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Nov 16 2015

Decoded: Smoke Door Requirements of the 2015 International Building Code (January 2016)

Category: DHI,Fire Doors,SmokeLori @ 11:30 am Comments (16)
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This post was published in the January 2016 issue of Doors & Hardware

It’s hard to believe that my monthly Decoded column has been ongoing for 5 years! One of my most frequently-referenced articles was on the smoke door requirements of the 2009 International Building Code (IBC). The IBC has been revised twice since then and I continue to receive questions about smoke doors, so it’s time for an update.

As with previous editions of the code, the reason it’s difficult to determine the requirements for smoke doors is because there are several different sets of provisions that may apply depending on the use group and the wall type where the assemblies will be installed. I used the 2015 edition of the IBC to answer basic questions about each type of smoke door – where they are typically found, and whether the doors require a fire rating, a closer, a latch, and gasketing.  The types of smoke doors I identified are:

  • Type 1 – Doors required to provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke
  • Type 2 – Doors in smoke partitions
  • Type 3 – Doors in smoke barriers
  • Type 4 – Fire door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers
  • Type 5 – Doors in exit enclosures and exit passageways

To read about the requirements for a particular smoke door, first determine which of the 5 types applies to the door in question and refer to that section below.  Keep in mind that other codes may have different requirements for these doors, so refer to the code and edition that applies to your project’s jurisdiction.

UL 1784 – Air Leakage Tests of Door Assemblies

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Gasketing is typically required when a door assembly must limit air infiltration to a maximum value stated in the code when tested in accordance with UL 1784 – Air Leakage Tests of Door Assemblies.

First, a few words on gasketing…Some smoke doors are required to limit air/smoke infiltration to a certain level when tested in accordance with UL 1784 – Air Leakage Tests of Door Assemblies. The maximum amount of air flow allowed by the IBC is 3.0 cubic feet per minute per square foot [0.015424 m3/(s m2)] of door opening at 0.10 inch (24.9 Pa) of water for both the ambient temperature test and the elevated temperature exposure test.

When door assemblies are required to meet this limit, it is difficult or impossible to achieve these values without gasketing at the head, jambs, and meeting stiles. For most doors, a seal at the bottom is not mandated, unless the door is required to meet the stated limits without the artificial bottom seal installed during the test. If the door must be tested without the artificial bottom seal it would typically require a sweep or automatic door bottom – both during the test and on the final assembly installed in the field.

For the purpose of this analysis, doors that have to meet these limits are noted with a requirement for gasketing.  These doors will typically have an “S Label” which states that the assembly meets the requirement when classified gasketing is installed.  Gasketing manufacturers’ catalogs indicate which products are listed for this purpose.  The requirement for testing in accordance with UL 1784 (and the same allowable maximum) is also included in NFPA 105 – Standard for Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives.

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Type 1:  Doors required to provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke

Typical Location:  These requirements apply to smoke partition corridor doors in Use Group I-2 (foster care facilities, detoxification facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals).  The IBC 2015 Commentary states:  “this provision is primarily intended to apply to care recipient sleeping room corridor doors,” but it could also apply to other corridor doors that are not part of a vertical opening/exit (stair or shaft), and which do not require a fire rating per Section 509.4 – Separation and Protection for Incidental Uses.

Some typical examples of doors in health care facilities which are required by Section 509.4 to be fire rated are Group I-2 laboratories, patient rooms equipped with padded surfaces, physical plant maintenance shops, waste and linen collection rooms with large containers, laundry rooms and storage rooms over 100 square feet, and boiler and furnace rooms which meet certain criteria. These doors which require a fire rating must meet a different set of requirements than those addressed in this section – they would typically be either Type 4 or Type 5 below.

For corridor doors required to provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke:

Fire Rating Required? No. Section 407.3.1 states that corridor doors that are not in a wall that is required to be rated (per Section 509.4 or for the enclosure of a vertical opening or exit) are not required to have a fire protection rating.

Closer Required? No. Section 407.3.1 states that these non-fire-rated corridor doors are not required to be equipped with self-closing or automatic-closing devices.

