I’m not a fan of surprises, unless they involve chocolate, precious gems, or spontaneous trips to exotic destinations, and I especially don’t like code-related surprises. But just when you think you know what you’re doing, you get a reminder that it’s almost impossible to know everything there is to know about the codes that affect doors and hardware.
When I teach about NFPA 80 – Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, I talk about how fire doors need to have an active latchbolt, with a couple of exceptions. One of the exceptions is rooms not normally occupied by people – the inactive leaf may be allowed to have manual flush bolts. Here’s where it says so in the 2019 edition of NFPA 80:
18.104.22.168.1* Manually operated, labeled, top and bottom flush mounted or surface-mounted bolts on the inactive leaf of a pair of doors shall be permitted to be used where acceptable to the AHJ, provided they do not pose a hazard to safety to life.
A.22.214.171.124.1 This provision limits their use to rooms not normally occupied by humans (e.g., transformer vaults and storage rooms).
Two of our specwriters recently asked me about elevator machine rooms (which would fit the description of “rooms not normally occupied by humans”), because they had specified manual flush bolts on elevator machine rooms, and had been told that automatic flush bolts are required. I’m not even sure whether the doors in question were fire-rated.
I first checked Chapter 30 of the International Building Code (IBC); this chapter is called Elevators and Conveying Systems. I didn’t find anything there specific to latching hardware, but there are several referenced standards listed in that chapter (this is from the 2021 edition):
3001.3 Referenced standards. Except as otherwise provided for in this code, the design, construction, installation, alteration, repair and maintenance of elevators and conveying systems and their components shall conform to the applicable standard specified in Table 3001.3 and ASCE 24 for construction in flood hazard areas established in Section 1612.3.
The standards referenced in Table 3001.3 for Elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters, moving walks, and material lifts are ASME A17.1/CSA B44 and ASME A17.7/CSA B44.7.
I looked at the 2016 edition of ASME A17.1 – Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, and I found the requirement related to doors and hardware:
2.7.3 Access to Machinery Spaces, Machine Rooms, Control Spaces, and Control Rooms
126.96.36.199 Access Doors and Openings
188.8.131.52.1 Access doors shall be
…(a) self-closing and self-locking
…(b) provided with a spring-type lock arranged to permit the doors to be opened from the inside without a key
…(c) kept closed and locked
184.108.40.206.2 Access doors to machine rooms and control rooms shall be provided. They shall be of a minimum width of 750 mm (29.5 in.) and a minimum height of 2030 mm (80 in.). Keys to unlock the access doors shall be Group 2 Security (see 8.1).
This is being interpreted as a requirement for positive latching for both leaves of a pair. Section 8.1 – Security, addresses keying requirements, and states that keys used to access or operate elevators, escalators, and other types of conveying devices, must meet the following requirements:
- Keys used to operate other locks in the building must not operate locks classified as Security Group 1, 2, 3, or 4.
- The same key may operate a group of doors within the same security group (Groups 1, 2, 3, or 4) but may not operate doors in other security groups, except keys for Group 1 doors may operate doors in Groups 2, 3, and 4, and keys for Group 2 doors may operate doors in Groups 3 and 4.
- Keys must be kept on the premises where they are readily accessible to the personnel in the assigned security group, but not accessible to the general public.
- Elevator personnel shall have access to all assigned groups.
I think it would make sense for some of this to appear in the IBC, so I will add it to my wish list. If you have anything to add with regard to elevator machine room doors, feel free to leave a comment!
Graphic: Compliance Signs
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I think the conflict is in ASME A17.1, not the building code. 2012 IBC 3006.4 exception 2 allows elevator machine rooms to be non-rated as long as they are physically separate from the hoistway enclosure itself. This is fairly common with hydraulic equipment where the machine room is across a corridor from the elevator on the ground floor.
The purpose of having a self closing, self latching door is to maintain a fire/smoke separation. If the building code allows the room to be non-rated, then why should the door need to be? Then if the door is not rated, what is the benefit of having it self closing and latching?
I suggest that the A17.1 should be amended to read that the accessing door shall be rated in accordance with the local building code. Then if a local authority wants to get rid of this exception the ASME document would still be correct, as there would be no conflicting provision.
