This post was published in Doors and Hardware
It’s hard to believe that this question still comes up as often as it does, so I’m hoping to definitively answer it once and for all. The question is “Do single bathrooms require locks which release with one operation?”
The question is most often asked in regard to single bathrooms, but it could apply to other rooms as well. Does a storage room door need to unlatch with one operation? How about a fitting room in a clothing store? I know it’s not uncommon to see a latchset/lockset with a separate deadbolt above it, but the locations where this is allowed are actually very limited.
Doors in a required means of egress must unlatch with one operation unless they’re on the list of exceptions below. When I say “unlatch with one operation,” I mean that when you turn the lever on a lockset, retract a deadbolt with a thumbturn, OR push on the touchpad of a panic device – only ONE of those operations, not multiple – the door is unlatched and ready to be opened. The act of opening the door by pushing or pulling on it does not count as one of the operations, as the requirement is that the doors UNLATCH with one operation, not OPEN with one operation.
I combed through the codes and standards to see what I could find on this topic, and here’s what I learned:
International Building Code states that “the unlatching of any door or leaf shall not require more than one operation.” The exceptions are 1) places of detention or restraint, 2) doors where manual flush bolts are allowed (more on that here), 3) doors with automatic flush bolts, and 4) doors from individual Group R dwelling units with an occupant load of 10 or less – a separate nightlatch, deadbolt, or security chain is allowed, as long as it doesn’t require a key or tool to release it from the interior.*
NFPA 101 states that the releasing mechanism on the door must not require more than one releasing operation, with the exception of residential dwelling units. The requirements for residential dwelling units are similar to the IBC – the separate lock on a dwelling unit door must be able to be released without a key or tool.* NFPA 101 does include an exception for existing hardware on rooms with an occupant load of 3 people or less, but technically the hardware would have to pre-date adoption of the requirement for one releasing operation; NFPA 101 has required one releasing operation since the 1988 edition. In the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, a change was made to allow a second releasing operation for existing classroom doors in K-12 schools, if certain criteria are met.
ADA & ICC/ANSI A117.1 – I could not find any language in the current standards regarding a single operation, only that the hardware is operable with one hand, but your local accessibility standards may include this requirement (Massachusetts AAB standards do).
NFPA 80 states that separate deadbolts are only allowed on fire doors which are not in the means of egress, which muddies things a bit because the life safety and building codes would allow a separate deadbolt on a fire-rated dwelling unit entry door. The life safety and building codes would prevail in this situation.
*Be careful of local codes as they may include requirements for accessible/adaptable dwelling units with interconnected locks.
The bottom line is that a single bathroom does require hardware which unlatches with one operation, and this would also apply to other types of rooms unless they are on the list of exceptions.