Fire-Rated Openings with Electronic Access Control and Low-Energy Power Operators

This article appears in this month’s issue of the DHI Door Security + Safety Magazine and was reprinted here with their permission.

Balancing the need to protect property and keep lives safe while still meeting code requirements.

The mission of the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) is “[being] devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards,” and NFPA does this, in part, with its 300 codes and standards.

As door and hardware industry professionals, it’s our duty to understand the NFPA code requirements to help architects, owners, and general contractors make smart choices about the types of hardware used throughout their buildings to not only meet codes, but also to keep property and lives safe from harm.

Fire-rated doors are required in numerous locations throughout a commercial building, and they are used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire and smoke between different wings (or compartments) of the structure. It is a critical aspect for allowing people time to safely exit a building.

Electronic access control devices have become a sought-out request of customers looking for convenience and security, yet the openings have become more multifaceted to specify, as the products have become more complex. In addition, the NFPA codes change every three years meaning requirements may change.

The steps to properly specifying a building for your customer are first, understand whether the opening needs to be fail-safe or fail-secure and second, to know which hardware meets the fail-safe/fail-secure fire code requirements.

Fail-safe: This is a term used to describe an electric lock that has a mechanical state of being locked and requires power to unlock it. This type of device unlocks when power is removed. In this scenario, when power is interrupted, fails, or the fire signal is activated, the doors automatically unlock allowing people to safely transfer from one side of the compartment to the other (i.e., exit the building).

Fail-secure: This is a term used to describe an electric lock that has a mechanical state of being unlocked and requires power to lock it. This type of device locks when power is removed. When the fire signal is activated and/or the power is removed, the door stays in a secured position from the key side while still allowing free egress.

UL as It Applies to Fire Rating

The second key element to properly specifying fire-rated openings is to understand which hardware meets the fail-safe/fail-secure fire code requirements. This begins with the testing facility ratings, which are commonly referred to as “UL Ratings” in our industry as defined by Underwriters Laboratories, LLC (UL), one of the most recognized testing facilities. Any accredited Third Party Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) can perform the UL10C test – the test pertaining to functionality and fire safety.

NFPA80 is the code that pertains to fire-rated openings. NFPA80 (2015 Edition) states in part, “Power operated fire doors shall be equipped with a releasing device that shall automatically disconnect the power operator at the time of fire, allowing a self-closing or automatic device to close and latch the door regardless of power failure or manual operation.”

This means that any fire-door that is equipped with an auto-operator must be connected to a fire alarm, but keep in mind, not all auto-operators are UL-rated for fire. Some are only UL-rated for electrical. When specifying a building, it is important to know which door hardware is specifically rated for fire and which is not.

Building Walk-Through with Applications

Ideally, the process of specifying the building involves meeting with the architect to understand how the building will function. Sheryl Simon, CSI, CDT, senior architectural specifications consultant with Hager Companies, notes that “walking around the project on paper” with the architect is the best way to understand the project – what the owners want. “Otherwise, we are just making assumptions.”

Let’s look at a simple, 10-openings-or-less commercial office space, where the owner wants electronic access control on all openings. One way to accomplish this request is below.

Entry Door

The front doors will be fitted with electric latch retraction devices, which electro-mechanically control your door. There are two types: solenoid driven and motorized.

  • The solenoid latch retraction devices retract the latch but do not retract the push-pad. They also consume more power and often require a manufacturer-specific power supply.
  • The motorized latch retraction devices retract the latch and the push-pad. They consume less power and do not require a manufacturer-specific power supply. They are often the ideal choice for buildings where noise is a consideration, such as schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities.

In the case of fitting this office building with the right type of electronic access control device, the locks on the entry door will be fail-secure and non-fire-rated. As noted earlier in this article, when power is lost to fail-secure locking devices, the doors remain in a locked position but permits free egress and allow people to safely exit the building.  A Knox Box holding a master key to the building is mounted on the exterior of the building, so emergency services such as the fire department can gain access through the entry doors.

Computer Room

For security reasons, the owner has expressed that he wants this door locked at all times. The space also requires a fire-rated door to protect the equipment. In this situation, electronic access control can provide access to only a few individuals and the lock will be fail-secure in the form of either an electric strike with a storeroom lock set or an electrified lock set. That way, in the event of fire, the door will stay in the locked position – protecting the equipment in the room.

Office Door

The electronic access control can be either battery-operated or hardwired, depending on the owner’s preference. Most will choose battery-powered for the lower installation costs. In this scenario, the lockset will be fail-secure allowing people to safely exit the room in the event of a fire but leaving the door in a secured position. The door’s fire rating will help dictate which electronic access control is installed, as some are rated for 45 minutes while others are rated for 90 minutes.

Low-Energy ADA-Compliant Operators

Another consideration is compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires any public or private building to provide accessibility to everyone. Some examples include hotels, restaurants, mixed-use buildings, private schools and sports stadiums.

