In a perfect world, you could pick up any edition of any code or standard and understand the intent.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and sometimes it takes a bit of historical background to know for sure what the codes are trying to say.  This is true of today’s Quick Question:

According to the IBC, can a door with panic hardware or fire exit hardware also have an electromagnetic lock?

This has been clarified over several editions of the International Building Code (IBC), but it took a while to get it right.  So if you are reading one edition of the code without knowing what changes occurred before or after, it could be confusing and difficult to interpret.

There is a section of the IBC that addresses panic hardware, and there are two sections that address electromagnetic locks.  One of these sections is for mag-locks released by a sensor above the door to allow egress.  The other is for mag-locks released by a switch in the door-mounted hardware.  The section numbers and even the titles of these sections have changed in recent editions of the IBC, so I will call these two systems either “sensor release” or “door-hardware release”.  (Here’s a video if you need more info on the two types of systems.)

In the 2009 edition of the IBC, as well as prior editions, the section on panic and fire exit hardware states that certain doors can only have a latch or lock if it is panic hardware or fire exit hardware.  This would effectively prohibit the use of any other type of lock to be used on a door with panic hardware.  Some code officials interpreted this to mean that an electromagnetic lock could not be installed on a door with panic hardware, although it was not a common interpretation and that was not the intent of the code.  Here’s the panic hardware section:

IBC-2009: 1008.1.10 Panic and fire exit hardware. Doors serving a Group H occupancy and doors serving rooms or spaces with an occupant load of 50 or more in a Group A or E occupancy shall not be provided with a latch or lock unless it is panic hardware or fire exit hardware.

In the 2012 edition, a requirement was added to the door-hardware release section, clarifying that if the mag-lock was installed on a door with panic hardware, operation of the panic had to release the mag-lock (by activating a switch).  This meant that the mag-lock and panic hardware could be installed on the same door, but the problems were: a) the panic hardware section still said the only type of lock or latch allowed on certain doors was panic hardware, and b) the sensor release section did not have a similar reference to doors with panic hardware.

IBC-2012:  1008.1.9.9 Electromagnetically locked egress doors.  (5) Where panic or fire exit hardware is required by Section 1008.1.10, operation of the listed panic or fire exit hardware also releases the electromagnetic lock.

In the 2015 edition, an exception was added to the panic hardware section, allowing doors with panic hardware to have mag-locks with door-hardware release, but there was no reference to mag-locks with sensor release.  There was never a prohibition on installing mag-locks with sensor release on doors with panic hardware, but the reference to one type of mag-locks and not the other could be interpreted to mean that mag-locks with sensor release were not allowed on doors with panic hardware.  The person who recently asked me this question was looking at the 2015 edition and interpreted it in exactly this way.

IBC-2015:  1010.1.10 Panic and fire exit hardware.  (2) Doors serving a Group A or E occupancy shall be permitted to be electromagnetically locked in accordance with Section 1010.1.9.9.

It was finally cleared up in the 2018 edition of the IBC, and the same language has been carried forward into the 2021 edition.  In the panic hardware section there is now an exception that allows mag-locks with door-hardware release or mag-locks with sensor release to be installed on doors with panic hardware.

IBC-2018 & 2021:  1010.1.10 Panic and fire exit hardware. (2) Doors provided with panic hardware or fire exit hardware and serving a Group A or E occupancy shall be permitted to be electrically locked in accordance with Section 1010.1.9.9 or 1010.1.9.10.

Keep in mind that this is not a change, per se.  There was never an intention to prohibit mag-locks with sensor release on doors with panic hardware and only allow mag-locks with door-hardware release.  Doors with panic hardware can have electromagnetic locks as long as all of the criteria in the adopted codes are met.  Also note that there is no exception in the IBC that would allow doors requiring panic hardware to have electromagnetic locks instead.  Panic hardware is still required by the IBC for doors equipped with a lock or latch, serving assembly and educational occupancies with a calculated occupant load of 50 people or more (and high hazard occupancies of any occupant load).  The electromagnetic lock could be used in addition to the panic hardware, but not in place of it.

Make sense?

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