Doors in the means of egress: Electrical locking systems permitted by the codes
The International Building Code (IBC) has provisions for several “shall be permitted” electrical locking systems on doors in the means of egress. These provisions cover controlled egress, delayed egress, sensor release and door hardware release electrical locking systems. These electric locking systems are in the 2018 IBC under “Controlled egress doors in Groups I-1 and I-2,” “Delayed egress locking systems,” “Sensor release of electrically locked egress doors” and “Door hardware release of electrically locked egress doors” in Sections 1010.1.9.7 through 1010.1.9.10, respectively.
Controlled egress locking systems
Controlled egress locking systems are designed and function as the name implies: egress is controlled by another individual, such as staff, via an electrical locking system. Controlled egress locking systems are most commonly placed on interior doors in healthcare facilities to control egress from specific areas of the building.
Controlled egress locking systems are only permitted in institutional occupancy Groups I-1 and I-2 where the clinical needs of the persons receiving care within this institution require this type of locking system. Some healthcare facilities, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes, dementia units, Alzheimer’s units, pediatric units and newborn nurseries have special safety needs for patients. This locking system is only permitted within buildings that have an automatic sprinkler system or an automatic smoke or heat detection system, and require the doors to unlock for immediate egress upon activation of these systems.
Additional requirements for controlled egress locking systems, including unlocking upon loss of power to the locking system, are included in section 1010.1.9.7 of the IBC. In the 2012 IBC and previous editions, these locking systems were titled “Special locking arrangements in Group I-2”: the name was revised to the current title, “Controlled egress doors in Groups I-1 and I-2,” with the 2015 IBC to have a name more descriptive of their application.
Delayed egress locking systems
Delayed egress locking systems also function according to their name: egress through the door is delayed by the electronics of the delayed egress locking system. Doors with delayed egress locking systems are often equipped with mechanical latches and locks that keep the door in a locked condition thus controlling ingress in addition to the delayed egress electrical locking system.
Delayed egress locking systems are permitted in most occupancies, but not in Group H nor Group A occupancies with the exception of Group A-3 courtrooms. For example, delayed egress locking systems may be used on required exit doors of retail establishments to reduce pilferage. Another application of this locking system includes use in health care facilities to provide an early warning to the staff that an occupant is attempting to open an exit door. As with controlled egress, delayed egress locking systems are only permitted where the building has an automatic sprinkler system or automatic smoke or heat detection system. If the sprinkler system, or the smoke or heat detection system, is activated the delay component of the delayed egress locking system is required to be eliminated to facilitate immediate egress. Furthermore, informational signs are required on delayed egress doors communicating how the door hardware functions for egress. Additional requirements for this locking system are included in section 1010.1.9.8 of the IBC.
Sensor release locking systems
Sensor release locking systems are designed to facilitate immediate unencumbered egress at all times. These locking systems function by placing one or more sensors near the door, and the system’s electronics unlock the electric lock on the door for egress upon sensor activation. The sensors are triggered once an occupant approaches the door for egress.
Excluding Group H, sensor release locking systems are permitted in any occupancy. The operation of these electrical locks should not impede egress to any extent, and the occupants of a building may not even realize these locking systems are installed on a door.
In the event that the control system of these electrical locks fail, a manual unlocking device, such as an electric push button, is required to be installed near the door. Moreover, the power to the electrical door locks is required to be interrupted directly by this manual unlocking device. Doors with sensor release locking systems may or may not be equipped with mechanical latches and locks which keep the door in a locked condition, thus controlling ingress, should the power to the electrical locking system fail. In the 2012 IBC and previous editions, their locking systems were titled “Access-controlled egress doors.” The name of these locking systems was revised to “Sensor release of electrically locked egress doors” with the 2015 IBC to reduce confusion with access control systems (ingress control systems).
Door hardware release locking systems
Just as with the sensor release locking systems, door hardware release locking systems are also designed to facilitate immediate unencumbered egress at all times. The electrical switch integrated in the door hardware is set in motion by the manual action of opening the door for egress such as by pushing on a panic bar or turning a lever handle. Once activated, the electrical switch incorporated in this locking system directly interrupts power to the electrical lock causing it to unlock.
Door hardware release locking systems are permitted in any occupancy except Group H. Similar to the sensor release locking systems, the occupants may not realize door hardware release locking systems are installed on the door as the operation of the electrical locks should not impede egress. The electrical switch incorporated in the door hardware directly interrupts power to the electrical door lock and enables immediate egress. Doors with door hardware release locking systems are typically equipped with mechanical latches and locks which keep the door in a locked condition controlling ingress should the power to the electrical locking system fail.
Each of these four electrical locking systems may be installed in concert with access control (ingress control) locking systems for enhanced security. The IBC requires that egress be accomplished as required and permitted by the code regardless of the methods employed for access control (ingress control). More information on these electrical locking systems can be found in sections 1010.1.9.7 through 1010.1.9.10 of the IBC.
The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association interacts with stakeholders in an effort to understand the balance of how doors, door hardware and door locking systems are used, desired to be used and should be used. With the Codes, Government and Industry Affairs (CGIA) Committee, the association is a part of the code development process for the various building-oriented codes. The association works to review and modify building code language with the technical expertise of door hardware industry leaders to express safety requirements in language that is clear and concise.
The CGIA Committee initiated its work as a codes task force in response to 9/11, and focused on code enforcement regarding exit doors. At the time, there were no methods to ensure that a door maintained code-compliancy one, 10 or 50 years after the day it received its certificate of occupancy. Annual inspections – or some other oversight protocol, such as something matching the fire extinguisher certification – was in order. Currently, the CGIA Committee receives requests for codes-related insight as a response to modern events and has become the go-to source for other groups within the industry regarding code proposals.