” answers. NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems is a standard and not a code, and generally speaking it does not specify when you have to install sprinklers in a building, it specifies how you install the sprinklers. So we do not begin our search in NFPA 13 (1999 edition) for guidance on sprinklers in a hospital. Instead, we look at the Life Safety Code (LSC).

There is critical information missing here… Is the hospital considered existing healthcare occupancy or new healthcare occupancy? Or more specifically, is the area in question (the elevator equipment room) considered new or existing? That is a big issue, as there are very few requirements to install sprinklers in an existing healthcare occupancy. The only requirements are:

If the Construction Type requires it. Take a look at table 19.1.6.2 (2000 edition of the LSC). If your construction type requires the facility to be sprinklered, then the entire building has to be sprinklered, including the elevator equipment room.

  1. If the organization asked for and was granted an equivalency for some other life safety deficiency, and the organization claimed that the entire building was protected by automatic sprinklers, then the elevator equipment room would have to be sprinklered.
  2. Was there any renovation, equipment upgrade, construction or remodeling inside the elevator equipment room? If so, then the elevator equipment room would have to meet new construction requirements and must be sprinklered.

On the other side of the coin, if the building is considered new healthcare occupancy then the entire building must be sprinklered which includes the elevator equipment room.

NFPA 13 does not have any exceptions to installing sprinklers in an elevator equipment room in healthcare occupancies. Another standard that the LSC requires compliance with is the ASME / ANSI A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, and it discusses in length on how to install sprinklers by using different methods to stop and de-energize the power to the equipment before the discharge of the water. Some local and state governments have stated that they do not want automatic sprinklers in an elevator equipment room. Their reasoning is they do not want the electrical components to get wet before the power is shut off even with these special provisions. If your state or local authorities have such a rule, then most, if not all, AHJs will accept this provision, and not require sprinklers in your elevator equipment room.

So, you need to determine if the elevator room is required to be sprinklered due to the construction type, equivalency granted, or if it is newly constructed or renovated. Then contact your state and local authorities to determine if there are any exceptions that you must qualify with.