6.4. Nonstructural design

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"Elements that are not a part of the system that supports the building are considered nonstructural elements”

6 4 diseno noestructural

Non-structural design looks at essential systems such as (but not limited to) electrical, hydraulic, sanitation, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; furniture and fixed or movable office equipment, as well as medical and laboratory equipment; supplies used for diagnosis and treatment; and some architectural elements of the building. Consult parts 2 and 3 of the Safe Hospitals Checklist for what to look for in the way structural and nonstructural elements.

A building can remain standing after a disaster but be unable to function due to nonstructural damage to medical equipment or to the vital lifeline services, rubble in corridors and escape routes, fires or explosions, leaks or major damage in drinking water and sewerage systems, etc. These conditions can result in the loss of lives, require evacuation of some areas of a facility, and/or limit its operating capacity. Even minor damage may be enough to alter sterile conditions and jeopardize the health of patients in critical condition.

All of these problems exist primarily because most building codes do not regulate the design of nonstructural elements, and because interaction among groups of specialists tends to be minimal.

Nonstructural components contribute to ensuring that the level of protection established for a health facility is met. Considering the hazards to which a health facility is exposed, building design must consider the position and distribution of the building’s nonstructural components, their individual dynamic characteristics, their effect on the structure, and the anchoring needed to prevent them from overturning or coming loose.

The design of any structure in a seismic area must be such that nonstructural elements including architectural features (ceilings, panels, cubicles, windows, doors, partitions), equipment (medical, laboratory, office, industrial, etc.), and basic services (electrical power, water, medical gases, etc.) can tolerate movement of the structure. It should also be borne in mind that in an earthquake the movement of nonstructural elements is generally greater than the movement of the building itself, and thus they are more vulnerable. Accordingly, there are measures that should be considered in the nonstructural design of buildings exposed to floods, wind, and other forces, with specific indications for laboratories and blood banks.

Specialists will be responsible for the design of systems to protect components in their respective areas, while the project’s review group will oversee the integration and compatibility of the proposals developed by the different disciplines and will coordinate the different specialized areas.