by Robert Hasty, CSI, CDT
For projects where architectural door hardware is supported with various electronic access control components, understanding the issues related to writing the specifications—governed by various code compliances and industry standards—is essential for all installations incorporating integrated security plans.
Even the most fundamental architectural door hardware provisions, such as mechanical key cylinders and locks, can be affected by codes that influence product selection and installation. At that basic level, specifying hardware to meet applicable code coverage is apt to be fairly simple. Once designers and specifiers begin to include more sophisticated and secure electronic access control systems, however, the ante goes up.
This approach moves the installation closer to full security integration—potentially incorporating such diverse elements as access recording, remote access control and alarming, video monitoring, and card or proximity reading. This is in addition to numerous higher-tech architectural hardware elements that may be incorporated, including magnetic locks and tamperproof or hidden hardware elements.
At these higher degrees of complexity, the specifier’s job becomes correspondingly more complicated. In particular, specification writers can benefit from familiarity with code materials governing three categories of the architectural door hardware/integrated security interface:
- access-controlled egress doors;
- electrically controlled egress doors; and
- delayed egress doors.
Within MasterFormat Division 08 70 00–Door Hardware specifications, it is a common practice to cite multiple model codes to adequately define all life safety and security compliance requirements. This practice captures the full intent of the code bodies, and helps ensure all aspects of those intentions are addressed.
While the code bodies have worked hard to reconcile and harmonize, subtle differences exist among various definitions and descriptions. The access control and door hardware specifier, acting as the overall life safety and security consultant, must be aware of these subtle variations when designing an electronic access control security plan.
For electronically controlled door assemblies, many considerations must be taken into account to achieve the overall life safety and corresponding security desired for the building. The types of controls can include controlled ingress and egress, including when, why, and by whom. Properly specified, installed, and maintained, the system complies with all life safety codes while providing a comprehensive security solution for the building.
Electronic access control hardware is designed to be employed in conjunction with widely used architectural door hardware such as traditional door locks, exit devices, and door closers. For example, to monitor an entry door and determine if it is locked, a latch-bolt-monitoring device can be integrated into the door frame using standard locks with built-in switch, or an electric strike or door position switch or sensor.
The idea behind monitoring and confirming true latch-bolt latching and locking is basic. Even when part of the most sophisticated plan that deploys the latest in surveillance technology, a door that is not properly latched and locked presents a major security breach. Use of a latch monitor switch, door position switch, or door position sensor offers a simple but effective solution for remotely monitoring the door’s status, detecting whether it is actually latched and locked.
Access-controlled egress doors
The subject of access-controlled egress doors is addressed in substantial detail in both the International Building Code (IBC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code. The relevant material in the latter is in Chapter 7, Section 7.2, Paragraph 18.104.22.168.2 (“Access-controlled Egress Door Assemblies”), which governs multiple aspects of door hardware specifications. It requires all the following elements be included:
- sensor on the egress side that is set up to unlock the door leaf in the direction of egress when an occupant approaches;
- door leaves that automatically unlock in the direction of egress when power is lost to the sensor or the access control system;
- locks that can be unlocked using a manual release device (NFPA 101 provides specifics concerning the nature of this device, mandating its location, signage support, and its ability to directly interrupt power to the lock, independent of locking system electronics);
- automatic unlocking of the door leaves in the direction of egress when the building’s fire protective signaling system, fire detection system, or sprinkler system is activated (locks must remain unlocked until the signaling system is reset); and
- emergency lighting on the egress side of such doors, except in the case of existing access-controlled egress doors.
Subsection 5 of Chapter 7, Section 7.2, Paragraph 22.214.171.124.2 asserts the activation of manual fire alarm boxes that activate the building fire-protective system shall not be required to unlock the door leaves. Subsequent language in the code explains the intentions of the paragraph, including the mutually supporting characteristics it entails.
In contrast, IBC Section 1008.1.9.8 is briefer, and is not immediately followed by in-depth supporting language. Nevertheless, it covers much of the same ground, addressing the ways in which the locking system must be unlocked when the building’s fire detection, alarm, and sprinkler systems are activated. Subsection 6 states directly that entrance doors in buildings with four specified groups of occupants “shall not be secured from the egress side during periods that the building is open to the general public.” The defined occupancy groups are further discussed later in this article.
