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To Understand Code Requirements for Emergency Lighting

Emergency illumination is defined as the emergency lighting within a building that is in place to light the path of emergency egress when the normal supply of power is not available, and it is a key component to the life safety system. Numerous codes outline the rigorous path to achieving a code-compliant and safe emergency illumination system. It’s vital to understand emergency lighting and how to implement emergency lighting systems that are code-compliant, safe, functional, and user-friendly.

 

To Understand Code Requirements for Emergency Lighting

 

IBC REQUIREMENTS

The 2015 International Building Code (IBC) specifically requires the path of egress be illuminated at all times the room or space is occupied. The IBC maintains that the illumination levels in the path of egress must not drop below 1 fc under normal power conditions. This is not an average threshold, but an absolute minimum under normal power conditions. When laying out emergency egress lighting, the path must be closely analyzed using photometric software to ensure no point along the path of egress is less than 1 fc. On the other hand, the IBC maintains different standards for lighting under emergency power. Lighting provided under emergency power, when normal power is lost, is allowed to maintain an average of 1 fc and a minimum of 0.1 fc measured along the path of egress along the floor. Lighting levels are permitted to decrease throughout the specified time duration to an average of 0.6 fc and a minimum of 0.06 fc at the end of the required emergency lighting duration. The maximum-to-minimum lighting uniformity ratio shall not exceed 40:1.

The IBC defines any room that is required to have two or more exits as a space that must have properly illuminated aisles, corridors, stairways, and ramps. After defining how a room must be properly illuminated, the IBC goes on to describe how a building as a whole must be illuminated. In buildings that require two or more means of egress, all interior stairs, interior ramps, exterior stairs, exterior ramps, exit passageways, vestibules, and exterior landings must be automatically illuminated. The utility rooms in any type of building also must be illuminated, such as electrical equipment rooms, fire command centers, fire pump rooms, generator rooms, and public restrooms with an area of greater than 300 sq ft.

The IBC defines the amount of time required for emergency illumination at 90 minutes, whether the back-up power source is a centralized storage battery system, local unit equipment, or an onsite generator.

 

NFPA 70 REQUIREMENTS

The NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC), 2017 edition, defines requirements for emergency systems. Chapter 700 outlines circuit wiring and sources of power as it relates to the required emergency systems. As in the other codes already discussed, NEC also requires emergency batteries to supply and maintain loads for a minimum period of 90 minutes. The NEC further elaborates that the voltage from batteries supplied to unit fixtures shall not drop below 87.5% of the normal operating voltage.

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