This question landed on my desk recently…What is the minimum clear opening width for each leaf of a double-egress pair?
Since double-egress pairs are usually used when the doors are required to accommodate egress travel in both directions (within a corridor, for example), common sense tells me that each leaf would be required to provide at least 32 inches of clear opening width.* This would allow each leaf to function as an accessible egress door, regardless of the direction of travel.
The application in question was a double-egress pair, with one 36-inch leaf and one 18-inch leaf. The larger leaf would provide 32 inches clear, and the requirement from section 1010.1.1 of the 2015 IBC was cited:
1010.1.1 Size of doors. The required capacity of each door opening shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof and shall provide a minimum clear width of 32 inches (813 mm). Clear openings of doorways with swinging doors shall be measured between the face of the door and the stop, with the door open 90 degrees (1.57 rad). Where this section requires a minimum clear width of 32 inches (813 mm) and a door opening includes two door leaves without a mullion, one leaf shall provide a clear opening width of 32 inches (813 mm). The maximum width of a swinging door leaf shall be 48 inches (1219 mm) nominal. Means of egress doors in a Group I-2 occupancy used for the movement of beds shall provide a clear width not less than 41 1/2 inches (1054 mm). The height of door openings shall be not less than 80 inches (2032 mm).
This section clearly states that pairs of doors need to have one leaf with a clear opening width of 32 inches – not both leaves. However, the 18-inch-wide door would not provide enough clearance for a person traveling in that direction. Most double-egress pairs do not have hardware on the pull side of the door, so operating the larger door from the pull side would typically not be an option, and could create an egress problem depending on the required direction of door swing.
I asked the ICC for a staff opinion, and we are in agreement as to the intent of the IBC. Each leaf of a double-egress pair should provide a clear opening width of 32 inches, minimum.* An AHJ may interpret this differently, especially for double-egress pairs that are not installed because of a requirement to provide egress in both directions. For example, if a storage room had a double-egress pair because of a conflict with another door opening, a smaller “inactive” leaf may be acceptable. For a cross-corridor opening, I would err on the side of caution (and common sense), and provide the required clear opening width at both leaves. I’ve added this clarification to my code development wish list, but it would not be addressed until the 2021 edition so until then it will remain one of those pesky grey areas.
*Note that some doors in Group I-2 occupancies require a clear opening of 41 1/2 inches, minimum. I would interpret this to mean 41 1/2 inches minimum for each leaf of a double-egress pair, but this is not clearly stated.