Electrically controlled egress doors
IBC 2012 and NFPA 101 are generally harmonized for defining the requirements and use of access-control hardware. IBC provides more specificity regarding the type of structures and occupancies, but there are differences in their wording.
Here are two examples, starting with NFPA 101’s Chapter 7, Section 7.2, Paragraph 126.96.36.199.6 (“Electrically Controlled Egress Doors”), a provision containing very precise language and compliance requirements affecting electrically controlled egress. Five conditions must be met in order to integrate electronic access control hardware:
- the lock’s occupant release is affixed to the door leaf;
- hardware must have an obvious method of operation readily operated in the direction of egress;
- hardware is capable of being operated with one hand in the direction of egress;
- operation interrupts the power supply directly to the lock, unlocking the door assembly in the direction of egress; and
- loss of power to the listed releasing hardware automatically unlocks the door in the direction of egress.
This last provision refers to a function designed as ‘fail safe,’ meaning that when power is cut off from the device, the locking device unlocks, enabling occupants to exit the building unimpeded and first responders to gain free access to the building. Additionally, this section also requires the use of separate power to control the electric door hardware shall be listed in accordance with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 294, Access Control System Units.
In comparison, IBC Section 1008.1.9.9 (“Electromechanically Locked Egress Doors”) offers additional guidelines defining doors in the means of egress, listing specific occupancy groups.1 Among these groups, A, B, E, M, R-1, or R-2 (and doors to tenant spaces in these categories) are permitted to have electromagnetically operated locks if equipped with listed hardware that incorporates a built-in switch and meets the requirements below:
- listed hardware affixed to the door leaf has an obvious method of operation readily operated under all lighting conditions;
- listed hardware is capable of being operated with one hand;
- operation of listed hardware directly interrupts the power to the electromagnetic lock and unlocks the door immediately;
- loss of power to the listed hardware automatically unlocks the door; and
- where panic or fire exit hardware is required by Section 1008.1.10, operation of the listed panic or fire exit hardware also releases the electromagnetic lock.
In other words, despite some differences, the applicable code sections are quite similar in language and in effect. Both NFPA and IBC invoke the term “listed” to mean UL-listed to the appropriate standard. In the case of electric strikes and shear locks, these devices would be listed to UL 1034, Burglar Resistant Electrically Operated Door-Locking Systems, and UL 10C, Positive Pressure Fire Tests of Door Assemblies, for fire ratings (when used with appropriately listed doors).
Both IBC and NFPA 101 allow for one exception to standard means of egress—‘delayed egress,’ which prevents a door from being opened for either 15 or 30 seconds. Building occupants may attempt to open egress doors in emergency or non-emergency situations. The intention with delayed egress is to deter the residents of assisted living facilities and some healthcare facilities from exiting the premises, but without putting their lives at risk.
A wandering Alzheimer patient, for instance, cannot normally be permitted simply to push an exit device touch bar and freely leave. In certain emergencies, however, that patient’s life may depend on being able to open the door after a delay. IBC and NFPA 101 allow for the 15- or 30-second delay before the locking device unlocks. An alarm will sound and, in non-emergency situations, the alerted staff can assist the patient who is attempting to open the door.
Again, the codes address the issue in notably different ways. NFPA 101 Chapter 7, Section 7.2, Paragraph 188.8.131.52.1 (“Delayed Egress Locking Systems”) permits installation of approved, listed delayed-egress locking systems on door assemblies serving low and ordinary hazard contents. However, this is only true in buildings protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic fire detection system in accordance with NFPA 101 Section 9.7, and where permitted in specified chapters of the code. Further, all the following criteria must be met:
(1) The door leaves shall unlock in the direction of egress upon actuation of one of the following:
(a) Approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 9.7
(b) Not more than one heat detector of an approved, supervised automatic fire detection system in accordance with Section 9.6
(c) Not more than two smoke detectors of an approved, supervised automatic fire detection system in accordance with Section 9.6
(2) The door leaves shall unlock in the direction of egress upon loss of power controlling the lock or locking mechanism
(3) An irreversible process shall release the lock in the direction of egress within 15 seconds, or 30 seconds where approved by the authority having jurisdiction, upon application of a force to the release device required in 184.108.40.206.1.10 under all of the following conditions:
(a) The force shall not be required to exceed 15 lbf (67N).
