As I mentioned in last week’s post about stairwell reentry, I am working with the BHMA Codes and Government Affairs Committee to submit code change proposals relative to doors and hardware.  As we create our proposals and review proposals submitted by others, I may reach out to you for your insight.  Sometimes looking inside of my head may be a bit scary, but we could really use your help!  Here is another question for you…

In the Olden Days, the code used in a fairly large chunk of the US (1993 BOCA National Building Code) required panic hardware on “all doors equipped with latching devices in occupancies in Use Groups A and E or portions of buildings occupied for assembly or educational purposes and serving rooms or spaces with an occupant load greater than 100.”  (key phrase – latching devices)

At the time, I had several projects where the architects did not want panic hardware on their assembly spaces, either due to aesthetics or the noise associated with actuating the crossbar/touchpad or the latching.  Because doors with electromagnetic locks do not latch, my interpretation was that we could use mag-locks instead of panics on those doors.  The doors were typically unlocked while the space was occupied, but even if they were locked they would be released by a motion sensor, the emergency push button, the fire alarm, and power failure as required by the Access-Controlled Egress Doors section.

Then one day I ran into an AHJ who disagreed with this interpretation, and soon after the code was changed to something similar to what it currently states: “Doors serving a Group H occupancy and doors serving rooms or spaces with an occupant load of 50 or more in a Group A or E occupancy shall not be provided with a latch or lock unless it is panic hardware or fire exit hardware.”  Note:  The occupant load was 100 or more prior to the 2006 International Building Code, and is still 100 or more per NFPA 101.

This week I am at the CONSTRUCT show in Baltimore, and I noticed that all of the meeting rooms have mag-locks and no panic hardware.  The building was built prior to the IBC, so I’m guessing the hardware consultant or architect was interpreting the code the same way I did – if the doors LATCH, they need panic hardware.  They don’t LATCH, so they don’t need panic hardware.  There are some photos of these doors below (I’m not a fan of the push plates and pulls, but nobody asked me).

In a recent discussion about code change proposals, there was a question about whether electromagnetic locks should be an acceptable alternative to panic hardware on doors serving Assembly occupancies – essentially the application shown in the photos below (and on these doors in San Antonio).  If submitted and approved, a door serving an Assembly occupancy, and perhaps even Educational occupancies depending on how the proposal was written, could have mag-locks released by a sensor, and no panic hardware – no latching device at all.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do mag-locks with motion sensors meet the life safety needs for these spaces?  Or should panic hardware continue to be required?

a Meeting Room

a Closed Pair

a Maglock and Sensor

a Push Button

a Two Pairs

a Rear Exit

a Floor Plan

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