Installed above the door, a low-energy power operator behaves similar to a door closer as it controls the opening and closing of a door. Referring to the speed at which the door opens and closes, a “low-energy” power operator requires a “knowing act”.

Low-energy power operators allow access in and out of buildings, but they can also be installed on the interior of buildings in conjunction with fire doors. A good example is a hospital or school where a pair of doors connect to another wing of the building.

“Whether or not it’s a fire door, the low-energy operator is going to act the same way. It’s going to open when the actuator is pushed under normal conditions, but in the event of a fire alarm, the door needs to close and latch, preventing the door from opening and containing the spread of fire and smoke,” says Gordon Holmes, product manager for Hager Companies.

These two actions with the same opening contradict each other, and those who don’t understand the door and hardware industry can easily be confused by this.

“Most buildings are going to have a fire door located in them, and the distributor or installer(s) have to know how that works,” says Gordon. “The easiest way to explain it is by separating the two actions. In everyday use, there has to be a knowing act, so you push that plate and the door opens. When the fire alarm goes off, those openings have to be secured and shut.”

The door and hardware industry is on the forefront of making our buildings more secure environments to live, work, and play. The rapid development and lower cost threshold of technology is driving the implementation of electronic access control in our schools, hospitals, hotels, high-rise apartment buildings, nursing care facilities, and more.

As professionals in this ever-advancing industry, it’s our responsibility to provide customers with the best product choices while matching their security needs and meeting codes requirements.



Brian Clarke, DHT, AHC, DHC, CFDAI, CTD, CSI
is director of the Architectural Specifications Department and Technical Support at Hager Companies. Email: [email protected]

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Best Practices for Thresholds, Weatherstripping, and Fire Safety by Dan White

This article appears in the June issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

An array of products installed in commercial buildings affect life safety, many of which require a UL listing. While not the largest or most glamorous materials, thresholds, weatherstripping, and gasketing products serve as barriers to fire and smoke inhalation, and while small in size, they are some of the biggest contributors to preserving life.

What is the UL Label?
Underwriters Laboratories, LLC (UL) has been around for more than 125 years and is known across multiple industries as a leader in global safety. Their simple mission, “Working for a safer world since 1894,” is at the core of everything they do. According to their website, “We conscientiously advance safety science through careful research and investigation, applying our efforts to prevent or reduce loss of life and property and to promote safe living and working environments for all people.”[1]

UL certifications can be found on hundreds of building material products, including door assemblies. “Our fire safety team evaluates a wide range of products for fire resistance and performance, including door frames, locks, closers, hinges, and other door accessories,” notes the UL website.[2]

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Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Door Closers by Vince Butler

This article appears in the January issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Door Closers by Vince Butler

Door closers – if you’ll pardon the pun – literally go over most people’s heads. They are usually installed at the top of doors and door frames, out of the line of sight, unnoticed. Most door closers are purposely designed to match the door and frame so they don’t attract attention.

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Why is the Bottom Rod Missing?

Have you ever come across a pair of doors that have just a top vertical rod exit device and not top and bottom, and wondered why? Often an architect or specification writer will specify “less bottom rod (LBR)” on pairs of doors, especially in healthcare facilities.

This photo was taken in an assisted living facility here in St. Louis. This opening is a pair of fire rated corridor doors which means they must positively latch in case of a fire to control flames and smoke from traveling through the facility. Without latching hardware on the exit device itself, positive latching is accomplished with the surface mounted top vertical rod. As you can see from the picture, the door is being held open with a magnetic hold open tied into the fire alarm. If the fire alarm is activated the hold open will release the door. The door closer will swing the door shut and the top vertical rod will latch the door.

This leads us to the question of why the architect or specification writer specified LBR. While the top and bottom vertical rods help secure the door, the bottom vertical rod is secured to a floor strike mounted in the floor. That floor strike can become a tripping hazard to people that use mobility devices, such as canes, walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs. ADA regulation 404.2.10, Door and Gate Surfaces, states: “Swing door and gate surfaces within 10 inches (255mm) of the finish floor or ground measured vertically shall have a smooth surface on the push side extending the full width of the door or gate.” The regulation goes on to specify how thick protection plates and installation screws can be.

This installation is a textbook example of the intersection of fire code and ADA regulations. The goal is to keep people safe both from fire and tripping. When architects and door hardware professionals work together, the result can be a safe, attractive and code compliant facility.

For assistance in writing door hardware specifications please contact Brian Clarke at [email protected]. For information regarding our products please contact our customer service team at 800-255-3590 or your local sales representative.

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Congratulations Are in Order

DHI Door Security + Safety Magazine recently announced the winners of the Robert G. Ryan Awards.  The awards are presented to the best volunteer authors of articles appearing in the previous calendar year in the magazine and cover both technical and business-related topics.

Two team members won in the category of – Feature and Business Article.

