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Aug 11 2015

WWYD? Assisted Living Entries

Assisted Living Entries

Photo: PDC Midwest, Inc.

I am often asked whether it is code-compliant to install a separate deadbolt with a latchset or lockset on a dwelling unit entry door in an assisted living facility.  Most doors in a means of egress are required to unlatch with one operation for egress.  While there is an exception in the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code for dwelling units and sleeping units (AKA individual living units and guest rooms) of Residential occupancies, this exception does not apply to most assisted living facilities.

While an entry door for an assisted living apartment may seem like a residential occupancy, the IBC classifies assisted living facilities as Use Group I-1 and NFPA 101 classifies them as Residential Board and Care occupancies.  Although the NFPA 101 occupancy type includes the word “residential,” it is not one of the occupancy classifications included in NFPA 101’s Residential occupancies (those are 1- and 2-family dwellings, lodging or rooming houses, hotels, motels, and dormitories, and apartment buildings).

This means that the exception which allows two operations to release the latch on residential dwelling units does not apply to assisted living facilities, so all locking or latching hardware must release with one operation.  A single lockset (no deadbolt), or an interconnected lock or mortise lock (with deadbolt) could be used.  In some cases, electric strikes are used on assisted living entry doors, to allow entry by emergency personnel or to release the latch if the door is equipped with an auto operator (or for both purposes).  A fail-secure strike must be used, because these doors are typically fire-rated.

Because of the fire rating, the doors must also be self-closing, to ensure that the door will be closed and latched if there is a fire to protect the occupant within or to prevent the fire from spreading from the unit of origin.  Some architects and specifiers have asked me about omitting the closer, as allowed on patient rooms in health care facilities.  Although an assisted living unit may be a part of a health care facility, the exceptions in the IBC and NFPA 101 which allow non-rated patient room doors without closers apply only to Use Group I-2 (IBC) and Health Care occupancies (NFPA 101).

What do you specify or supply for hardware on an assisted living unit?  Which lock function is preferred?   What about access control?  Do you use closers, spring hinges, or automatic operators?  Any other helpful hints?

Photo: PDC Midwest, Inc.

9 Responses to “WWYD? Assisted Living Entries”

  1. Eric says:

    Assisted living facilities are typically a secure environment so I prefer to skip the dead bolt and stick with a single entry lock. I never specify spring hinges because they do not regulate closing speed. I’ve also learned to use grade 2 latch/lock sets with through bolts. It seems overkill with older people but you’d be surprised how often they lean on lock levers and use them for a crutch.

  2. mark says:

    There generally isn’t much of a need for deadbolts, but on places like assisted living units, I always use a mortise lock or interconnected lock (regardless of the code requirement).

    I never specify spring hinges unless I’m specifically ordered to because they are garbage and don’t belong in commercial buildings.

    Ideal setup:
    BB hinges
    Mortise lock with deadbolt function (requiring a key to lock the outside to prevent lockouts)
    Delayed action closer

  3. Brendan says:

    ND73, unless I am dealing with someone that cares a little more and then I can do a NDE.
    These unit don’t have high turn over and they are normally over 10k a month so doing something better should not kill them.

    But the number one operational issue is people forgetting keys and locking themselves out the ND73 stops that.

    Also I would recommend a camera shooting down each hallway, but I would only do that if I knew anything related to CCTV or Security.

    If they want a dead-bolt a mortise lock or interconnected

  4. Cda says:

    I am thinking on a true assisted living, you do not want any delay of staff reaching a patient

  5. Joel Luper says:

    Although classified as I-1 in the IBC, it makes more sense to me to build assisted living for frail elderly as I-2/Health Care occupancies. This provides an elevated level of safety and gets rid of the headache of applying a closer to the resident room doors.

    This point is moot in my jurisdiction because our adult care rules require assisted living homes to be I-2 Institutional. For privacy, locking of resident room doors is permitted if the lock provides free egress from the rooms and if staff carry keys to allow entry into the locked rooms.

  6. Gerry Jamieson AHC says:

    In Canada it is a common practice to supply lever latch sets , deadbolts and electronic swing free closers on patient assisted living facilities suite entry’s. All 20 minute smoke doors

  7. Cda says:

    Well we have true assisted living built as I-2

    And than the same term is used for R, where supposedly the people can take care of themselves and get out. But, no medical staff on site.

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