UNDERSTANDING NFPA 99 DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR MEDICAL SPACES & FACILITIES
Healthcare environments pose specific challenges when it comes to the intersect of fire safety, ventilation, air filtration, and infection control. Engineers of healthcare facilities must utilize specific codes and standards for HVAC design, installation, and configuration—two codes in particular designate minimum requirements for these types of environments.
NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code
Criteria for levels of healthcare facility risk mitigation related to fire, explosion and electricity hazards are designated by NFPA 99. These levels are established based on the estimated risk to visitors in health care facilities and staff and patients.
NFPA 99 covers gas and vacuum systems, electrical systems, information technology and communications systems, plumbing, HVAC, and other systems. Several specific areas are critical when it comes to NFPA 99 compliance.
Simulation centers are designed to provide medical staff with hands-on training in low-risk environments. The NFPA has specific regulations for the use of medical gases in simulation rooms, and engineers must pay close attention to the latest iterations of such guidelines before outfitting a simulation room in a medical setting.
Wet Procedure Locations
The NFPA 99 references wet procedure locations nearly a dozen times, mostly in relation to NFPA 70: National Electrical Code. A governing body (the healthcare facility) is required to designate wet procedure locations. While patient beds, washbasins and toilets are exempt, operating rooms are not.
Governing bodies can opt to perform risk assessments in order to potentially exempt an operating room, but installing isolation panels, while more expensive, may increase patient and staff safety. Categorizing specific areas as wet procedure locations during the initial design layout can allow for appropriate planning.
Zone valves accessible from standing positions are typically required to control medical gas flow in patient care areas. In case of fire or combustion in the space or an adjacent area, these valves can shut off the gas flow without exposing staff, and patients can be safely evacuated. Valves must be separated from the outlets they control by a fire-rated intervening wall.
Again, early design stages should take both height requirements for valve placement, and any required intervening walls into account. Otherwise, the installation of necessary valves can prove complicated, requiring after-the-fact construction that eats up valuable square footage.