Construction projects in active health care facilities often present fire protection and life safety challenges. Applicable requirements are addressed in a multitude of codes and reference standards, and many contain requirements or annex information to address best practices for risk mitigation. There are common themes to consider in both fire protection and life safety when working through construction projects and phasing in an active facility.

The 2012 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, allows facilities to be “occupied during construction, repair, alterations or additions only where required means of egress and required fire protection features are in place and continuously maintained for the portion occupied” or where alternative measures have been approved by the health care facility’s authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). 

Health care occupancies also require means of egress and daily inspections in any area undergoing construction, repair or improvement to comply with the 2009 edition of NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations. Considerations include passive fire protection requirements between occupied areas of the facility and the area undergoing construction. These requirements include a fire safety program and a review of what active fire protection systems are present, and direct the user to have a discussion with the AHJ. 

NFPA 241 allows a nonrated separation between occupied and construction areas when “an approved automatic sprinkler system is installed.” Additionally, there are many jurisdictions that have adopted newer editions of NFPA 241 or specific requirements for what they consider an approved sprinkler system.

Fire alarm systems are often utilized as an alternate method for areas under construction, renovation or improvement. Temporary detection as well as temporary notification can be utilized for early warning for both the facility and for workers in the space.

Helpful resources include the NFPA Healthcare Interpretations Task Force, which has provided supporting information on this area, and the Life Safety Risk Assessment Tool available to American Society for Health Care Engineering members via the link in this column.