MEP Systems Movin' On Up
Until now, MEP design typically included hiding mechanical equipment or tucking it below grade, away from the primary real estate of a hospital's above-grade floors. And yet it's possible to knock out an entire emergency backup system by putting equipment in a place that isn't waterproof.
In fact, during last year's Hurricane Sandy, the bottom floors of one New York City mega-hospital were flooded, shutting down all MEP systems, including the hospital's emergency power. Now, in the aftermath of Sandy, 100-year and 500-year flood planes are being re-drawn and best practices are changing.
In new buildings, electrical service feeds, medical gas cylinders, equipment and fuel oil pumps should ideally be located above the 500-year flood plane (above grade), while electric service and emergency generator plants should be located on separate floor levels. To further ensure reliability of the infrastructure, it is recommended not to locate vertical risers on the building's perimeter.
But, short of the ability to renovate or build anew, relocating existing MEP systems above the new flood levels can be a very costly process that requires the hospital to give up precious real estate. In these cases, a thorough analysis will be important to determine the most appropriate option for the hospital. Sometimes it may prove to be feasible to waterproof the below grade rooms by providing a "bathtub" construction, i.e. installing a real marine door gasket and closing all potential openings.
— Marina Dishel