Several years ago I wrote a Decoded article about locking doors serving elevator lobbies, and not much has changed. But one question keeps coming up:
Can elevator lobby doors be locked, and only allow egress through the tenant space when there is a fire alarm?
The answer to this question depends on which code is being followed. NFPA 101 allows doors serving elevator lobbies to be locked with a fail safe lock, which unlocks automatically upon actuation of the fire alarm/sprinkler system and upon loss of power. Refer to the Decoded article or the code for more information. Some state and city codes also include similar requirements.
BUT – the International Building Code (IBC) – which is the most widely-used building code in the US (by far), requires at least one code-compliant means of egress from the elevator lobby. If there is not direct access from the elevator lobby to an exit stairwell, then the path of egress likely passes through the tenant space – including the doors that the tenant probably wants to secure.
In order to comply with the IBC, the egress doors leading from the elevator lobby through the tenant space to the exit stairwell CAN NOT be fail safe locks that unlock upon actuation of the fire alarm. The IBC does not allow this – remember, it requires at least one code-compliant means of egress leading out of the elevator lobby. That means the doors can be non-lockable and/or equipped with alarms, and in most buildings delayed egress locks would also be an option. These applications allow egress from the elevator lobby and are code-compliant.