Suites Used as a Smoke Compartment

Q: We want to relocate a smoke compartment barrier to the entrance of our OR Surgery, in order to make the OR Surgery a suite of room. Do you see any problem why we cannot do this?

A: Yes, there are a few issues you need to be sure to address before you proceed. First let me say that there is nothing wrong in a single wall having several functions. A wall that serves as a barrier for a suite-of-rooms and a smoke compartment is actually quite common and normally not a problem. You just have to be sure that the wall, and all the openings in the wall, meet the requirements for each purpose. Since your question said you are relocating a wall, then that means you need to meet new construction requirements, found in chapter 18 of the Life Safety Code (LSC). Section 18.3.7.3 requires the new wall to be 1-hour fire rated from floor to deck, and section 18.3.5.1 requires the area where the new wall is installed to be protected with automatic sprinklers. All the doors in the wall have to be substantial, such as 1¾ inches thick solid-bonded, wood core, or of construction that resists fire for not less than 20 minutes. The doors will have to be self-closing, and since they also serve as an entrance to the OR suite, they will have to positively latch. The position of the relocated wall is important as well. Section 18.2.5.10 limits a dead-end corridor to 30 feet, so make sure the relocation does not exceed this distance. Also, since you are relocating a smoke compartment barrier, that will change compartment size (limited to 22,500 sq. ft.), travel distances to a smoke compartment door (limited to 200 feet), and a net area of 30 sq. ft. per patient from adjoining compartments. The size and travel distances inside the OR suite are limited as well (see 18.2.5 for limitations). Cross corridor doors must be a pair of swinging doors that open in opposite directions, not contain a center mullion, and each leaf must have a clear width of at least 41½ inches. There are a few other exceptions that you may qualify for in section 18.3.7. So, consider all of these requirements before you begin construction, and check with your local and state authorities to see if they have any other restrictions.