by Brad Keyes, CHSP, on Jan 15, 2020 12:00:46 AM
Q: I have a 3-story linen chute in our facility. The chute is enclosed within a 1-hour shaft from the 1st floor deck through the roof of the facility. In the basement level of the facility, the chute is not enclosed above the laid-in ceiling tiles and the walls to the discharge room also terminate just above the laid-in ceiling tiles. In addition, the chute door is held open by a magnetic device which releases upon activation of the fire alarm system. Should the chute be enclosed above the ceiling tiles in the discharge room? If the chute door is held open with the magnet device, should the discharge room walls extend to the deck above to rate the room for a continuation of the linen chute? We currently have a 60-minute door with a closer installed on the discharge room as well.
A: The scenario that you describe concerning the linen chute discharge room requires a little thought, and the answer depends on a couple of issues.
- Is the facility classified as a healthcare occupancy (hospital, nursing home, etc.)?
- What year was the facility with the linen chute constructed? We need to determine if ‘new construction’ requirements or ‘existing construction’ requirements are enforced.
- Is the linen chute protected with automatic sprinklers?
Now, I will make some assumptions here… I envision your facility to be a hospital, built many years ago and chapter 19 “Existing Healthcare Occupancy” requirements apply. I will also assume your linen chute is sprinklered. The questions that you raise involves the linen chute which is unprotected above the ceiling in the basement discharge room. You ask if the linen chute needs to be enclosed from the ceiling level to the deck above. I would say it does NOT need to be enclosed, PROVIDED the shaft that the linen chute is in is sealed at the deck level in the basement discharge room. That seal needs to be 1-hour fire rated, not just sealed with sheet metal. There is a provision in the Life Safety Code that allows the shaft to be unsealed and open to the basement discharge room, provided the discharge room is protected with barriers that are constructed to the same fire rating as the shaft. But that is not the case in your scenario, as you said the basement discharge room walls terminate at the ceiling. I am puzzled though by your comments that the door to the basement linen chute discharge room is 1-hour fire rated. Why is there a fire rated door in a wall that is not fire rated? Wouldn’t be the first time a fire rated door was installed where it was not needed. So, based on your description I would say the linen chute is fine not being enclosed above the ceiling provided the shaft itself is tightly sealed with 1-hour fire rated construction where the chute pokes through the deck and into the basement discharge room. But your room is a problem since it is not a 1-hour fire rated room. The magnetic hold-open device on the linen chute discharge door is fine, provided it actually closes and latches upon a fire alarm activation. I have seen many of these types of held-open doors that do not close due to too much trash or linen piling up into the room or cart. Take a look at this at various times of the day and different days of the week and make sure staff is keeping this chute door open and clear. You will need a smoke detector inside the room that released the magnet when it senses smoke. Another bit of advice… even though you didn’t ask for it. The linen chute discharge door is a fire rated door, and as such, it cannot be repaired in the field, other than to replace approved fire rated door hardware. In other words, you are not permitted to weld the door when it becomes cracked and you are not permitted to replace the latching hardware with non-fire rated hardware. All you can do is purchase a new fire rated chute door assembly and install that.