With so many buildings now built with digital technologies in mind, it’s important to understand the medical building codes and regulations that apply to them. Hiring an experienced architect or engineer to help you with the process is a good idea if you’re starting a construction project.
State or local agencies typically set medical building codes, unlike general construction codes. However, there are some basic guidelines every medical facility should adhere to to ensure patient safety. The following are some of the medical codes and regulations;
Water Supply Systems
The water supply system must meet the demands of both firefighting units and immediately available protection for the occupants. This last point is a requirement not only exclusive to medical facilities.
All buildings with over fifty people are required to have two independent water supply systems, so one can always provide the needed water, even if the other has failed. But medical facilities see quite a few more fires than regular buildings, so this requirement is even more important here than anywhere else.
Hospital piping system components that require water pressure to function shall be installed such that the minimum pressure required for operation shall not be less than 20 psi at fixture outlets. Higher pressures shall be followed if a more severe condition exists.
Hospital piping systems that need water pressure to function must meet this requirement to ensure the proper functioning of the medical equipment involved.
Hose connections and sprinkler riser piping systems that convey potable water from a source other than a fire department connection or gravity tank must meet code requirements for this section to ensure the proper functioning of the medical equipment involved.
A hospital building is designed and used to diagnose, treat, or care for persons suffering from any form of illness, infirmity, deformity, abnormality, or pregnancy. This includes inpatient and outpatient facilities with at least three inpatient beds. The structure also has surgical, body sculpting service, radiological, and water birth suites with cesarean section capability.
Buildings must meet their life safety requirements while maintaining the overall structural stability of the combined hospital buildings involved in a fire scenario. There are many different medical building codes in the world of medicine. Codes are necessary to ensure that life-saving procedures are done consistently, so there is no confusion about what needs to be done when an injury or illness occurs. These medical building codes include everything from emergency rooms, operating rooms, psychiatric facilities, long-term care facilities, laboratories, pharmacies, and health care records storage facilities.
These codes must follow very strict guidelines mandated by each state or country. They govern every aspect of the design and construction of these buildings, including hot water temperature in bathrooms, because issues have occurred where scalding hot water has damaged skin on patients being bathed. The medical building codes affect every aspect of the building, such as walls, doors, window placement and widths, services of roofing companies, and public spaces. Medical buildings must also be built to indoor environmental quality standards that address noise and contaminants in a hospital environment.
One very common type of medical facility is a surgery center. Because surgery centers perform surgical procedures on patients, they must meet these stringent medical building codes and adhere to them for their entire lifespan, typically 25-30 years or more. One example that will impact surgery centers is how many people can be served simultaneously in an operating room and medical table upholstery services. The general rule is one surgeon per operating room. If there is more than one surgeon present at any given time, then two operating rooms are required.
This shows how the medical building codes affect health care facilities in very detailed yet necessary ways. Surgery centers may not seem important to the average person, but those who work there and need surgery understand that two operating rooms must be built rather than just one.
Lighting is an important factor to consider when assessing the quality of medical buildings. Many studies have shown how lighting can affect human behavior, mood, and perception. Various domains should be considered regarding delivering proper lighting within a building. These are: providing appropriate illumination for work practices, reducing glare, mitigating discomfort or disability, minimizing energy usage without sacrificing performance or safety, and ensuring compatibility with emerging technologies. It must be determined what type of area is being lighted by considering these factors before specifying various lighting fixtures.
Providing optimal illumination for work practices encourages productivity through increased accuracy and efficiency while reducing fatigue. Illumination can also aid workers in identifying visual cues necessary for safety purposes and those necessary for completing tasks.
Glare is a subjective perception of brightness within the line of sight that disturbs or impedes performance, reduces visibility, and can cause eye strain. There must be a consideration for light levels, glare index charts, the reflectance of high-gloss surfaces, and light sources with low-glare characteristics to combat this issue. Limiting reflected glare from surroundings is also important in creating comfortable illumination conditions.
Discomfort or disability may include visual impairment or discomfort from bright or flickering lights. Reducing discomfort includes proper task lighting to facilitate comfort while performing certain activities like reading or surgeries, where additional lighting would increase discomfort due to the task being performed.
Reductions in energy usage are important due to the increasing cost of utility services for businesses, including medical buildings. Emerging technologies in medical building codes such as electronic hardware and software control devices can allow facilities management staff to save energy by programming specific task lighting levels at set intervals throughout the day without compromising safety or performance within a building. Electronic ballasts also reduce heat output from lighting fixtures which reduces HVAC costs.
Structural Fire Protection
Medical buildings are unique in that they typically do not have the same safety issues as other everyday buildings. The main concern of medical building codes is to protect occupants from harm. For example, hospitals should contain fires and maintain adequate fire safety procedures for staff and patients alike. These guidelines can take many forms, but all share common components regardless of location or application.
Architects must comply with local medical building codes and regulations about life safety and fire protection when designing a medical building.
