MEP/FP design for MRI suites, part two: design considerations

In a two-part series, the importance of effective mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems design for magnetic resonance imaging suites is examined. Part two focuses on the electrical, fire protection, and plumbing considerations when designing MRI suites.

By RTM Engineering Consultants, Ill. February 13, 2017

Within a hospital, needs vary significantly by department and specialty treatment area, a MEP firm needs to understand each area’s unique specifications and requirements involving mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection (MEP/FP) systems.

Electrical systems

MRI equipment must be protected from electrical interference that can upset the magnetic field and the imaging process. Keeping equipment running is critical, and the RTM team knows that the heart of a safe and reliable facility is the primary and secondary power supply [VS1] systems with proper distribution channels.


An MRI scanner produces a radio frequency (RF) signal that must be protected from interference. Alternating current (ac) power has been known to result in RF interference and distortion of images. Because of this, MRI room-lighting fixtures use direct current (dc) power. As in every hospital setting, lighting levels should be carefully reviewed; RTM uses in-house lighting designers to run photometric calculations to assure proper light levels.

RF shield

RF shields are typically thin sheets of copper foil, aluminum, or galvanized steel that cover floors, ceilings, doors, and windows in an MRI magnet room. Any penetrations into RF-shielded areas (HVAC, power, exhaust, plumbing, and piping) pass through RF filters or wave guides. Since ferromagnetic materials can interfere with MRI operations, all ductwork, hangers, and supports within the RF shield must be nonferrous.

Emergency power and UPS

Individual hospitals, along with the building code, determine the type of emergency power MRI equipment will need in the event of a power outage. Hospitals frequently use uninterrupted power supply (UPS) systems to maintain constant power to equipment during an outage or when transferring from one source to another. The UPS helps maintain power when switching to and from generator-backed power.

Plumbing and fire protection systems

MRI suites require unique plumbing and fire protection systems to meet the facility’s health and safety needs while also accommodating the equipment’s distinct specifications.


Designing plumbing systems around an MRI magnet room without interfering with sensitive equipment is particularly challenging. Water and drain lines must be installed in a way that will not interfere with the RF shield including passing through RF wave guides and dielectric breaks.

Fire protection

All sprinkler system components in MRI rooms must be constructed of nonferrous materials (copper, brass, and stainless steel are common). Careful consideration should be made for piping in adjacent spaces.

-This article originally appeared on the RTM Engineering Consultants blog. RTM Engineering Consultants is a CFE Media content partner.

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