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Last week I received an email from one of my coworkers, about inspections that are required by a state agency to assess the security of every school.  When setting the criteria for these inspections, security personnel noted that the doors were closing too slowly for optimal security;  their suggested closing speed was three seconds.

Luckily, my coworker knew that three seconds was too fast for a door to close, based on the accessibility requirements.  The ADA Standards for Accessible Design state:

404.2.8.1 Door Closers and Gate Closers. Door closers and gate closers shall be adjusted so that from an open position of 90 degrees, the time required to move the door to a position of 12 degrees from the latch is 5 seconds minimum.

ICC A117.1 – Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities includes the same requirement.  A faster closing speed is allowed for doors with spring hinges (1.5 seconds from 70 degrees to closed), but I would not recommend that spring hinges be used in this application.  For doors in schools and most other buildings, door closers must be adjusted so that the doors close from 90 degrees to 12 degrees in no less than 5 seconds.  This Decoded article includes the BHMA recommendations for measuring opening force and closing speed.

This “conflict” between security and accessibility could prompt conversations regarding which should take precedence, but there is really nothing to discuss.  The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law, and schools must comply.  In addition, the International Building Code (IBC) includes requirements for accessibility, and some states also have their own accessibility standards.  There are very few exceptions that would release a public accommodation from compliance.

When evaluating security, it’s important to remember that the adopted codes and standards must be followed.  In recent years, we have seen products that were intended to augment security, but could cause unintended consequences by limiting egress and/or impacting accessibility or fire protection.  With proper planning, doors can meet the requirements for accessibility, egress, fire protection – AND security (convenience too!).

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