Latch Required? Yes. Section 407.3.1 states that these doors must have positive latching and that roller latches are not permitted.

Gasketing Required? No. There is no requirement in the IBC for these doors to be tested in accordance with UL 1784 or to limit smoke infiltration to a specific limit. In past editions of the IBC Commentary there was a reference that created some confusion about whether these doors were required to be tested in accordance with UL 1784, but that reference has been removed from the 2015 Commentary.

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Latch

The requirement for positive-latching hardware is dependent upon the location of the smoke door. Some types of smoke doors require an active latchbolt; some types do not.

Type 2:  Doors in smoke partitions

Typical Location:  Section 710 outlines the requirements for smoke partitions including the door openings therein, but there are limited locations within the IBC that currently refer to this section:

  • Section 404.6 addresses atrium enclosures, and allows a glass wall forming a smoke partition with automatic sprinklers on both sides of the glass in lieu of a 1-hour fire barrier if certain criteria are met. This section does not refer to section 710, instead it includes the requirements for openings within section 404.6. There is no reference to a requirement for smoke resistance for these doors, even though they are located in a smoke partition.
  • Section 407.3 permits corridor walls in Group I-2 to have no fire-resistance rating, but it does require that they be constructed as smoke partitions.  The door openings in these walls are covered above, as “Type 1 – Doors required to provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke,” and will not be addressed again in this section.
  • Section 407.4.4.2 requires I-2 care suites to be separated from other portions of the building by smoke partitions complying with section 710.
  • Section 3006.3 (2) allows the use of smoke partitions to form the elevator lobby in a sprinklered building, and requires compliance with Section 710. This elevator lobby requirement was found in Chapter 7 in previous editions of the IBC.

Fire Rating RequiredNo. Section 710.3 states that unless required elsewhere in the code, smoke partitions are not required to have a fire-resistance rating.  The sections that currently refer to Section 710 do not mandate a fire-resistance rating.

Closer RequiredYes and No. Section 710.5.2.3 states that “Where required elsewhere in the code, doors in smoke partitions shall be self- or automatic-closing by smoke detection in accordance with Section 716.5.9.3.”

  • Although Section 404.6 for atrium enclosures does not reference section 710, Section 404.6 does require glass doors within the atrium enclosure wall to be self-closing or automatic-closing.
  • Section 407.4.4.2 for I-2 care suites does not include a requirement for self-closing or automatic-closing doors, but additional conditions may apply if the doors are part of a smoke barrier (refer to Type 3).
  • Section 710.5.2.3 is specifically referenced in Section 3006.3 (2) for elevator lobbies, therefore, it is “required elsewhere in the code” and elevator lobby doors must be self-closing or automatic-closing.

Latch RequiredYes and No.

  • Section 404.6 for atrium enclosures does not reference a requirement for positive latching, although latching hardware may be required to prevent the doors from being pulled open by a smoke evacuation system.
  • Section 407.4.4.2 for I-2 care suites does not mention positive latching, although it’s likely that a code official would require these doors to latch because of section 407.3.1 which mandates latches on corridor doors (refer to Type 1).
  • Section 3006.3 (2) for elevator lobbies requires compliance with section 716.5.9, which mandates latching hardware.

Gasketing RequiredYes and No.

  • There is no stated requirement for air infiltration limits for atrium enclosures or I-2 care suites.
  • For elevator lobby doors, Section 3006.3 (2) requires compliance with section 710.5.2.2. This section references UL 1784 and states the limitation on air infiltration which prompts the need for gasketing. This section also requires the installation of smoke doors to be in accordance with NFPA 105 – Standard for the Installation of Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives and states that louvers are not allowed in doors in smoke partitions.

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Closer

Some smoke doors may be either self-closing or automatic-closing, while some locations require automatic-closing doors and others do not require closers at all.

Type 3:  Doors in smoke barriers

There are five locations addressed in the 2015 IBC that require smoke barriers:

  • Section 405.4.2 for Underground Buildings
  • Section 407.5 for I-2 occupancies
  • Section 408.6 for I-3 occupancies
  • Section 420.4 for Group I-1, Condition 2
  • Section 422.3 for Ambulatory Care Facilities

All of these sections require compliance with the provisions of Section 709.  Section 709.5 requires openings in smoke barriers to be protected in accordance with Section 716, which includes requirements typical for a fire door assembly.

