Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Oct 05 2015

FF Follow-Up

Category: Accessibility,Egress,Panic HardwareLori @ 2:42 pm Comments (8)

Unequal PairLast week’s Fixed-it Friday photo has raised some questions about the best way to handle an unequal-leaf pair…

a) Do both leaves of a pair require panic hardware?

b) Can the small leaf be fixed in place?

c) Is a mullion allowed when one leaf provides less than 32 inches clear?

None of these questions are specifically answered by the model codes, so here are my thoughts.  Please feel free to add yours using the reply box below.

a) The IBC says this regarding panic hardware:  “1010.1.10 Panic and fire exit hardware. Doors serving a Group H occupancy and doors serving rooms or spaces with an occupant load of 50 or more in a Group A or E occupancy
shall not be provided with a latch or lock other than panic
hardware or fire exit hardware.”

NFPA 101 requires panic hardware in the occupancy chapters for certain occupancies – Assembly, Educational, Day Care, and High Hazard.  For example, Chapter 12 – New Assembly Occupancies says this:  “ Any door in a required means of egress from an area having an occupant load of 100 or more persons shall be permitted to be provided with a latch or lock only if the latchor lock is panic hardware or fire exit hardware complying with, unless otherwise permitted by one of the following…”

So…IF panic hardware is required for the pair in the photo, is panic hardware required for both leaves?  The two code sections above do not say that panic hardware is only required if both leaves are required for egress, or if the entire width of the opening is required to provide the needed egress capacity.  The IBC says doors serving these occupancies require panics, and 101 says any door in a required means of egress from these areas require panics.  You could argue that the inactive leaf is not required for egress (if it is not required), but in my experience an AHJ would be looking for panic hardware on both leaves.  I did not see anything in the IBC Commentary or the NFPA 101 Handbook that would support the use of a panic on just one leaf.

b) If the larger leaf of this pair would provide enough egress width to accommodate all of the occupants of the space (here’s how to calculate the occupant load, and here’s more about the egress width), then theoretically you only need a single door and MIGHT be able to replace the small leaf with a stationary sidelite.  The AHJ MIGHT let you fix the small leaf in place with manual flush bolts, particularly if the doors were not in a location where panic hardware was required by code.  If I was going to make this change, I would clear it with the AHJ first.

c) Adding the mullion means that the smaller leaf is no longer available for egress.  If the small leaf is not needed for egress, it might be acceptable to add the mullion, but I would not put panic hardware on the inactive leaf which indicates that it’s a viable means of egress.  If I was not required to put panic hardware on both leaves, and if the large leaf provided enough egress width, and if I wanted to use a rim panic with a mullion for security and ease of maintenance, I would ask the AHJ for permission to use manual flush bolts after demonstrating that the small leaf is not needed.  If he agreed to this solution, I would not install any hardware on the face of the smaller leaf, so building occupants would automatically use the larger leaf for egress.

If I was specifying hardware for these doors and didn’t have a good relationship with the AHJ, my first choice would be to specify panic hardware on both leaves, with no mullion.  This could be two concealed vertical rod panics (I’m avoiding surface vertical rods because of the 10″ flush bottom requirement), or it could be a mortise panic x concealed vertical rod application with an open back strike (to avoid using a coordinator).

If the smaller leaf was so narrow that panic hardware made no sense or couldn’t physically be installed, but the AHJ wanted the full width of the opening for egress width, I would specify a mortise panic on the larger leaf, automatic flush bolts on the smaller leaf, and a coordinator.  This is one of my least-favorite applications because of difficulties keeping it functional over time, but sometimes you don’t have a better option.

Would you specify/supply/install something different? 

8 Responses to “FF Follow-Up”

  1. Ryan Pfeiffer says:

    My take on this opening is that the smaller leaf is purely for moving equipment and whatnot, and that the larger leaf is enough egress for the occupancy. What I think happened was a hack job over-specifying the hardware on the inactive leaf because of code requirement fear. If it isn’t clear from the code, I think it should be clear that inactive leaves are acceptable as long as the active leaf meets all egress requirements.

    A simple setup with manual flush bolts would serve all needs (again assuming the active leaf is enough for the requirements) without the confusing, awkward-looking, and unnecessary additional hardware.

    And I had not considered SVR devices before when it comes to the 10″ clear bottom rails. That is something I will have to remember to bring up in submittals because that is still pretty common.

  2. John Payson says:

    If the small portion of the door is only provided for purposes such as moving large equipment and is not required for egress, what would you think of disguising the left-side door so that it would look (at least to a casual observer) like an immovable sidelight? Make the front of the top and bottom of the window frame sit flush with the front of the door frame on the left and a stile on the right that would look like a the left side of a door frame. Add manual flush bolts and except on the occasions when the flush bolts were disengaged the door assembly would look and act like a single door with a sidelight.

  3. Jack Ostergaard says:

    I hadn’t gotten around to sending a proposed solution but after reading the analysis I’ve come up with the following thoughts/solution:
    1) Door appears to be exterior – threshold, wstrip, and bright exterior light in lite.
    2) For this reason I don’t like using an exterior mounted coordinator which would be needed with auto bolts – Can we think of a more life shortening application
    3) I’ve got to assume the small leaf is not required for exit. By itself it is too narrow to be legal. I would want to get the AHJ to give an opinion on this.
    4) If that is true the we need to make this “not a door” – remove all hardware as shown – keep thold & wstrip.
    5) Add keyed (interior) top & bottom bolts. Door is now basically a fixed panel. Change exit device on active leaf to rim type. Add astragal to active leaf.

  4. Pete Schifferli says:

    I would use flush bolts on the inactive leaf and no mullion. We *always* avoid the use of vertical rod devices, exposed or concealed; they are a maintenance nightmare requiring constant adjustment and often fail to latch at both top and bottom simultaneously as designed.

  5. Nolan Thrope says:

    I use always recommend that these doors should be Hollow Metal not wood. Then I use a concealed vertical cable on the small leaf (exit only) and a mortise device x open back strike.

  6. Thierry Lapointe says:

    Thank you Lori for the good bit of knowledge.

  7. Eric T. says:

    I don’t understand the first sentence at “C”.
    “Adding the mullion means that the smaller leaf is no longer available for egress.”
    Why does adding a mullion eliminate the egress availability of the smaller leaf?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Eric –

      The small leaf on its own is not wide enough (32″ clear) to qualify as an egress door. With no mullion, the entire opening can be used for egress capacity as long as it has the proper hardware. The code doesn’t specifically address this application, but I can’t imagine an AHJ allowing the small leaf to be used to meet the required egress width.

      – Lori

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