(b) The force shall not be required to be continuously applied for more than three seconds.
(c) The initiation of the release process shall activate an audible signal in the vicinity of the door opening.
(d) Once the lock has been released by the application of force to the releasing device, relocking shall be by manual means only.
(4) A readily visible, durable sign in letters not less than 1 in. (25 mm) high and not less than 1/4 in. (3.2 mm) in stroke width on a contrasting background should be located on the door leaf adjacent to the release device in the direction of egress, and read as follows:
PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS
DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15 SECONDS
Additionally, NFPA 101 Chapter 7, Section 7.2, Paragraph 220.127.116.11.1.1, Subsection 5 requires the egress side of the door to be equipped with emergency lighting in accordance with Section 7.9.
This article quotes the preceding section at length to demonstrate the level of detail NFPA employs for this type of application, reflecting the extreme care with which any exiting delay might be imposed in an emergency situation. It should be noted when the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) has allowed a longer duration than 15 seconds, the sign must reflect the approved time.
Provided all the conditions of Section 7.2, Paragraph 18.104.22.168.1.1 are met, occupancies permitted to use delayed egress devices include:
- Health care;
- Ambulatory health care;
- Lodging or rooming houses;
- Hotels and dormitories;
- Apartment buildings;
- Residential board and care;
- Industrial; and
It is important to remember only one delayed egress device can be used along any natural path of egress.
IBC Section 1008.1.9.7 (“Delayed Egress Locks”) permits delayed egress locks to be installed on doors serving:
any occupancy except Group A (Assembly), E (Education), and H(Health Care) occupancies in buildings that are equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 903.3.1.1 or an approved automatic smoke or heat detection system installed in accordance with Section 907, provided the doors unlock in accordance with Items 1 through 6 below.
Then the section specifies a building occupant cannot be required to pass through more than one door equipped with a delayed egress lock before reaching an exit. The potential risk to life in an emergency situation would be too great if a person had to wait at more than one delayed egress door.
Once again offering a comparison to the NFPA 101 language, here are the six items referred to in IBC Section 1008.1.9.7:
1. The doors unlock upon actuation of the automatic sprinkler system or automatic fire detection system.
2. The doors unlock upon loss of power controlling the lock or lock mechanism.
3. The door locks shall have the capability of being unlocked by a signal from the fire command center.
4. The initiation of an irreversible process which will release the latch in not more than 15 seconds when a force of not more than 15 pounds (67 N) is applied for 1 second to the release device. Initiation of the irreversible process shall activate an audible signal in the vicinity of the door. Once the door lock has been released by the application of force to the releasing device, relocking shall be by manual means only.
Exception: Where approved, a delay of not more than 30 seconds is permitted.
5. A sign shall be provided on the door located above and within 12 inches (305 mm) of the release device reading:
PUSH UNTIL ALARM SOUNDS. DOOR CAN BE OPENED IN 15  SECONDS
6. Emergency lighting shall be provided at the door.
As this article demonstrates, the complexity of the specifier’s task is substantially increased in dealing with more sophisticated and secure systems—that is, in dealing with systems of ever greater security integration. It is important to be conversant with the language variations to be found in the various model codes. It is also especially useful to know the specifics that apply to access-controlled egress doors, electrically controlled egress doors, and delayed egress doors.
1 In chapter 3, the 2012 IBC defines specific occupancies with reference to the applicable section as: A (Assembly Group A, Section 303), B (Business Group B, Section 304), E (Educational Group, Section 305), M (Mercantile Group M, Section 309), R-1 (Residential Group R-1, Section 310), and R-2 (Residential Group R-2, Section 310). (back to top)
Robert Hasty, CSI, CDT, is a product marketing manager at Dorma. He has more than 20 years of experience in the building products industry. Hasty can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.