There is an exception for cross-corridor double egress pairs in some health care facilities, and the requirements for these doors are shown in section 709.5.  There are essentially two sets of requirements for doors in smoke barriers because of the extensive exception for health care facilities, so I will summarize the requirements separately.

Type 3a:  Doors in smoke barriers – Underground Buildings and I-3 Occupancies

Typical Location:  These requirements apply to Underground Buildings and Use Group I-3 (detention/correctional centers).  The requirements for cross-corridor double-egress pairs in health care facilities are summarized in the next section.

Fire Rating RequiredYes. According to Section 709.5, openings in a smoke barrier shall be protected in accordance with Section 716, which includes a fire protection rating as indicated in Table 716.5.

Closer RequiredYes. Section 716.5.9 states that the doors must be self-closing or automatic-closing.

Latch RequiredYes. Sections 716.5.9 and 716.5.9.1 require an active latch bolt that will secure the door when it is closed.

Gasketing RequiredYes. Section 716.5.3.1 states that fire door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers shall meet the requirements for a smoke and draft control assembly tested in accordance with UL 1784, with the maximum air leakage stated above.  This section also requires the installation of smoke doors to be in accordance with NFPA 105 – Standard for the Installation of Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives, and states that louvers are prohibited.

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Type 3b:  Doors in smoke barriers – Group I-1 Condition 2, Group I-2, and Ambulatory Care Facilities

Typical Location:  Cross-corridor double-egress pairs in health care facilities that are classified as one of these use groups.

Fire Rating RequiredNo. The 2015 edition of the IBC includes new language which clarifies that these doors are not required to be fire rated. Section 709.5.1 does require doors in I-2 occupancies and ambulatory care facilities to have vision panels with fire-protection-rated glazing materials in fire-protection-rated frames, although a complete fire door assembly is not required.

Closer RequiredYes. Section 709.5.1 requires doors in I-2 occupancies and ambulatory care facilities to be automatic-closing by smoke detection. Note that this exception does not allow self-closing doors to be used in this application. The section does not reference Use Group I-1 Condition 2, so doors in those occupancies may be either self-closing or automatic-closing per Section 716.5.9.

Latch RequiredNo. In the 2006 and prior editions of the IBC, positive latches were not required for these doors because the exception included the specific language: “Positive-latching devices are not required.”  This sentence was removed in the 2009 edition of the IBC, and replaced with, Where permitted by the door manufacturer’s listing, positive-latching devices are not required.”   This language is also included in the 2012 and 2015 editions, but now that the IBC has clarified that these doors are not fire-rated, there are no manufacturers’ listings to comply with that would mandate positive-latching hardware.

Gasketing RequiredNo. There is no reference in Section 709.5 to UL 1784, but Exception 1 requires astragals or rabbets at the meeting edges, and the doors must be close-fitting within operational tolerances.  The maximum allowable undercut is ¾”, and the doors must not have louvers or grilles. Frame stops are required at the head and jambs.

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There are several different types of doors that could be described as “smoke doors,” such as doors in smoke partitions and smoke barriers, corridor doors in health care facilities, smoke and draft control doors, and doors in exit enclosures. Some of these doors are required to be fire door assemblies, others do not require a fire door label.

There are several different types of doors that could be described as “smoke doors,” such as doors in smoke partitions and smoke barriers, corridor doors in health care facilities, smoke and draft control doors, and doors in exit enclosures. Some of these doors are required to be fire door assemblies, others do not require a fire door label.

Type 4:  Fire door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers

Typical Location:  Corridors and smoke barriers with a fire-resistance rating, that require fire-rated doors.

Fire Rating RequiredYes. Section 716 references the fire protection ratings indicated in Table 716.5.  Fire door frames with transom lights, sidelights or both shall be permitted in accordance with Section 716.5.6.  Fire door assemblies and shutters shall be installed in accordance with the provisions of this section and NFPA 80.

