If you went to hardware school (like me), then you were taught that egress doors have to be visible and have an obvious method of operation, right? Well, every so often the question comes up regarding visibility of panic hardware, usually because someone wants to match the finish of a Von Duprin Inpact device to the door. Here are a couple of examples from one of my recent museum projects:
The question recently came up again and when I talked to the architect about it I offered to post the rendering on the Building Codes Forum and ask for feedback from some code officials. If you haven’t visited the Building Codes Forum, you should! It’s a great source of information and despite the rumors, not all code officials are ornery. 🙂
An interesting discussion ensued, with opinions on both sides regarding the question of how visible the panic hardware needs to be (read the discussion here). The bottom line is that there is no requirement in the IBC for the panic hardware to be a contrasting color, although I have heard that one of the European or Australian codes has this requirement. This means that the ultimate decision will be up the AHJ, so it’s a bit risky.
Here are a couple of examples of doors that in my opinion are unacceptable. The first photo is from Zeke Wolfskehl, and I’m not sure where I got the second one. Have you seen any applications like this? Send in a photo so we can all have a look!
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In the top two pictures, I don’t think that anyone would be confused as to where the exit device is located–even in an emergency situation.
However, in the bottom two pictures, both of these examples should be completely unacceptable. They were probably painted AFTER the AHJ inspection.
(NFPA 101, 184.108.40.206.1 “No furnishings, decorations, or other objects shall obstruct exits, access thereto, egress therefrom, or visibility thereof.”)
If there was a contest to make an out-of-the-box exit device invisible, the fire department would win.
Wow. That “Fire Dept. Exit” should be illegal.
I agree the doors with the fire trucks should be unacceptable, but I have to admire the cleverness.
I saw the posts on the other forum, but easier to post here. I have been pondering this all evening and based on the citations given, it seems it is not a code violation.
However, designers and builders stand as the sentinels of the intent of codes and not just the printed letters. References to not obscuring the location of the door are fine but they have to happen on the ground when you need people out of the room. I can see how the idea of contrast is hard to describe. Is it the contrast for a healthy 20 year old in full sun or that of a 60 year old in low light? We all see in black and white at night remember and smoke decreases that contrast further.
I suppose I want to lobby for asking this simple question:
If my design needs the consultation of books and experts and sits in some kind of grey area to all them, why go forward?
It is not sufficient that we build to code. To do great work is not to quote the code and say you did the least you could. Strip malls can say that. Rental housing can say that. Other times it is our goal to aspire to a higher cause.
Where are the first 2 doors located? Project name?
P.S. Congratulations on yet another DHI accolade!
Those are at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.