Fire safety engineers use a concept called life safety to develop building regulations that protect occupants from injury or death due to building failure during extreme events such as fires and earthquakes.
Structural members shall not collapse when subjected to vertical loading effects, including bending moments, shear forces, and combined bending and shear forces induced by the lateral or vertical seismic forces. Designers should incorporate ductility into structural systems to allow for deformation during earthquakes. Ductile materials, like steel, will bend instead of fracturing when subjected to high-stress levels. Brittle materials may break apart like concrete or brick, causing partial or complete collapse. Masonry buildings without steel reinforcement are particularly vulnerable because they lack flexibility and can fall apart during an earthquake.
Residential elevators must be fully operational even during an emergency to transport patients and staff safe. This requires redundant power sources such as batteries, generators, or photovoltaic panels that will allow the elevator system to function properly in case of power loss.
Fire alarm systems must provide adequate warning for both occupants and firefighters when a fire occurs, regardless of where it begins within the structure. The nature of fires dictates that most will start at discrete locations such as a trash can or electrical outlet. The fire alarm system must be designed to communicate the location of the fire so that occupants and emergency responders are aware of where it starts and spreads.
Sprinklers during fires can help contain fires to their original location, prevent the spread of fire, slow the rate at which flames grow, and reduce property damage. Sprinklers should be designed to go off throughout the building in the case of a fire so that all connected spaces are adequately protected.
Chokepoints are defined areas where people must travel to leave a building or facility in an emergency. These could be elevators, stairwells, double doors with restricted openings between rooms, or a new garage door. Suppose these chokepoints become blocked or congested during evacuations. In that case, it will slow down response times for emergency personnel arriving on the scene who need to remove obstacles before allowing occupants to exit.
Egress pathways should be designed to remain open throughout an emergency by removing debris, bark dust, furniture, and equipment so that emergency responders can access all building areas to rescue occupants in need.
Another important aspect has proper illumination levels that are uniform across space because low light levels may create hazards for people trying to evacuate or render certain technologies unusable.
Smoke Management Systems for Patient Care Areas
Patient care areas shall be separated from each other and the remainder of the building with smoke compartments designed and constructed per this section.
Smoke management systems are primarily designed to control the spread of smoke created by fire, not to affect other areas. They also help prevent the spread of fire to other parts of the hospital or into patient rooms where someone might be smoking despite no-smoking policies.
Tobacco use is generally prohibited indoors except in designated smoking areas; instead, clean indoor air policies improve public health and reduce liability risks. Smoke management is important for hospitals because they house many people who can become easily stressed or whose medical conditions make them particularly sensitive to smoke and its effects.
Adequate protection from fire threats must be provided in any building, especially in places requiring a large amount of care and attention, such as hospitals.
Smoke management systems are designed to protect people, not property; they can’t guarantee that everything will be unchanged if there’s a fire. However, these systems help keep the damage caused by smoke and heat to a minimum, which helps reduce potential liability risks for hospitals.
Emergency Power Systems
Emergency power systems provide electrical power in critical situations where commercial power is unavailable. They can be installed, for example, in hospitals and data centers. Hospitals typically use emergency generators to supply the building’s Essential Electrical Systems. This provides electrical power to residential elevators, lighting, HVAC units, patient rooms, nurse call systems, and other important elements needed for safe operation in hospitals. Data centers require backup generation because they rely on the uninterrupted availability of electricity to keep servers running efficiently. Even short outages may cause serious damage that could affect the whole facility without adequate backup generation capacity or UPS protection.
Emergency generators provide electrical power in critical situations where commercial power is unavailable for extended periods, or large amounts of power are required. Such situations often occur during natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, where commercial power grids are damaged beyond repair.
Emergency generators can also come in handy during planned events where public services disruptions are expected during civil unrests, political gatherings, sporting events, and commercial fence installation. Even though these types of outages may not last long enough to require a large generator, having one ready will allow your business to operate without the inconvenience of a power outage.
Emergency generators also provide backup power at construction sites where commercial power may not be available or conducive for use. This is often the case during restoration projects, such as commercial fence installation, after an earthquake or other natural disaster when many commercial electricity sources are disrupted beyond repair and must rely on temporary generator systems until service returns to normal levels.
Commercial utility companies offer their customers complete energy management solutions that monitor critical equipment and automatically switch from commercial power to emergency/backup generation as needed to ensure continuous service availability. Utilities have improved remote monitoring capabilities and response times, which means electric grid operators can now reduce power more quickly and minimize overloads, saving their customers money in the process.
In conclusion, the construction of a medical facility requires careful consideration of medical building codes for the safety and comfort of patients, visitors, staff, and roofer contractors. Suppose you are building or renovating a hospital’s exterior walls and operating room cubicle system with patient bedside tables attached to it, or even just installing a table for dentists. In that case, you should note that specific regulations govern these actions. For example, if you plan to use any hazardous material such as asbestos during renovation projects, you must obtain permits from state agencies before beginning work. It is important to understand what codes apply when planning your project; otherwise, it may delay the completion of your project.