The requirements for an Elevator Machine room to be self-Closing and locking is not Fire prevention it is considered a “Authorized Personal Space “
Clearly you have no business in that room since you desire it to be unlocked and open… What a dumb conclusion you have made.
Let’s keep it respectful, ok? We’re all learning, and everyone is welcome to share their thoughts and opinions.
The Life Safety Code would not permit the use of manual flush bolts on an active leaf (door) in the path of egress. Even though the elevator equipment room is not normally occupied by humans, once a human was inside the room, now the entrance door is in the path of egress. Only one action to operate the door is permitted, and there are restrictions where the device to operate the door may be located. Manual flush bolts typically do not meet this requirement.
Typically the entrance door to the elevator equipment room is required to be fire-rated, and a fire-rated door with a manual flush bolt may not operate as NFPA 80 requires.
Elevator Machine Room doors have to be rated. The room itself has to carry the same rating as the elevator shaft, therefore doors have to be rated.
On our projects we rarely have elevator machine rooms with double doors. We usually have a large (4’-0”) single door. We always put an exit device on the inside of the door and swing the door out of the room so that if someone is injured while working on the elevator equipment, they can get out without trying to grasp the hardware and pull the door open.
Because I deal with health care facilities, this comes up a lot. for corridor doors, NFPA 101 (2012 edition) Sections 18/220.127.116.11.8 read; “Corridor doors utilizing an inactive leaf shall have automatic flush bolts on the inactive leaf to provide positive latching.” If one of the leaves of a machine room door is inactive, the door would still meet the minimum width requirement of 29.5 inches.
I can understand the requirement for health care occupancies. I don’t see anywhere that both leaves of a double door must be equipped as separate doors.
I would say that,
If the door is required to be rated, than normally it has to be self closing and latching
3006.4 Machine rooms and machinery spaces. Elevator machine rooms and machinery spaces shall be enclosed with fire barriers constructed in accordance with Section 707 or horizontal assemblies constructed in accordance with Section 712, or both. The fire-resistance rating shall not be less than the required rating of the hoistway enclosure served by the machinery. Openings in the fire barriers shall be protected with assemblies having a fire protection rating not less than that required for the hoistway enclosure doors.
1. Where machine rooms and machinery spaces do not abut and have no openings to the hoistway enclosure they serve the fire barriers constructed in accordance with Section 707 or horizontal assemblies constructed in accordance with Section 712, or both, shall be permitted to be reduced to a 1-hour fire-resistance rating.
2. In buildings four stories or less above grade plane when machine room and machinery spaces do not abut and have no openings to the hoistway enclosure they serve, the machine room and machinery spaces are not required to be fire-resistance rated.
My experience is related to healthcare occupancies and elevator machine rooms always get much attention from inspecting authorities. Assuming cable elevators for instance, most of the time (but not always) the hoisting machine, motor and controllers are above the last floor of the elevator shaft which represents a significant floor to floor vertical penetration. As such, the room will be rated at the same rating as the shaft. I think it is 2 hour for shafts taller than 4 stories, I have been retired for awhile and forget more easily. Occasionally you can find a bottom hoisting machine but it usually is enclosed with the same rating as the shaft. The problem being that it is difficult to produce a fire and smoke barrier where elevator cables move through a wall. The Hospital machine rooms are probably 2 hour construction in substantial buildings with multiple stories. I imagine there are machines that require doors wider than 48″ but for the most part the controller, motors, motor/generators, etc. all fit through the doors. Practical because they have to get to the vicinity of the machine room, often up stairs and through more normal width doors. The room rating will drive the hardware. Talking practical rather than code, the doors should re-latch without someone remembering something such as a manual bolt since it seems to be a regular finding that when manual means are used to fasten the inactive leaf, it will be found unsecured (at least during important inspections whereupon it shows up as a building deficiency). In our facilities we have made sure that the door is self closing as well. We have not allowed automatic closing, feeling that this type of shaft door should always be closed, latched and locked. Most of the older elevator equipment has significant risk of contact with dangerous voltages. Local elevator companies feel that only authorized elevator equipment trained people should be able to get into these areas due to electrical safety concerns. I think most of what I mention above is in some code or the other having originated with the school of hard knocks over time. Merry Christmas, all.
