Commercial Building Codes can be extremely difficult to remember when it comes to different districts, city codes, etc.

An excerpt from The Locksmith Ledger

Updated ICC and NFPA codes for stairwell re-entry and elevator lobbies may require upgrades

Updated standards compliance for new construction, alterations, program accessibility and barrier removal are now in effect and many commercial properties need to make improvements to meet these standards, according to Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies. Especially confusing are the standards for stairwell re-entry and elevator lobbies.Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies Manager of Codes & Resources Lori Greene AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI was asked to clarify them at the 2012 BOMA Every Building Conference & Expo.
SDC Z7500 Positive Latching

“The requirements for stairwell re-entry differ by code,” explains Greene. “The term stairwell re-entry refers to the code requirements which let a building occupant leave a stairwell during a fire emergency and find another exit. If stairwell doors do not provide for reentry and a stairwell becomes impassible, it can jeopardize the lives of those using the stairwell as a means of egress. There have been many changes to this section of the code in the last ten years which is why there is so much confusion surrounding it.”

According to Greene, there are several important distinctions between codes. The IBC (2006 edition and later) prohibits mechanical locks on the stair side of doors leading to the stairwell regardless of the number of floors being served by the stair, while NFPA 101 does allow some doors to be mechanically locked on the stair side.

The IBC states that the stair doors must be “capable of being unlocked simultaneously without unlatching upon a signal from the fire command center, if present, or a signal by emergency personnel from a single location inside the main entrance to the building,” while NFPA 101 states that “an automatic release that is actuated with the initiation of the building fire alarm system shall be provided to unlock all stair enclosure doors to allow re-entry.”

The same type of hardware – fail safe locks or fail safe exit device trim – can be used in either case, but the fire alarm interface will be different. It’s imperative to find out which code has been adopted in the jurisdiction where a building is located so the correct set of code requirements can be referenced.

“Regarding elevator lobbies, the IBC states that if there is not a stairwell that is accessible from the lobby, a building occupant may need to go from the lobby through tenant space to get to an exit,” Greene reports. “This creates new challenges.”

Since such a solution obviously impacts security, NFPA 101 added a section and some state codes have modified the IBC to allow locks that unlock upon fire alarm to allow egress through the tenant space; otherwise a delayed egress lock would be required. This means that, after waiting 15 seconds, someone can access the tenant space. Since codes vary from locale to locale, builders, owners and managers need to confirm which code they are working under.

“At Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, we want builders, owners and managers of commercial real estate to leverage our knowledge of codes, get their buildings up to date and improve client safety and security while reducing liabilities,” adds Greene. “Asking for help with codes is as simple as contacting an Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies consultant or visiting my blog at

“Regardless of where or when you read about a code, double check as codes can change,” Greene warns.

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