Hospital building's exterior.

By Steven Dannaway, PE, DBIA – Most hospital facilities include the construction of canopy structures overhanging the ambulance and passenger drop-off areas to provide weather protection. Where a canopy structure overhangs vehicles, OSHPD will regulate the structure as a “Porte-Cochere.” This designation imposes several fire/life safety requirements on the canopy. In September 2020, OSHPD revised their “Porte-Cochere” Code Application Notice (CAN) 2-508 (formerly CAN 2-1109B.2).  The CAN update was primarily a reorganization to improve clarity with limited change in its code application. Key considerations of the CAN are:

  • The Porte-Cochere is considered part of the hospital building and is not subject to the traditional exterior wall projection or canopy provisions of the California Building Code (CBC). A secondary option, lacking practicality in new hospital designs, is to construct a firewall between the canopy structure and hospital building to serve as a building separation.
  • As part of the same building, the Porte-Cochere must be built of the same type of construction as the hospital building. OSHPD has recently enforced this requirement to impose both material restrictions (non-combustible vs. combustible) as well as fire-resistance ratings. If the hospital building is a Type I building, the Porte-Cochere canopy structure is also subject to the fire-resistance ratings from CBC Table 601 for Type I construction. This requirement poses the largest impact on the architectural design of the canopy structure.
  • The Porte-Cochere requires sprinkler protection because it is considered as part of the hospital building. A separate OSHPD interpretation will also require sprinkler protection under the canopy structure if the canopy overhangs a required means of egress from the building.

Several projects have explored a design solution that pulls the edge of the canopy back away from the vehicle drive area, such that the canopy dripline does not overhang vehicles. Where this configuration is successfully implemented, there is potential for the canopy to avoid the Porte-Cochere classification and avoid compliance with CAN 2-508.

This topic consistently arises on most OSHPD hospital projects at the passenger and ambulance drop-off areas, and while the OSHPD CAN may seem overly complicated upon the first review, the primary impacts of the OSHPD CAN 2-508 can be simplified to these select issues.

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