Every so often, I’m asked whether a double-acting door can be used in a location where egress is required in both directions. A double-acting door is one that swings in and out, often used in high-traffic locations like a restaurant kitchen. This is different from a double-egress pair where one leaf swings in and the other leaf swings out, which I have discussed in previous posts.
If a double-acting single door could fulfill the requirements for egress in both directions, it would be tempting to use because it would save space and could be used where the corridor width is too narrow for a double-egress pair. Remember…for most occupancy types, the IBC requires a door to swing in the direction of egress when it is serving 50 people or more. I recently received a question regarding a location where a double-acting door would be serving as part of the means of egress for more than 50 people in both directions. Imagine a corridor with an exit at each end and a double-acting door in the middle, and 50 occupants on each side of the building. Would this be permissible?
From a common-sense standpoint the answer would be “no,” because 50 people pushing on each side of a double-acting door would be going nowhere. Since the model codes don’t specifically address double-acting doors, I asked the ICC for a staff opinion. The ICC staff member’s response was that a single double-acting door would not be acceptable in this case – that two separate doors or a double-egress pair would be required.
Until this is addressed in the model codes, the interpretation would be left to the AHJ. Have you ever run into this application? Was a double-acting door allowed?