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Changes to NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, 2015 Edition
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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 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  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 are formatted as a "where permitted” provision, such that applies only where specifically referenced by another section of the Code. Occupancies in which the use of ABHR dispensers in accordance with 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, 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 safety.


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 assembly occupancies.


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/ 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/ through 32/ 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/ 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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