unequal panic door with mullion

In my opinion, this pair with panic hardware and a mullion would NOT meet the intent of the model codes if the full width of the opening is required for egress.

I received this Quick Question the other day, and it has been a while since I’ve written about this topic:

Is it acceptable to install panic hardware on a 2-foot-wide door that is part of a 5-foot-wide unequal leaf pair?

Keep in mind that I am not an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), and the final decision would be up to the person with authority.  With that said, my answer would be yes – it is acceptable as it meets the intent of the model codes.  BUT – I will qualify that answer by saying that the opening should not have a mullion.

The model codes and accessibility standards require one leaf of a pair to have a clear opening width of at least 32 inches.  In order to comply, one leaf is typically a 3-foot-wide door.  For a pair of doors, the clear opening width is measured from the face of that door in the 90-degree position, to the edge of the other leaf in the closed position (or to the edge of the mullion, if applicable).

The codes and standards do not require a particular dimension for the other leaf of the pair of doors.  If the opening was originally a 5-foot-wide equal pair, the doors are often changed to an unequal leaf pair (3-foot + 2-foot) so the opening is compliant with today’s requirements.  I don’t know of anything stated in the codes or standards that would prohibit the use of panic hardware on the 2-foot leaf.

One thing to keep in mind is that the opening needs to accommodate the required egress capacity of the space it is serving.  If the opening had a mullion, the narrow leaf would not meet the requirements for a door in a means of egress.  Although this is not specifically stated in the model codes, it seems like common sense to me.

If you disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this question!

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