Hospitals are typically defined by building codes as structures where the occupants are not capable of self-preservation. The greatest challenge of a health care facility lies in the fact that many occupants (patients) are ambulatory, and they are unable to quickly recognize a hazard and exit the building under their own power. As a result, many hospitals use a “defend in place” approach to protect patients, meaning occupants do not actually leave the building in an emergency situation. This means that hospitals must be designed to be among the most safely constructed buildings that exist.
As a minimum, current building codes typically require hospitals to meet the same fire protection and life safety requirements to which high-rise buildings must adhere. This includes the installation of an emergency generator, a fire pump, a smoke control system, a fire sprinkler system, a fully automatic fire alarm system, and a public address system.
Hospitals must meet much more stringent building code requirements than their high-rise counterparts. For instance, emergency generators for hospitals are typically required to be capable of maintaining most or all of a building’s normal power electricity demands. This is due to the fact that much of a hospital’s normal power is used for health care equipment needed to keep people alive.
To limit the passage of smoke, hospital spaces are also required to be subdivided into smoke compartments that do not exceed 22,500 square feet in area. Limiting the size of the floor area to a maximum of 22,500 square feet provides hospital staff the ability to quickly relocate patients to an adjacent, smoke free area.
Zari Consulting Group is often retained to provide a fully engineered design for automatic fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, and smoke control systems. Due to the unique nature of these buildings and special code requirements, we are also contracted to provide a complete building code and fire code analysis of these facilities.