When the 2010 edition of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design went into effect in 2012, they included a new requirement for door hardware to operate with 5 pounds of force or less. Although other codes require panic hardware to operate with 15 pounds of force or less, the ADA limit applied to all operable hardware – including panics. When California adopted the 2010 ADA standards for accessibility, the 5-pound requirement became applicable in California as part of the state building code. This is different from many other states, where ICC A117.1 is the accessibility standard referenced by the building code, and the ADA standards would typically apply to buildings after construction.
I recently learned of a project in California where the newly-installed panic hardware – approximately 60 devices – did not comply with the 5-pound limit. As I understand it, the options to rectify the problem were A) replace the existing (new) panic hardware with Von Duprin AX devices, which are UL-certified to operate with 5 pounds of force or less, or B) install automatic operators on the doors, so building occupants do not have to manually operate the panic hardware for egress. Option B would also require the panic hardware to have the electric latch retraction feature, and may require back-up power. Option A could require the replacement of fire doors because of the variations in the door prep between the two manufacturers.
I have heard of the 5-pound limit being enforced on some school projects in California, but this project is a healthcare facility. I also know of AHJs outside of California who have enforced the ADA requirement, so I wanted to give you all a heads-up. Replacing 60 panic devices or installing 60 automatic operators is something no one wants to deal with at the end of a project, whether you are a distributor, specifier, architect, contractor, or end user.
The video below explains the purpose of the Von Duprin AX device. I recorded it almost 5 years ago, but the information is still accurate.