Last week, I spent a few days in Phoenix for a meeting of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA). BHMA is an organization made up of – you guessed it – door hardware manufacturers, including Allegion and many others. You may be familiar with the BHMA standards for hardware, or the code-development work of the BHMA Codes & Government Affairs Committee (if not, click here).

The doors serving our meeting room are a good example to illustrate the answer to a question that I’m asked all the time:

Do ALL doors have to be code-compliant? For example, in a bank of 8 doors serving a school, could 4 of them have the panic hardware required by code and the others be equipped with deadlocks?

The answer can be found in the International Building Code (IBC), and it is clarified in the IBC Commentary:

1010.1 Doors. Means of egress doors shall meet the requirements of this section. Doors serving a means of egress system shall meet the requirements of this section and Section 1022.2. Doors provided for egress purposes in numbers greater than required by this code shall meet the requirements of this section.

IBC Commentary: …A door that is intended to be used for egress purposes, even though that door may not be required by the code, is also required to meet the requirements of this section. An example may be an assembly occupancy where four doors would be required to meet the required capacity of the occupant load. But assume the designer elects to provide six doors for aesthetic reasons or occupant convenience. All six doors must comply with the requirements of this section…

The key here is that the IBC requirements apply to all doors that are required for egress, but also all doors that are intended to be used for egress.  Let’s go back to the school exit example for a minute.  If there is a bank of 8 doors, it’s safe to assume that all are intended to be used for egress – that all of the doors are provided for egress purposes.  In that case, all 8 doors would have to comply with the requirements of the adopted code, including the required panic hardware, opening width, opening force, etc.

In a situation where some doors are provided for egress and others are not intended to be used for egress, it would be up to the code official to decide whether there is a clear difference between the egress doors and the doors that are not provided for egress purposes.  For example, I once worked on a project with an assembly space that had at least 20 pairs of doors all around the perimeter.  A few were required/intended/provided for egress.  The others were to be opened for events – weather permitting – to allow circulation between the indoor and outdoor space.  In order to avoid having panic hardware on all 20 pairs of doors, the architect had to change the design of the non-egress doors, so the egress doors were obvious and the non-egress doors looked more like windows.

Here’s what our room looked like at the BHMA meeting:

The room has 6 pairs of egress doors that look like the photo below.  Based on the occupant load of 600 people, not all of these doors are required, but they are all provided for egress purposes and are compliant with the egress requirements.

The door openings on the left-hand side of the room (and one near the black table) are not provided for egress, are not intended to be used for egress, and are not required to be code-compliant for egress from the meeting room – although it’s possible that they could be providing egress in the other direction:

The bottom line is…if a door looks like an egress door it will probably be used as an egress door, and it must comply with the adopted codes.  And if a door is not code-compliant, it had better not be a door that is required for egress, or a door that looks like it could be used for egress.

Any questions?


And if you’re here to see the cacomixtle…  🙂

Photo:  Jardines de Mexico

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