Issue 95: Changes to NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, 2015 Edition
By Kristin Bigda, P.E., Senior Fire Protection Engineer, NFPA
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, addresses those
construction, protection, and occupancy features necessary to minimize
danger to life from the effects of fire and similar emergencies. The
main goal of NFPA 101 is to protect people by implementing a combination
of building construction features, systems and operating features that
are occupancy dependent. The Code is updated every three years, and the
2015 edition was recently released this September. Every edition of
the code brings with it, revised and updated requirements for new as
well as existing occupancies. Some of the major changes to the 2015
edition of the Code are summarized below.
Atriums Used As Part of Separated Occupancies
The provision of 126.96.36.199.4 recognizes an atrium as part of the
separation required for protecting multiple occupancies as separated
occupancies, but only where an occupancy chapter specifically permits
its use. Further, atria are permitted to serve as part of the separation
of occupancies only on a story-by-story basis.
Vestibules Separating Normally Unoccupied Spaces from Exit Enclosures
This change recognizes the often practiced, but noncompliant,
arrangement whereby a vestibule is created to prevent a normally
unoccupied space from opening directly onto an exit enclosure. The now
permitted vestibule and associated door that opens directly into the
space must comply with the corridor wall and door provisions of the
applicable occupancy chapter. Where an occupancy chapter requires no
corridor separation, the vestibule barriers must be smoke partitions.
New Occupant Load Factors
The occupant load factor for Ambulatory Health Care use was changed from 100 ft2 (9.3 m2) to 150 ft2 (13.9 m2).
The change reflects judgment that ambulatory health care use spaces are
not as densely populated as typical business occupancies (which was the
basis for the previous value).
In addition, an occupant load factor of 50 ft2 (4.6 m2)
for "concentrated” business use was added to Table 188.8.131.52. This
factor accounts for office occupancies where people work in highly
concentrated groups (such as a customer service call center or
secretarial pool area).
Alcohol-Based Hand-Rub Dispensers (ABHR)
ABHR dispensers can be found in occupancies such as office buildings,
grocery stores, shopping malls, schools, hotels, and restaurants.
Recognizing the emerging trend of increasing ABHR dispenser use in many
different occupancies, it was determined that ABHR dispenser
requirements should reside in a core chapter to which the occupancy
chapters could reference.
The new requirements for ABHR dispensers in 184.108.40.206 are formatted as a
"where permitted” provision, such that 220.127.116.11 applies only where
specifically referenced by another section of the Code. Occupancies in
which the use of ABHR dispensers in accordance with 18.104.22.168 are
permitted include assembly, detention and correctional, lodging or
rooming house, hotels and dormitories, apartment buildings, residential
board and care, mercantile, business, industrial, and storage.
Occupancies in which ABHR dispensers are permitted, but regulated
separately by the applicable occupancy chapter, and not by 22.214.171.124,
include educational, day care, health care, and ambulatory health care.
Stairway Video Monitoring in High-Rise Buildings
The new requirements of 11.8.8 mandate high-rise buildings having an
occupant load of 4000 or more persons to be provided with real-time
remote monitoring of exit stair usage. This language was developed to
assist the fire service, other fire safety personnel, and building
management with the monitoring and managing of egress during an
emergency in a building. The use of equipment that would provide real
time data to the building’s emergency command center could lead to
better direction of building evacuations and provide the ability for
personnel in the command center to see conditions throughout the
building in real time. This would allow incident commanders to observe
if an egress route has become untenable, and provide guidance as to
where they can most effectively redistribute occupants in the building.
Improving situation awareness of the conditions in exit stairs during an
evacuation is seen as an important topic with regard to occupant life
Life Safety Evaluations in Assembly Occupancies
The Life Safety Evaluation (LSE) provisions of 12.4.1 were expanded for
the 2015 edition of the Code to improve their utility. A new assembly
venue subject to the LSE must now be assessed prior to construction to
ensure that the needed physical elements are part of the design. Also,
facility management must be evaluated prior to building occupancy. The
expanded LSE provisions help to facilitate better communication among
the designers and those who manage the facilities after construction.
The goal is to provide managers with safety systems that are compatible
with actual building use. Similar provisions were added for existing
Multiple-Level Buildings in Day Care and Board and Care Occupancies
Day-care homes, as addressed in 16/17.6, are often housed in
residential structures like dwellings. Split level floor arrangements
are common. The provisions of 16/126.96.36.199.4 now permit one or more
levels that are not the level of exit discharge to be considered part of
the level of exit discharge. The same allowance is permitted for
day-care facilities of any size.
The provisions of 32/188.8.131.52 through 32/184.108.40.206.4 for Residential
Board and Care Occupancies specify that a floor level above or below the
level of exit discharge (LED) is permitted to be considered part of the
LED, provided that is connected to the LED by a stair having a maximum
of three risers. These provisions exempt such levels from being
considered as additional stories for the purpose of determining the
number of stories in height.
Disguised Doors in Health Care
The provisions of 18/220.127.116.11.7 permit doors to have murals that
disguise the door might be helpful in dementia units, provided five
conditions are met. The door that has a mural must be a door that is
permitted to be locked such as the doors for egressing a sleeping unit,
including cross-corridor doors and doors to exit stair enclosures.
Reduced Corridor Width in Nursing Homes
The reduction in corridor width, from 8 ft (2440 mm) to 6 ft (1830 mm)
in nursing home smoke compartments housing not more than 30 residents,
is another change made over the last two revision cycles to create a
more home-like setting. It is common for resident sleeping rooms to
surround an open space that is part corridor and part living area. The
corridor has a wall at its outer perimeter where it abuts the resident
sleeping room walls. The corridor is open to the living space at the
center of the smoke compartment.
Ambulatory Health Care Rewrite
Chapter 20/21 was rewritten for the 2015 edition of the Code to be
self-contained and not require referencing provisions of Chapter 38/39
for business occupancies. For editions prior to 2015, ambulatory health
care facilities were required to comply with the provisions of Chapters
38 and 39 pertaining to business occupancies and those contained within
Chapters 20 and 21.
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, 2015 edition
NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, Handbook. Coté, R. and Harrington, G. 2015 edition.
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