By: Rick Joslin
A key focus of regulations is to prevent incidents and save lives. The recent round of changes to National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) 70®, National Electric Code® (2020 NEC®) for 2020 will impact Healthcare Facilities Management (HFM) in how they support buildings and structures within their organization for regular maintenance, as well as for improvements, renovations and remodeling.
While these changes may appear focused on industries outside of healthcare facilities, HFM departments often support highly diverse structures affected by these new regulations.
Exterior Emergency Disconnects
The new requirement for exterior emergency disconnects may impact HFM departments that maintain individual dwelling units, such as long-term personal care, duplex housing and housing used as offices.
The purpose of this new requirement is to allow emergency responders a safe and effective method of disconnecting power to a structure without the need to enter the structure to ensure the safety of the responders or anyone that may be inside. Since this work may involve re-routing high-voltage incoming electrical lines, a licensed electrician will be needed.
HFM departments should assess all the structures within their organization and determine which ones require the disconnect and related labels. This work will likely involve downtime for the entire structure, so planning the installation is critical to reducing adverse patient effects, as well as minimizing negative impacts on business functions.
Outdoor Electrical Requirements
Outdoor spaces enhance the experience of patients, staff, and visitors and typically provide electrical power to people using those spaces for laptops, cell phones and other small electrical devices.
The changes to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection requirements now apply to "All 125-volt through 250-volt receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(A) (1) through (11) and supplied by single-phase branch circuits rated 150 volts or less…” This may require HFM departments to evaluate the branch circuits supplying those outlets and install compliant devices.
Replacing breakers with GFCI protection may also involve downtime on the circuits, so planning the updates to minimize the impact on the users of those spaces is important.
Load Calculation Changes
New changes to load calculations will allow more accurate computations of circuit loads in all structures and occupancies. The changes to Table 220.12 now show a more defined list of occupancies and brings the NEC more in alignment with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) code 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code.
One major change in the general lighting load values is with office-building occupancies. The calculation values changed from 3.5VA/ft2 to 1.3VA/ft2, showing a significant reduction in the standard lighting load calculation. Because the general receptacle load is factored in a separate calculation, this reduction only applies to the lighting load.
For healthcare, the NEC removed demand factors from the lighting load calculation. In commercial building occupancies, VA per square foot values were reduced to align with occupancy energy codes, with some exceptions. A few examples are:
- Banks from 3.2 to 1.3
- Hotels and motels from 2 to 1.7
- Garages from .5 to .3
- Hospitals from 2 to 1.6
- Armories and auditoriums from 1 to 1.7.
There are several other key changes in the 2020 NFPA 70®, National Electric Code® that HFM departments should review to determine if they apply to their organization, such as:
- Deenergizing Panel Boards: Revises service disconnect rules to help increase electrical worker safety.
- Power Over Ethernet: Adapts NEC requirements to meet the installation practices of new and evolving technologies.
- New general requirement: Covering cables installed exposed on ceiling surfaces and sidewalls.
NFPA 70® and Asset Management
There are numerous changes in this cycle of NFPA 70® that have a direct impact on Healthcare Facilities Management to prevent injury to patients, staff and visitors, as well to avoid violations and penalties. Many are needed improvements to layout and readability, while others affect HFM planning, budgeting and resource usage activities.