Complying with engineering code requirements


Krista Biason and Jeff Harris discuss new code requirements and often-overlooked and misunderstood requirements that are consistently implemented incorrectly in health care facilities in the Summer 2017 edition of Inside ASHE.

These days facility management seems to be all about CMS and NFPA 101, and sometimes it seems as if “engineering” codes and standards are neglected. Of course, the CMS adoption of the 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code® is important, and it does dictate which edition of engineering codes are to be referenced for engineering designs (and it brings adopted codes into this decade!). Life safety issues regarding egress requirements, smoke barriers, doors, and corridor projections are critical for protecting patients, staff, and visitors, but the specific health care engineering code items that have changed in recent code cycles also have a significant impact on life safety, design, and implementation. A passionate engineer could fill this entire edition of Inside ASHE with engineering code issues; however, we will contain this discussion to a handful of new code requirements and often-overlooked and misunderstood requirements that are consistently implemented incorrectly in health care facilities. With more than 50 years of combined health care design experience, we have seen a lot of interesting code interpretations and want to share some of the more common items to watch out for in the field. Sometimes just a single article of code can throw an engineering system into noncompliance.

We will kick off the fun with the most important electrical items. In the spirit of prioritizing life safety, let’s focus on emergency system items that have been added to, or modified in, the code.

Electrical overcurrent device study

An updated electrical overcurrent device study is important in making sure that a facility has a coordinated system, doesn’t blow anything up, and ensures the safety of people working on the equipment, but did you know that having an up-to-date overcurrent device study is actually a code requirement? A selective coordination study is exactly what it sounds like: overcurrent devices working in the correct order to address an unfortunate electrical event somewhere within a facility. A coordinated system has been a requirement of both NFPA 70: National Electrical Code® and NFPA 99: Health Care Facilities Code for a while, but having the actual document available upon request is a new requirement that was added in the 2014 edition of NFPA 70. The 2017 editions of the National Electrical Code Article 700.32 (Emergency Systems) and Article 701.27 (Legally Required Standby Systems) both require the study to be “completed by a licensed professional engineer or other qualified person engaged in the design, installation, or maintenance of electrical systems.” The articles further state that the selection “shall be documented and made available to those authorized to design, install, inspect, maintain, and operate the system.” The code does not distinguish between new greenfield sites and facilities that have been around for a hundred years and may lack formal documentation of the existing conditions, so existing facilities are not except from this requirement. This requirement becomes challenging because many existing facilities do not have a consolidated, or accurate,  document of their installed electrical distribution systems. 

The latest iteration of NFPA 70 (2017) now aligns with NFPA 99 in that the essential systems are required to be coordinated to 0.1 seconds. Previous versions of NFPA 70 did not indicate specific duration so, depending on which editions of NFPA 70 and 99 are adopted and enforced and in which state your facility is located, the level of coordination may be either 0.1 or 0.01 seconds. As always, be mindful that your specifying engineer (or local authority having jurisdiction, or AHJ) may have additional requirements, so the code minimum may not always be applicable.

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This article is copyright ASHE 2017 and originally appeared in the Summer 2017 edition of Inside ASHE magazine. Republished here with permission.



Topics: Healthcare, Engineering