Closer RequiredYes. Section 716.5.9 states that fire doors must be self-closing or automatic-closing, with the exception of communicating doors between hotel rooms as well as certain elevator hoistway doors with regard to elevator recall operations.

Latch RequiredYes. Sections 716.5.9 and 716.5.9.1 require an active latch bolt that will secure the door when it is closed.

Gasketing RequiredYes. Section 716.5.3.1 states that fire door assemblies in corridors and smoke barriers shall meet the requirements for a smoke and draft control assembly tested in accordance with UL 1784, with the maximum air leakage stated above.  This section also requires the installation of smoke doors to be in accordance with NFPA 105 – Standard for the Installation of Smoke Door Assemblies and Other Opening Protectives, and states that louvers are prohibited.

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Type 5:  Doors in exit enclosures and exit passageways

Typical Location:  Stair doors required to be fire-rated, and doors within the exit passageway connecting the stair to the exit discharge.

Fire Rating Required? Yes. Section 716 references the fire protection ratings indicated in Table 716.5.  Fire door frames with transom lights, sidelights or both shall be permitted in accordance with Section 716.5.6. Fire door assemblies and shutters shall be installed in accordance with the provisions of this section and NFPA 80.  Section 716.5.5 includes a requirement for temperature rise doors, but the exception exempts buildings that are equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system.

Closer RequiredYes. Section 716.5.9 states that fire doors must be self-closing or automatic-closing.

Latch RequiredYes. Sections 716.5.9 and 716.5.9.1 require an active latch bolt that will secure the door when it is closed.

Gasketing RequiredNo (but…). Section 716.5.5 does not include a reference to UL 1784, but gasketing and a door bottom/sweep may be necessary in order to maintain stair pressurization.

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I hope this summary helps clear up some of the questions about smoke door requirements, and explains the intent of the grey areas.  The summary included above is a result of my research on the 2015 International Building Code; the actual code publications should be consulted when comprehensive data is required and to ensure compliance with the applicable codes. The Authority Having Jurisdiction is responsible for interpretation of the codes and always has the final say.

16 Responses to “Decoded: Smoke Door Requirements of the 2015 International Building Code (January 2016)”

  1. Michael McDonough says:

    So the topic is as confusing as I had always ‘understood’ it. Have you heard of any code changes that would simplify it? I would have expected gasketing to be required much more frequently.

    • Lori says:

      Yes – extremely confusing! Section 716 on fire doors is being reorganized in the 2018 IBC, but I think there will still be some confusion on smoke doors. I expect some of the changes in the 2018 will effect gasketing.

      – Lori

  2. Jack Ostergaard says:

    Where do “S” labels fit into all this? 716.5.7.3 Smoke and draft control door labeling requirements. Smoke and draft control doors complying with UL 1784 shall be labeled in accordance with Section 716.5.7.1 and shall show the letter “S” on the fire-rating label of the door. This marking shall indicate that the door and frame assembly are in compliance where listed or labeled gasketing is installed.
    Hate to open a can-o-worms but the topics do go together – if you have one you have the other or you don’t.
    And when are they going to require gasketing in stairwells? Seems like a no brainer

    • Lori says:

      I made an edit to the article to address that. If it’s a smoke and draft control door it should have an S label. I also changed the label graphic to show an S label. I think gasketing might be required for stairwells in the 2018 IBC.

      – Lori

  3. Skip Jones says:

    Lori – I know this isn’t the kind of mistake you are looking for but thought you might want to correct it. Thanks for updating your original article. I’ve used it several times over the past few years to help make compliance decisions.

    – UL 1784 Air Leakage Tests of Door Assemblies section, second paragraph, first sentence – add the word “to” after required.

  4. Dave Matas says:

    Do you need a comma after “seal”?

    “If the door must be tested without the artificial bottom seal(,) it would typically require a sweep or automatic door bottom – both during the test and on the final assembly installed in the field.”

