Water Protection for Fire Service Access Elevator Lobbies

The 9th Edition of the Massachusetts State Building Code (780 CMR) contains several new requirements associated with Fire Service Access Elevators (FSAE’s).  FSAE’s and associated lobbies are required in buildings with an occupied floor more than 120 feet above the lowest level of fire department access (2015 IBC Section 403.6.1).

One such change is that FSAE lobbies are now required to be provided with a means of water protection.  Such protection is required to consist of an approved method to prevent water from the operations of the sprinkler system outside of the enclosed lobby from infiltrating into the hoistway enclosure (2015 IBC Section 3007.3).

This requirement was introduced as part of the 2012 Edition of the International Building Code (IBC), so it is newly enforceable as part of the 9th Edition of 780 CMR.

Note that this requirement applies to (FSAE lobbies (governed by IBC Section 3007) and water protection is not required for regular elevator lobbies governed by IBC Section 3006.

The requirement for water protection is performance-based, with the specific method and sizing of components to achieve the water infiltration prevention not specified by the code.  Some of the options that may be used include door sweeps, trench drains, sloped floors, curbs, or gasketed openings (or combination thereof), and ultimately the method used is required to be approved by the AHJ.

When applying this requirement to your projects, note the following:

  • This requirement is only for protection from sprinkler water, and not from fire-fighter hoses;
  • Where an elevator is two-sided, this requirement must be met on each side, including the side that does not have the FSAE;
  • With regards to using sloped floors as an option for compliance, note that landings on either side of doors are required to be level, so any sloping of the floor will need to be done away from the door;
  • The prevention of water infiltration can occur either (1) at the hoistway itself or at (2) the FSAE boundary, or both.

The 2018 Edition of the IBC revised the language for the Water Protection requirement to clarify the intent, although the practical application of the requirement remains the same.  Further, there was no change in the requirement from the 2018 to the 2021 Editions of the IBC.