Q: Per NFPA 101 2012 edition: are plastic barriers (w/zippers) no longer acceptable around construction areas though the facility is fully sprinkled?
A: No… I wouldn’t say that. But the issue is being reviewed by NFPA Healthcare Interpretations Task Force (HITF) and a change may occur later this year.
Section 184.108.40.206 of the 2012 LSC says the means of egress of any area undergoing construction, repair, or improvements must comply with NFPA 241, which is the standard for safeguarding during construction operations. Section 8.6.2 of NFPA 241-2009 says temporary construction barriers are required to be 1-hour fire rated, with ¾ hour fire rated doors assemblies if the construction area is not full protected with sprinklers. 1-hour barriers are typically steel studs with 5/8 inch thick gypsum board on both sides, with all seams taped and mudded and all screws heads mudded. If the construction area is protected with sprinklers, then the temporary construction barrier is permitted to be non-rated, but construction ‘tarps’ are not permitted as the non-rated barrier. At this time flame retardant plastic sheeting (i.e. Visqueen) will be permitted as a temporary construction barrier where the construction area is fully protected with sprinklers.
However, this issue is being reviewed by HITF of the NFPA. At the June, 2016 meeting of HITF, the members discussed whether or not flame retardant plastic sheeting was acceptable or if it was the same as ‘construction tarps’. At that time there was not a clear consensus so no decision was made. The committee said they would review it again next year.
Unless your AHJ has specifically ruled on this issue, the HITF seemed to say that flame retardant plastic sheeting would be permitted when the construction area is fully protected with sprinklers. But, of course, that is not in writing so it is not official.
I would say continue to use flame retardant plastic sheeting until you learn otherwise.