This post was printed in the October 2011 issue of Doors & Hardware
New requirements were added to the 2009 editions of the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, and NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code, regarding luminous egress path markings (NFPA 101 calls them “Exit Stair Path Markings”). These markings on stairs, walls, floors, and doors help illuminate the egress path in exit enclosures, which can be difficult to navigate in emergency conditions. This change was one of the recommendations made by the World Trade Center Building Code Task Force in 2002, and became a requirement for high rise buildings in New York City.
The products used for luminous egress path markings may be self-luminous or photoluminescent, in accordance with UL 1994 – Standard for Safety of Low Level Path Marking and Lighting Systems, and ASTM E 2072 – Standard Specification for Photoluminescent (Phosphorescent) Safety Markings. The International Building Code defines self-luminous as “Illuminated by a self-contained power source, other than batteries, and operated independently of external power sources.” Photoluminescent is defined as “Having the property of emitting light that continues for a length of time after excitation by visible or invisible light has been removed.” I define it as “glow in the dark.” I wanted to find out where and when these products are required, since I can already hear several architects hyperventilating at the thought of this white-ish (with a hint of green) material marking the exits.
The codes are very similar when it comes to describing the requirements for luminous egress path markings related to doors (there are additional requirements for other building components):
- Emergency exit symbol mounted within the bottom 18” of the door.
- Door hardware marked with luminous material – IBC/IFC: 16 square inches of luminous material located behind, immediately adjacent to or on the door handle and/or escutcheon, NFPA 101: hardware used to release latch outlined with 1″ minimum stripe – OR:
- Panic Hardware – 1” wide min. stripe for the entire length of the touchpad or crossbar.
- 1”-2” stripe around frame – on face of frame or wall.
The doors which require these markings are also consistent between the codes, and the locations are actually fairly limited. The IBC describes these doors as “Doors though which occupants within an exit enclosure must pass in order to complete the exit path,” and NFPA 101 describes them as, “All doors serving the exit enclosure that swing out from the enclosure in the direction of egress travel.” Basically, the codes are describing doors within a stairwell or exit passageway, that lead to the exterior – the exit discharge and any additional doors that you have to use to reach the exit discharge after you are in the exit enclosure. The markings are not required for doors leading into the stairwell, although local codes may require this. The IBC also contains exceptions for open parking garages and lobbies that serve as part of the exit path.
The final piece of the puzzle is the list of occupancy types where the markings are required. The IBC requires luminous egress path markings in exit enclosures and exit passageways of high-rise buildings that house Group A – Assembly, B – Business, E – Educational, I – Institutional, M – Mercantile, and R-1 – Residential occupancies. They are not required for buildings that are not high-rise buildings, or in other occupancies even if the building is a high rise. NFPA 101 states that the markings must be installed where required by the occupancy chapters. However, there are currently no occupancy chapters that reference the requirements for exit stair path markings. I am assuming that future editions of NFPA 101 will include references within the occupancy chapters, at which point exit stair path markings will be required.
Here is the text from the IBC and NFPA 101 – 2009 editions:
International Building Code:
1024.1 General. Approved luminous egress path markings delineating the exit path shall be provided in buildings of Groups A, B, E, I, M and R-1 having occupied floors located more than 75 feet (22 860 mm) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access in accordance with Sections 1024.1 through 1024.5.
1. Luminous egress path markings shall not be required on the level of exit discharge in lobbies that serve as part of the exit path in accordance with Section 1027.1, Exception 1.
2. Luminous egress path markings shall not be required in areas of open parking garages that serve as part of the exit path in accordance with Section 1027.1, Exception 3.
1024.2 Markings within exit enclosures. Egress path markings shall be provided in exit enclosures, including vertical exit enclosures and exit passageways, in accordance with Sections 1024.2.1 through 1024.2.6.
1024.2.6 Doors from exit enclosures. Doors through which occupants within an exit enclosure must pass in order to complete the exit path shall be provided with markings complying with Sections 1024.2.6.1 through 1024.2.6.3.
1024.2.6.1 Emergency exit symbol. The doors shall be identified by a low-location luminous emergency exit symbol complying with NFPA 170. The exit symbol shall be a minimum of 4 inches (102 mm) in height and shall be mounted on the door, centered horizontally, with the top of the symbol no higher than 18 inches (457 mm) above the finished floor.
1024.2.6.2 Door hardware markings. Door hardware shall be marked with no less than 16 square inches (406 mm2) of luminous material. This marking shall be located behind, immediately adjacent to or on the door handle and/or escutcheon. Where a panic bar is installed, such material shall be no less than 1 inch (25 mm) wide for the entire length of the actuating bar or touchpad.
1024.2.6.3 Door frame markings. The top and sides of the door frame shall be marked with a solid and continuous 1 inch to 2 inch (25 mmto 51 mm) wide stripe. Where the door molding does not provide sufficient flat surface on which to locate the stripe, the stripe shall be permitted to be located on the wall surrounding the frame.
1024.4 Self-luminous and photoluminescent. Luminous egress path markings shall be permitted to be made of any material, including paint, provided that an electrical charge is not required to maintain the required luminance. Such materials shall include, but are not limited to, self-luminous materials and photoluminescent materials. Materials shall comply with either:
1. UL 1994; or
2. ASTM E 2072, except that the charging source shall be 1 foot-candle (11 lux) of fluorescent illumination for 60 minutes, and the minimum luminance shall be 30 millicandelas per square meter at 10 minutes and 5 millicandelas per square meter after 90 minutes.
NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code:
126.96.36.199.5 Exit Stair Path Markings. Where exit stair path markings are required in Chapters 11 through 43, such markings shall be installed in accordance with 188.8.131.52.5.1 through 184.108.40.206.5.11.
220.127.116.11.5.6 Doors Serving Exit Enclosure. All doors serving the exit enclosure that swing out from the enclosure in the direction of egress travel shall be provided with a marking stripe on the top and sides of the door(s) frame(s). The marking stripe shall also meet the following requirements:
(1) The marking stripe shall have a minimum horizontal width of 1 in. (25 mm) and a maximum width of 2 in. (51 mm).
(2) Gaps shall be permitted in the continuity of door frame markings where a line is fitted into a corner or bend, but shall be as small as practicable, and in no case shall gaps be greater than 1 in. (25 mm).
(3) Where the door molding does not provide enough flat surface on which to locate the marking stripe, the marking stripe shall be located on the wall surrounding the frame.
(4) The dimensions and placement of the marking stripe shall be uniform and consistent on all doors in the exit enclosure.
18.104.22.168.5.7 Door Hardware Marking. The door hardware for the doors serving the exit enclosure that swing out from the enclosure in the direction of egress travel shall be provided with a marking stripe. The marking stripe shall also meet the following requirements:
(1) The door hardware necessary to release the latch shall be outlined with a marking stripe having a minimum horizontal width of 1 in. (25 mm).
(2) Where panic hardware is installed, the following criteria shall be met:
(a) The marking stripe shall have a minimum horizontal width of 1 in. (25 mm) and be applied to the entire length of the actuating bar or touch pad.
(b) The placement of the marking stripe shall not interfere with viewing of any instructions on the actuating bar or touch pad.
Photo courtesy of BALCO.
This post was originally created on May 23, 2011, and was printed in the October 2011 issue of Doors & Hardware magazine.