PART ART. PART SCIENCE. SPECIFYING DOOR HARDWARE WITH LIFE PROTECTION IN MIND

Accessibility, security, and life safety need to be top of mind when specifying doors and their supporting hardware. That means abiding by the codes and standards created by industry sources, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), International Building Code (IBC), and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 80 and 101). If you don’t conform to the construction specifications that meet the standards set by these institutions, you could face dire legal consequences.

Here’s a closer look at the three main life protection considerations that drive door hardware selection:

Accessibility For All

Everyone—including people with disabilities—should be able to have independent access to facilities.

ADA provides guidelines and ICC A117.1 provides specific information about requirements for hardware installation as it relates to the functioning of fixtures like door openings, ramps, elevators, handrails, stairways, etc.

The reference standards you need to comply with can vary from one municipality to another. Sometimes you may find it beneficial to go above and beyond requirements with safety and accessibility enhancing features like Braille markings, bilingual egress instructions, and photo-luminescent pathway markings. The benefits they provide to occupants, visitors, and the public may transcend their added cost.

Security To Protect People And Property

To protect occupants and safeguard contents, buildings need to be secure. That means their door hardware needs to conform to BHMA performance parameters and be certified to the appropriate BHMA standard. To ensure compliance and demonstrate they can withstand normal use, abuse, and even break-in attempts, BHMA certified products are tested on a schedule.

ANSI standards also play an important role in specifying door and hardware to meet security considerations. They define minimum industry standards rather than upper end boundaries. Products sometimes exceed the minimum standards by factors of 10 or more in life-cycle tests, static load, and other strength ratings.

In certain building contexts, hardware specifiers may encounter highly specialized devices when writing specifications. As an example, institutional care settings often have delayed egress devices to delay an unauthorized exit long enough for an alarm to alert staff. Care must be taken in these situations because the delay should not be so long that it puts life safety at risk in the name of security.

Life Safety For Peace Of Mind

When specifying door hardware, fire safety is the primary life protection consideration. Whether the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code (NFPA) 101 or Chapter 10 of the International Building Code (IBC) or both control life safety requirements depends on where the specific municipality and/or state the building is located.

These codes ensure door hardware operates as intended—maintaining security while allowing people to exit when they need to. Generally, exit devices (known also as “panic devices”) allow occupants to easily (by simply pushing the touch bar even without use of their hands) leave in the event of emergencies.

Local authorities and local building codes drive the specifications of fire-rated openings. You can find the actual specification language in NFPA 80, which provides general mandates—such as a single-motion egress or the hose-stream performance in the door assembly. The actual equipment required isn’t typically defined, because a number of design solutions might successfully accomplish the objectives.

Effective Door Hardware Specification: Part Art And Part Science

Ultimately, architectural hardware needs to meet life protection requirements and satisfy the aesthetic needs for a building. That’s why it’s important to look for a door hardware specification professional who has mastered both the art and science of selecting products.