First place went to Brian Clarke, DHT, AHC, DHC, CFDAI for his article Securing Schools: Solutions Trends in Educational Facilities from the June 2017 DSS magazine issue.  Brian also received the Recognition of Outstanding Service and Involvement (ROSI) award and celebrated 5 years as a DHI instructor.

Second place went to Dan White for his article The Gravity of Mentorship from the September 2017 DSS magazine issue.

We are very proud of Brian and Dan and appreciate their dedication and commitment, not only to Hager but to the door and hardware industry.

 

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Electronic Access Controls on Historic Buildings: Hager Companies Headquarters

This article appears in the October issue of the DHI Security + Safety Magazine and is reprinted here with their permission.

Historic buildings pose a unique security challenge. By their very nature they are outdated – from the original materials to antique hardware, they exist to showcase just how different things used to be. However, progress has often happened for a reason, and one of the leading reasons is security.

Antique door hardware may have been built to last, manufactured from heavy-duty metals, but modern security issues require more than physical strength. Access credentials, controlled entry, and electronic logging are all emerging as security necessities. Fortunately, electronic access control systems are built to seamlessly and almost invisibly integrate into projects, including historic buildings where authenticity is paramount.

There are several access control systems that feature scalable parts that integrate wirelessly into a central control system with queriable reports, but when the time came to upgrade the Hager headquarters, the obvious choice was HS4, Hager powered by Salto, the security system recently rolled out by Hager Companies.

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SCIP and CONSTRUCT – 2018

Next week, several members of the Hager team will be heading to Long Beach, California for the annual Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice meeting, better known as SCIP, and the CONSTRUCT Education and Exhibits show.

We always have a great time at both events and it gives us a chance to chat with specification writers to learn how we can better help their processes and solve any pain points.

CONSTRUCT 2014 – Baltimore

Our complete line of door hardware falls under one brand, the Hager brand, and we take pride in writing true non-proprietary specifications.  We focus on being correct, clear, concise and complete to make sure all parties in the channel understand how each door opening is expected to function before it’s installed.

SCIP Members Touring Hager HQ – CONSTRUCT 2015 – St. Louis

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A Review of DHI ConNextions 2018

Have you had a chance to catch your breath?  What an amazing few days in Baltimore at DHI ConNextions.  One of the best things about being in the Door and Hardware Industry is the fact it’s a relatively small group of people. Typically, at one point or another in our careers, we have either worked with or have known of one another for many years.  So, when we attend and exhibit at ConNextions it really is like a family reunion.

Hager had a lot of representation both from St. Louis headquarters, including the Hager Family, and our wonderful sales representatives.

Wednesday many team members attended the keynote presentation “Beyond Tragedy: Response and Recovery in a School Based Crisis”. The speaker was Michele Gay, a mother and former teacher, who helped founded Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative.  It was a powerful presentation about her day on December 14, 2012, when her daughter was one of 26 people who was shot at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  Her strength and courage were felt throughout the room.  Her words reignited our mission to provide great products at a fair price with exceptional customer service to keep occupants of buildings safe and secure.

Michele Gay with Safe and Sound Schools

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DHI ConNextions 2018 – Booth 319

Next week, several members of the Hager Family and team members will head to Baltimore for the annual DHI ConNextions show.

For the Hager team, this show is all about connecting with our customers.  We want to hear what’s new in their lives and businesses; collaborate our efforts in order to grow their sales; and, of course, showcase our new products. In the last year, we’ve released the following products:

We will also have demonstrations with our HS4 Electronic Access Control products including the newest communication platform BLUEnet. We are especially excited by BLUEnet’s ability to provide a real-time (within 4 seconds) lock communication, keeping people safer in an active shooter situation.

 

If you’d like to attend the show but haven’t purchased a pass yet, we have complimentary VIP Exhibit Hall Passes available. Just click on this link and in the Promo Code box type hagevip.

We look forward to seeing you!


 

 

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Access Control: Door Hardware and Code Compliance by Brian Clarke DHT, AHC, CDT, CSI

This article was published in the DHI, Door Security + Safety Magazine in January 2018 issue

Keeping occupants safe is a common goal for facility managers and property owners. As the number of break-ins, active shooter incidents and other violent encounters continue to grow, controlling who enters a building has become more vital than ever before.

For healthcare, education and office buildings, standard door and key configurations do not always provide the type of security necessary. This is leading decision-makers to look at more sophisticated access control solutions. The electronic access control market has become more refined in recent years and it is important to know what is available and what may fit the needs of a given facility. Furthermore, the type of hardware chosen must be code-compliant, making proper selection even more important.

In high use buildings, such as a school or office building, access control must allow for a door opening to have free means of egress, during an emergency, along with fire protection and meet accessibility requirements. The International Building Code (IBC) defines an accessible means of egress as a “continued and unobstructed way of egress travel from any point in a building or facility that provides an accessible route to an area of refuge, a horizontal exit or a public way.”

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