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Mar 15 2018

QQ: Roof Doors

Category: Egress,Quick QuestionLori @ 12:20 am Comments (7)

I have written about roof doors before, in response to the very common question:

Is it acceptable to lock the roof access door on the roof side, to prevent access from the roof into the building?

The 2018 edition of the IBC includes a clarification that should be helpful:

1010.1.9.4 (6) Doors serving roofs not intended to be occupied shall be permitted to be locked preventing entry to the building from the roof.

This change to the IBC is intended to apply to roof areas that may contain mechanical equipment or where someone may occasionally need to access the roof – not to occupiable roofs.  The IBC includes the following as examples of occupiable roofs:  vegetative roofs, roof gardens, or roofs used for assembly or other purposes.  If the roof is occupiable, it must be served by code-compliant means of egress which typically includes doors that allow free egress from the roof into the building.  If the roof is not considered occupiable, the new paragraph in the 2018 IBC clarifies that the door leading from the roof to the building can be locked on the roof side.  In most cases, the door leading to the roof can and should be locked on the interior side, to prevent unauthorized access to the roof.

For more information about roof doors, refer to this Decoded article.


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7 Responses to “QQ: Roof Doors”

  1. Robert Chillino says:

    This is of interest to me as I was just having a conversation about this very thing.
    I have just completed a federal project, the door leading to the roof three stories up (not an occupied space) has a panic device so always free egress, and always locked from the outside.
    What I was told by the AHJ is it is a federal building and the federal government doesn’t have to follow the codes.
    Am I the only one that thinks there’s something wrong with this?

    • Lori says:

      Hi Robert –

      I don’t like that application at all. The panic hardware could lead someone to believe that the door will take them to an exit, when it actually goes to the roof. There have been so many incidents involving unsecured roof doors – mischief, suicides, falls – I would not want anyone on the roof. Plus, someone could accidentally exit to the roof and be locked out. I spent some time with the security director at a large Florida theme park a while back. He told me about a woman who got off a ride, wandered the wrong way, and ended up going through an unsecured door which led to a roof waaaaaaay up high. She was locked out with no way to call for help. She finally broke a light fixture and threw pieces down until she got someone’s attention. I know that on GSA buildings there are sometimes modifications made to the adopted codes, but usually it’s for a reason. I can’t see any reason for the situation you are describing.

      – Lori

      • Robert Chillino says:


        Thank you for the reply.
        I argued that same point to the AHJ and architect and got the same reply. “It is a federal building and not subject to the codes”. No common sense, and due to the roof parapet height anyone near the roof perimeter is required to be harnessed to the cable they provided on the roof. They are using 2012 IBC if that make a difference.



    As far as I know and have read about roof access doors the code is correct and access should only be for authorized personnel. I have encountered many a locked roof door leading out to the mechanical areas and the maintenance person has been given an access key to gain entry.

  3. RB says:

    And earlier editions of the IBC do not have this, so in areas subject to earlier IBC, the roof has to be left unlocked, correct?
    I had a similar situation, but instead of a roof it is a below-grade areaway. Same issue though: below grade areaway filled with mechanical equipment, open to the sky, floor surface is 9′ below adjacent grade. Code consultant told me to treat it like a room, therefore must have free egress. Problem is that anyone willing to jump down from 9′ up now has a way in the building.

    • Lori says:

      Hi Rick –

      This was added as a clarification, but in my opinion it does not mean that roof doors were required to be left unlocked previously. It just wasn’t addressed as clearly. The 2015 edition of the IBC says: “Egress from stories or occupied roofs. The means of egress system serving any story or occupied roof shall be provided with the number of exits or access to exits based on the aggregate occupant load served in accordance with this section.” A roof with mechanical equipment on it is not an occupied roof so it would not be subject to this requirement.

      The areaway application is an interesting one – I have not run into that. It sounds like there should have been a way to provide egress without allowing access into the rest of the building.

      – Lori

      • RB says:

        We ended up covering the areaway with a grate. What’s odd is that the use of the areaway is the same as the use of a roof – all it is is AC compressors, but having walls to our code consultant meant it is an occupied mechanical occupancy vs. an unoccupied roof.

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