When access control hardware is installed on doors in a new or existing building, it’s extremely important to be aware of the fire, life-safety and building codes that impact these applications. Failure to take these code requirements into account could result in liability for blocked egress routes and fire door assemblies with labels which are null and void.
If electrified hardware is installed without the proper release devices, or in locations where a product is not allowed by code, the cost to rectify the situation can be extensive. Understanding these requirements in advance can help to avoid these problems.
Here’s a look at code requirements for four of the most prevalent access control devices found in a typical building:
Any product used as part of a fire door assembly must be listed for that use. This includes the access control lock or fire exit hardware, power transfer, door position switch or any other component mounted on the door or frame. One of the requirements for a fire door is that it must be self-latching, so removing a mechanical lockset and replacing it with an electromagnetic lock would not meet the latching requirement. If an electric strike is installed on a fire door assembly, it must be fail-secure so that, upon power failure, the keeper is secure and the door is latched.
The most common issue when installing electrified hardware on an existing fire-rated opening is the limitation on field preparation of fire-rated doors and frames. NFPA 80 is the standard for “Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives,” which limits field modifications of fire door assemblies to: 3/4-inch wood or composite door undercutting and preparation for surface-applied hardware; function holes for mortise locks; holes for labeled viewers; and protection plates. Round holes may be drilled in the field to accommodate operating components like cylinders, spindles and through-bolts with a maximum hole size of 1-inch, except for cylinder holes which may be any diameter.
Any field modifications beyond what is allowed by NFPA 80 may require that the assembly be re-labeled by the listing agency, which can be very expensive.
A delayed egress lock is designed to delay the door from unlocking for 15 seconds and, then, allow free egress. Immediate egress is required upon power failure or fire alarm. A delayed egress lock cannot be installed if a building is not protected by an automatic sprinkler system or approved automatic smoke or heat detection system.
An audible alarm and emergency lighting are required in the vicinity of the door, and signage stating how the delayed egress lock functions must be posted on the door. The 15-second timer must be initiated by a 15-pound maximum force, and the delayed egress lock must be rearmed manually after the release cycle is complete. It must also be able to be released remotely.
The codes vary regarding requirements for delayed egress hardware. The prevalent codes in the United States are the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code. The IBC allows delayed egress locks in all use groups except Assembly, Educational and High Hazard occupancies. NFPA 101 allows delayed egress locks in all low and ordinary hazard occupancies but, in some cases, there are conditions for their use. For example, on assembly occupancies, NFPA 101 allows delayed egress locks on any doors other than the main entrance.
Another difference between codes is the length of time allowed for actuation of the 15-second timer. The IBC requires the timer to start when force is applied for 1 second; while NFPA 101 allows the force to be applied for up to 3 seconds. The IBC also limits delayed egress devices to one delay before entering an exit (for example, a protected stairwell), while this requirement varies by occupancy type per NFPA 101.
It is imperative to know which code is being enforced in the location in order to apply the appropriate requirements.