When a family makes the difficult decision to move their loved ones into a Skilled Nursing facility, they want to know that there are home-like amenities that create a sense of comfort and familiarity. This transition can be difficult, but recent changes in the 2012 Life Safety Code are making it easier to design resident-centered spaces that provide a home-like setting.

The kitchen and living areas in a home are important social and congregating spaces.  Under the existing code it has been difficult to create a kitchen within the resident wings of a Skilled Nursing facility.  It was prohibited to have a kitchen open to the corridor, so the design had to enclose this space behind walls and doors.

The idea of being able to cook in a space that is open to the corridor has always been a challenging interpretation of the Life Safety Code.  However, code officials are now seeing how such spaces make these Skilled Nursing facilities more successful. When one has the ability to cook in an area that is open and accessible to residents, the smells created travel down the corridors and encourage the residents to come out of their private or shared rooms and enjoy the social spaces, just like home.

While the concept supports resident-centered care, the safety of all must be considered in this communal living environment. The following is a summary of the Life Safety 2012 Code, Section 18.3.2.5.3, the current restrictions, or rather “limitations,” to integrating kitchens that are open to the corridor.

  • The kitchens may be used to prepare meals for no more than 30 persons (residents).  This does not include staff.
  • The smoke compartment in which the kitchen is located must contain no more than 30 beds.
  • The residential hood over the cooktop must be at least as wide as the cooktop, equipped with grease baffles or other grease-collecting capabilities, exhaust at least 500 cfm, and have a charcoal filter if the hood re-circulates the air (rather than exhausting it to the exterior).
  • Deep fat frying (defined as fully immersing food in hot oil) and cooking with solid fuel (i.e. wood-burning stoves) are prohibited.
  • The cooktop must have a fire suppression system that complies with UL 300 or UL300A, a manual release of the extinguishing system and an interlock is provided to turn off all sources of fuel and power to the cooktop or range when the suppression system is activated
  • Portable fire extinguishers are provided in all kitchen areas.
  • There must be a switch for staff use that will shut off the cooktop or range when unattended.
  • Two smoke detectors that are not connected to the fire alarm system (providing local notification only) must serve the kitchen and be located not closer than 20 feet from the cooktop or range.

For specific code details visit: http://www.nfpa.org/Assets/files/AboutTheCodes/101/TIA101-12-2.pdf

The code is finally catching up to the efforts of forward-thinking providers and design teams. While the limitations maintain safety, the ability to locate a kitchen directly off the corridor achieves the desired warmth of a residential concept, a more open kitchen-living-dining scenario.