This is the challenge locksmiths face with virtually every electronic access control project: creating a system that meets the customer’s security requirements while satisfying the Life Safety and Fire Codes.
Life Safety Codes address the concerns of providing safe egress from the premises. Fire Codes address the concerns of mitigating the spread of smoke and flames throughout a premises.
Electronic security and electronic access control systems are intended to provide that other side of safety, “Keeping the Bad Guys Out.”
Several standards and codes provide guidelines for the design of security and access control systems, and their proper deployment. Government entities, corporations and institutions will cite these, or use these standards as a criteria for specifying systems.(See “Codes & Standards That Matter,” October 2011 Locksmith Ledger)
Since our systems provide security and typically involve perimeter doors, it is likely doors to which you plan to apply access control will be along the means of egress and possibly fire doors as well. Fire doors, also referred to as labeled doors, are assemblies or systems comprised of the door, frame and hardware. The rating of the fire door is determined by the occupancy of the structure and the wall construction.
Did you know the rating of a fire door is typically three-quarters of the rating of the wall into which the door sits? For example a four hour wall would utilize a 3 hour door. The reason is that it is assumed that the door will be kept clear, while the walls may have objects, merchandise (a/k/a combustibles) piled up against them.
Unless someone is walking through it, a fire door must be closed and latched. This means the fire door must have a functional door closer or spring hinges, and a latch.
There is no requirement in the life safety code that the door be locked. If a fire door is locked, the lock cannot inhibit egress, only ingress.
Fire doors in stairwells that are means of egress cannot be locked from either side if there is the fire alarm system is in alarm mode. It must be unlocked automatically in a fire.
If you are planning to control entry from a stairwell onto a floor, you must provide for this functionality, and understand the difference between locked and latched. Building Codes vary. Check with your local authority having jurisdiction (LAHJ).
“Means of Egress”
Egress doors are part of the Means of Egress. The “means of egress” is a continuous and unobstructed path of egress travel from any occupied portion of a building or structure to a public way. A means of egress is considered a system comprised of three parts: exit access, exit, and exit discharge.
Exit access is “that portion of the means of egress system that leads from an occupied portion of a building or structure to an exit.” It includes halls, corridors, aisles, and other escape paths.
The exit is “that portion of a means of egress system which is separated from other interior spaces of a building or structure by fire-resistance rated construction and opening protectives as required to provide a protected path if egress travel between the exit access and exit discharge.”
The exit discharge is that portion of a means of egress system between the termination of an exit and a public way which is a street, alley, or other parcel dedicated for public use.
Occupancy describes the use or intended use of a building or part of the building. The type of hardware acceptable for a particular opening will be contingent on the building’s occupancy.
I recommend that you ask your AHJ to verify the hardware requirements for all situations where you have any doubts.
We supplied access control for doors with panic hardware in a renovated space. Our solutions were the Schlage AD 300 Networked Standalone Locks for security and the Von Duprin 98EO-F Rim Exit Devices for life safety.