I don’t know where this week went. I feel like I blacked out for a few days. On top of my usual load, I had 3 classes to teach within a couple of weeks – Code Jeopardy for the Massachusetts Locksmith Association, Fire Door Inspection for the Yankee Security Conference, and a Code Update for the DHI Conference in NYC. I had a lot of preparation to do because I hadn’t taught these exact classes before, and I tend to spend a lot of time preparing so I’m less likely to pass out from fear on the big day. Anyway…this week has been rough but I’m getting there. I’m really looking forward to heading to NYC next Wednesday!
I’m teaching the Code Update class with Zeke Wolfskehl, and one of the mysteries Zeke and I have been trying to finally solve is the question of “smoke doors.” I did a few posts about smoke doors a while back, but there are still types of doors that have smoke-infiltration requirements that I haven’t covered. Zeke and I are working on a matrix showing each type and whether it needs a label, a closer, a latch, and gasketing. All of the code excerpts are included, showing the “proof” of why each of these is or is not required. It should be completed next week and hopefully it will be helpful.
One of the door types on our matrix is called, “Doors required to provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke” (catchy, huh?). I haven’t written a blog post about these doors yet, so here goes.
Chapter 4 of the International Building Code (IBC) contains special requirements for certain occupancy types – for example: high-rise buildings, motor-vehicle-related occupancies, and special amusement buildings. The chapter includes a section on Group I-2, which pertains to hospitals, mental hospitals, nursing homes, and detox facilities. Section 407.3 (2009 edition) requires corridor walls in I-2 occupancies to be smoke partitions. Although section 711 of the IBC details requirements for doors in smoke partitions, section 407.3.1 contains specific requirements for I-2 corridor doors, so those requirements would apply instead of section 711:
407.3 Corridor walls. Corridor walls shall be constructed as smoke partitions in accordance with Section 711.
407.3.1 Corridor doors. Corridor doors, other than those in a wall required to be rated by Section 508.2.5 or for the enclosure of a vertical opening or an exit, shall not have a required fire protection rating and shall not be required to be equipped with self-closing or automatic-closing devices, but shall provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke and shall be equipped with positive latching. Roller latches are not permitted. Other doors shall conform to Section 715.4.
407.3.2 Locking devices. Locking devices that restrict access to the patient room from the corridor, and that are operable only by staff from the corridor side, shall not restrict the means of egress from the patient room except for patient rooms in mental health facilities.
We can use this section to answer most of our questions about doors in this location:
Label? No. Section 407.3.1 states that the doors shall not have a required fire protection rating. This paragraph only applies to corridor doors which are not required to be rated by Section 508.2.5 (incidental accessory occupancies like certain boiler rooms, large laundry rooms, waste and linen collection rooms, etc.) or for the enclosure of a vertical opening or exit (stairs or exit passageways). The IBC 2009 Commentary states that “this provision is primarily intended to apply to patient room corridor doors.”
Closer? No. Section 407.3.1 states that the doors do not need to have self-closing or automatic-closing devices. The facility staff is required to be trained to manually close the patient room doors during a fire.
Latch? Yes. Section 407.3.1 states that the doors must have positive latching hardware, and roller latches are not permitted. If the patient room door is a pair, the inactive leaf has to have positive latching as well. The revised IBC 2009 section on manual flush bolts allows constant latching bolts on the inactive leaf of a patient room door, as long as the inactive leaf does not have any operating hardware (like a dummy lever) mounted on it.
Gasketing? Yes? Maybe?? This is a tough one. The IBC paragraph does not mention gasketing, or a requirement for the opening to be tested for air infiltration in accordance with UL 1784. It only states that doors must “provide an effective barrier to limit the transfer of smoke.” In the past, a solid core door with minimal clearances required for proper operation was thought to provide this effective barrier. However, the IBC 2009 Commentary states in section 711.5.2 which describes the air infiltration requirements for smoke and draft control doors that “Section 407.3.1 requires corridor doors in Group I-2 to ‘limit the transfer of smoke’; therefore, those doors must meet this section.” Did you follow that? I don’t know how someone would find their way from section 407.3.1 to the section 711.5.2 Commentary as there is no reference between the two, but the Commentary is basically establishing (unofficially) what is required to limit the transfer of smoke. I think it makes sense to gasket these doors since patients may be in their rooms during firefighting procedures, but on the other hand, the Commentary is not part of the code. I think it would be helpful to those of us trying to follow the code if the UL 1784 requirements were included in section 407.3.1.