  5. H Smith says:

    For a patient room corridor door (in a smoke partition of course) with 2 leafs, is there an issue with a 1/4″ gap between the leafs? From my research I’ve found no real requirements for these doors, but common sense says the gap at some dimension would to be too wide to resist smoke infiltration. If there isn’t a requirement, is there a best practice rule of thumb?

  6. Matt says:

    Lori, thank you so much for your idighardware site! It has helped me tremendously when working in different areas of the country in dealing with AHJ’s and code issues as related to healthcare facilities! My question is this: is it true that under the most currently clarified and enforced IBC 2006 AND 2009 code requirements for double egress, cross corridor, non fire rated (but self closing), openings that positive latching is now now NOT a requirement for these door types (Group I-2, ambulatory helthcare) per IBC 2006 and 2009?

    The typical set up that I have throughout this hospital is cross corridor, non rated, double egress, hollow metal pairs, which are held open via electro magnetic hold opens, therefore will self close, but NOT positively latch under fire alarm conditions. Main question here, does IBC 2006 and / or 2009 require me to spec exit devices, or will push plates on each leaf suffice and meet code under the above set of circumstances?

    Thank you!

    • Lori says:

      Hi Matt –

      That’s a tough question, but if you start with this article: http://idighardware.com/2015/04/decoded-double-egress-pairs-in-a-health-care-occupancy-june-2015/, it gives some of the history about how this section of the code evolved. In my opinion, it was not the intent of the model codes to require a fire rating or latching hardware for these doors. Because there was so much confusion, some manufacturers offer something similar to a construction label, that is specifically meant for this application. This is limited to cross-corridor double-egress pairs in smoke barriers in health care facilities. There are other locations where latching hardware and rated doors are required. The AHJ’s interpretation may be different from mine.

      – Lori

  7. John Malnati says:

    Hi Lori,
    I am wondering if there is a requirement for smoke detectors to be within a certain distance of cross corridor dbl egress smoke doors in an I-2 use. If smoke detectors are in corridors and doors are on hold opens tied to the fire alarm system does the proximity of smoke detectors make a difference?

    • Lori says:

      Hi John –

      This is shown in NFPA 72. Generally, when a smoke detector is used to release a door, it has to be a maximum of 5′ from the door, but there are some other criteria shown in that code. Let me know if you don’t have a copy and I’ll send you more info. It’s in Chapter 17.

      – Lori

  8. John says:

    Thanks Lori. I have access to NFPA 72, I’ll check it out.

  9. Bobby Weist says:

    Hello Lori,
    I was told today by an OSHPD inspector that “all doors in smoke barriers are required to have vision lights”. I have read your article above and the section for Group I-2 (hospital) and do not see any reference except for cross corridor double egress pairs. Is there somewhere else I should be looking that maybe isn’t referenced. The inspector couldn’t tell me where his information was from, only that “it came up once on another project”. Also, the door that they need changed is for a small Med Gas closet, about 30 square feet, and they are changing the door from 20 minute to 60 minute. Wouldn’t that change the construction from smoke barrier to fire barrier?

    Humbly,
    Bobby

    • Lori says:

      Hi Bobby –

      Most smoke barriers have a fire rating but there is an exception for double-egress pairs with regard to the rating and latching. I don’t necessarily agree that it should be so, but it is. With regard to the vision light, here are a couple of code references:

      2015 IBC – This section specifically references smoke barrier doors that are installed across a corridor – not every door in a smoke barrier. I couldn’t find anything in the IBC that requires every smoke barrier door to have a vision panel.
      709.5 Openings. Openings in a smoke barrier shall be protected in accordance with Section 716.
      709.5.1 Group I-2 and ambulatory care facilities. In Group I-2 and ambulatory care facilities, where doors are installed across a corridor, the doors shall be automatic-closing by smoke detection in accordance with Section 716.5.9.3 and shall have a vision panel with fire-protection-rated glazing materials in fire-protection-rated frames, the area of which shall not exceed that tested.

      NFPA 101-2012 – Basically the same…cross-corridor doors:
      18.3.7.9* Vision panels consisting of fire-rated glazing in approved frames shall be provided in each cross-corridor swinging door and at each cross-corridor horizontal-sliding door in a smoke barrier.

      – Lori

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