The codes most definitely need to be rewritten to agree and allow the use of manual flushbolts especially as the inactive door would be needed for equipment replacement only and not egress, also making sure the active door width complies with code. That seems to be the most sensible.
The restriction on keying, basically making it hard to have many keys that let you into the elevator machine room, is an interesting one. It would appear to require the elevator room key to Not be part of a master- or grand-master- keying system.
It is very common for the State Elevator Inspector to decline to issue a use-the-elevator permit until every T is crossed*. This, frankly, is one I haven’t heard of them coming up with yet.
Would having the separate key in a Knox-Box adjacent to the elevator room, with the key for the Knox-Box part of the building, facility, or overall owner’s system, be a solution?
*Unlike, for instance, Fire Marshall’s office folk who overlook every sort of exit door issue as long as they’ve signed off on the sprinkler system.
I do not have a copy of the 2015 IBC yet, but the requirements for fire ratings and latching at elevator machine room doors are fairly clear after following the trail of references and exceptions in the 2012 IBC:
3006.4 Machine rooms and machinery spaces.
Elevator machine rooms and machinery spaces shall be enclosed with fire barriers constructed in accordance with Section 707 or horizontal assemblies constructed in accordance with Section 711, or both. The fire-resistance rating shall be not less than the required rating of the hoistway enclosure served by the machinery. Openings in the fire barriers shall be protected with assemblies having a fire protection rating not less than that required for the hoistway enclosure doors.
1. Where machine rooms and machinery spaces do not abut and have no openings to the hoistway enclosure they serve the fire barriers constructed in accordance with Section 707 or horizontal assemblies constructed in accordance with Section 711, or both, shall be permitted to be reduced to a 1-hour fire-resistance rating .
2. In buildings four stories or less above grade plane where machine room and machinery spaces do not abut and have no openings to the hoistway enclosure they serve, the machine room and machinery spaces are not required to be fire-resistance rated.
SECTION 707 FIRE BARRIERS
Openings in a fire barrier shall be protected in accordance with Section 716.
SECTION 716 OPENING PROTECTIVES
Table 716.5 OPENING FIRE PROTECTION ASSEMBLIES, RATINGS AND MARKINGS (Identifies the fire rating requirements for the openings for each specific fire barrier rating and application)
718.104.22.168 Latch required.
Unless otherwise specifically permitted, single fire doors and both leaves of pairs of side-hinged swinging fire doors shall be provided with an active latch bolt that will secure the door when it is closed.
The 2013 California Building Code, which is based on the 2012 IBC, shows no modifications to the preceding requirements inclusive of the errata that have been issued to date, and the 2014 City of Los Angeles Building Code which is based on the 2013 California Building Code appears to have adopted these same requirements without modifications.
My understanding of the elevator code was that the security of the machine rooms, in terms of access needed to be improved. There were too many multiple use elevator machine rooms in play. For hydraulic elevators, we always rated the machine rooms even if they were separated from the shafts due to public corridor considerations or simply understanding the other room around them.
Had a significant discussion with a client on the security and access issues for the machine room when they wanted to institute an electronic system with keypads and pass keys without a clear understanding of the access levels. They wanted to store buckets and mops in the room with Building Janitorial staff access. Apparently the janitor’s closet was too far away.
I understand why the code was updated for this.
I’ve enjoyed reading this blog. However I have another question regarding fire suppression in the elevator machine rooms. I’m told everyone wants total flooding. That’s not possible as I’ve seen all rooms to have too many openings. Does any one know the National code for elevator control rooms and equipment for fire suppression?
Elevator Machine Room doors have to be rated. The room itself has to carry the same rating as the elevator shaft, therefore doors have to be rated. I think you can prepare an MRL elevator
I bet these self-latching/locking requirements are more of a security concern than fire travel. Imagine you have POTUS using an elevator in a building and someone with malicious intent can get in to mess with machinery. (extreme example I know).