Code requirements for doors with access control

All photos courtesy Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies
All photos courtesy Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

by Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
When specifying electrified hardware for an access control system, there is often confusion about which code requirements to follow and which system components are needed. For example, one set of requirements is titled “Access-controlled Egress Doors,” leading to a common misunderstanding all electrified hardware used with an access control system must comply with this section.

“Access-controlled Egress Doors” is found in both International Building Code (IBC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, as Section 1008.1.4.4 and 7.2.1.6.2, respectively. It is typically applied to doors with electromagnetic locks released by a motion sensor. These types of locks are essentially an electromagnet in a housing mounted on the underside of the frame head, and a steel armature mounted on the door face.

When the magnet is energized, it bonds to the armature and locks the door. To allow access or egress, a switch must be provided to de-energize the magnet. In addition to the motion sensor, the lock must be unlocked by actuation of the fire alarm system, loss of power, and a signal from a push button mounted within 1.5 m (5 ft) of the door, which unlocks the lock for 30 seconds independent of the access control system.

As its name suggests, an electromagnetic lock is essentially an electromagnet in a housing mounted on the frame, with a steel armature mounted on the door. Without the proper release devices required by code, doors with electromagnetic locks will not provide egress.
As its name suggests, an electromagnetic lock is essentially an electromagnet in a housing mounted on the frame, with a steel armature mounted on the door. Without the proper release devices required by code, doors with electromagnetic locks will not provide egress.

The 2009 IBC includes a new section—“Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors” (1008.1.9.8)—that allows doors with electromagnetic locks to be addressed in another way. The 2009 NFPA 101 added a similar section, called “Electrically Controlled Egress Door Assemblies” (7.2.1.5.5). When electromagnetic locks are specified, either the original “Access-controlled Egress Doors” section or the new sets of requirements may be used, depending on the application and the edition of the code applied to the project.

The difference with the new requirements is the electromagnetic lock may be released by a door-mounted device instead of a motion sensor and push button. This door-mounted release device could be panic hardware or a lockset with a request-to-exit (RX or REX) switch, or a bar with an electronic touch sensor. This code section does not require the lock to unlock upon actuation of the fire alarm, but only when there is power loss to the switch in the door-mounted hardware.

Comparing the requirements
The two sets of requirements, as shown in the 2009 IBC (NFPA 101 requirements are very similar), bear comparison.

1008.1.4.4–Access-controlled Egress Doors

  • applies to entrance doors in a means of egress and entrance doors to tenant spaces;
  • allowed in Use Groups:

– A (Assembly);
– B (Business);
– E (Educational);
– I-2 (Institutional–Hospitals and Nursing Homes);
– M (Mercantile);
– R-1 (Residential–Hotels, Motels, and Boarding Houses); and
– R-2 (Residential–Apartments and Dormitories);

  • a sensor must be mounted on the egress side to detect an occupant approaching the doors (doors must unlock upon a signal from the sensor or loss of power to the sensor);
  • loss of power to the lock must unlock the doors;
  • ready-access manual unlocking device (e.g. push-button) results in direct interruption of power to the lock, independent of the access control system electronics (when the push button is actuated, the doors must remain unlocked for at least 30 seconds);
  • push-button must be located 1016 to 1219 mm (40 to 48 in.) vertically above the floor, within 1.5 m (5 ft) of the doors, and accompanied by signage stating, “Push to Exit;”
  • if the building has a fire alarm/sprinkler/fire detection system, its activation must automatically unlock the doors until reset; and
  • entrance doors in buildings with occupancy in Groups A, B, E, or M shall not be secured from the egress side during periods the building is open to the general public.

1008.1.9.8–Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors

  • applies to doors in a means of egress and those to tenant spaces (2009 IBC includes a limitation to doors “not otherwise required to have panic hardware,” which was removed in the 2012 edition);
  • allowed in Use Groups:

– A (Assembly);
– B (Business);
– E (Educational);
– M (Mercantile);
– R-1 (Residential–Hotels, Motels, and Boarding Houses); and
– R-2 (Residential–Apartments and Dormitories);

  • door must be equipped with listed hardware mounted on the door leaf, which incorporates a built-in switch to directly release the electromagnetic lock and unlock the door immediately;
  • release device must have an obvious method of operation, and must be readily operated with one hand under all lighting conditions; and
  • loss of power to the listed hardware must automatically unlock the door.

When the new section was added to the 2009 IBC, the technical committee made a change to the proposed language that caused some confusion. A limitation to doors “not otherwise required to have panic hardware” was included in the 2009 edition, but it appears this was not the intent. The limitation was removed and the intent clarified in the 2012 edition of IBC—as long as the switch in the panic bar releases the electromagnetic lock, a door required to have panic hardware can be equipped with one.

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