Jim Elder of Secured Design LLC recently sent me a link to a discussion on Reddit, where a student posted about a change that had been made at his school. The gist of the Quick Question:
Is it code-compliant to install security grilles on multi-stall restroom entrances in schools, to prevent the use of the restrooms during times when they are not supervised?
First, although I’m not involved with Board of Education standards, I’m sure there is a requirement for students to have access to restrooms during the school day. Second, I think it’s pretty sad that kids can’t use the restroom for its intended purpose, without some of them conducting the activities that are causing schools to install security grilles.
And finally, let’s talk about egress. Security grilles – horizontal or vertical – are covered by the International Building Code (IBC) in two locations. The first is in Chapter 4, in the section addressing malls. When a horizontal sliding or vertical security grille is part of a means of egress in a mall:
- The security grille must remain fully open when the space is occupied by the general public.
- For areas served by a single exit, the security grille must not be closed when the space is occupied by 10 people or more.
- For areas served by more than one exit, the security grille must not be closed when the space is occupied by 50 people or more.
- Where the space is occupied, the grille must be openable from the egress side without special knowledge or effort.
- When two or more exits are required, security grilles may not be installed on more than one half of the exits.
The other section of the IBC addressing security grilles is in Chapter 10 – Means of Egress; in the 2021 edition of the IBC it’s Section 1010.3.4:
Security grilles. In Groups B, F, M and S, horizontal sliding or vertical security grilles are permitted at the main exit and shall be openable from the inside without the use of a key or special knowledge or effort during periods that the space is occupied. The grilles shall remain secured in the full-open position during the period of occupancy by the general public. Where two or more exits or access to exits are required, not more than one-half of the exits or exit access doorways shall be equipped with horizontal sliding or vertical security grilles.
Note that this section permits security grilles in the following occupancies: business, factory and industrial, mercantile, and storage. Security grilles are not allowed by the IBC in educational occupancies. This section states that grilles are permitted at the main exit. It’s not 100% clear whether this is referring to the building’s main exit or the main exit serving a room within the building, but the IBC Commentary includes this example referencing the building’s exits: Since the building may be partially used (e.g., team practice in a football stadium) when not fully occupied, not more than one-half of the exits from the building can be through security grilles.
In addition to the security grilles being openable from the egress side without a key or special knowledge or effort when the space is occupied, the grilles must be secured in the fully open position when the building is occupied by the general public. This section also limits security grilles to not more than half of the exits in spaces where more than one exit is required.
Based on the IBC requirements, I don’t see how a security grille on a school restroom could be code-compliant. What do you think?