In Compliance?

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 that are null and void.

Fire Doors
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, and contains details about the requirements for fire doors. NFPA 80 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 relabeled by the listing agency, which can be very expensive.

Delayed Egress
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 and fire alarm. A delayed-egress lock cannot be installed if a building is not protected throughout 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 force (maximum), and the delayed-egress lock must be rearmed manually after the release cycle is complete. The delayed-egress lock must also have the capability of being released remotely.

The codes vary regarding several 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-gress locks on 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. 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’s imperative to know which code is being enforced in the project location in order to apply the appropriate requirements.
Electromagnetic Locks
Electromagnetic locks are often used for retrofit access control applications because the installation is relatively easy compared to some of the other electrified locks. Prior to the 2009 editions of the IBC and NFPA 101, the requirements for doors equipped with electromagnetic locks were found in the section of the code called Access-Controlled Egress Doors. This section still exists, but a new section was added — Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors in the IBC, or Electrically Controlled Egress Door Assemblies — in NFPA 101. Either set of requirements may be used, depending on the type of release device that will be installed, although the use of electromagnetic locks is limited by both codes to certain use groups.

The main difference between the two sets of requirements is that the original section required electromagnetic locks to be released by all of the following: 1) a sensor initiated by an approaching occupant; 2) a marked emergency push button mounted beside the door that unlocked the door for 30 seconds (independent of the access control system); 3) actuation of the fire alarm: and 4) loss of power to the lock.

The new sections allow the electromagnetic lock to be released by a door-mounted release device (i.e. panic hardware, touch-sense bar or latchset with an integral switch), which has an obvious method of operation under all lighting conditions and can be operated with one hand. Loss of power to the switch is required to unlock the electromagnetic lock. If this door-mounted hardware is used to release the electromagnetic lock, the sensor, push button and fire alarm release are not required by the IBC or NFPA 101.

The new requirements first appeared in the 2009 edition of the IBC and an editorial change was made during the code development cycle, which stated that this application could be used on doors in the means of egress that were not otherwise required to have panic hardware. This has been clarified in the 2012 edition of the IBC and electromagnetic locks may be used on doors with panic hardware as long as actuation of the panic hardware releases the electromagnetic lock.

Plan Ahead
Before installing access control hardware, ensure that your proposed products are acceptable for the applicable use group and that all code requirements are met. Doors with access control must not obstruct egress routes or negatively impact fire barriers. In most cases, free egress is required at all times, not just upon fire alarm, although there are some exceptions, particularly in healthcare occupancies. 

Lori Greene, AHC/CDR, CCPR, FDAI, is the manager of Codes and Resources for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. Her blog is

About the Author

Lori Greene, DAHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI, FDHI is the manager of Codes & Resources with Allegion.