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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History in St. Louis

Hager Co. was 118 years old when the St. Louis Blues organization was founded in 1967. As baseball fans cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals since 1882, it wasn’t difficult to rally behind a new hockey team.

Like many other fans, several Hager team members have been long time season ticket holders. They’ve suffered the highs and lows throughout the years. This season was looking pretty dim with the Blues in last place on January 3rd. But the music changed and the Blues hit an 11-game winning streak through the middle of February.

Contrary to what some people say, we are a sports town. The fans and City of St. Louis have celebrated with the Blues every step of the way. As the Blues climbed in the standings the excitement grew.

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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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Environmental Product Declarations – EPDs

Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources began before the 1970s but it was the oil prices increase during that period that spurred the movement. The green building field formalized in the late 1980s and 1990s when several organizations developed committees, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) who formed the Committee on the Environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) green building “is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.”

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, better known as LEED, was introduced in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) offering a new certification program for building design, construction, operations, and maintenance. There are several levels of LEED and when LEED v4 was released, it added new credits for Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and material ingredients. Similar to nutritional labels that can be found on food items, only instead of the impact of the food on your body’s wellbeing, it provides the environmental impact of the building material or product.

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Understanding Today’s Access Control Solutions

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

Electronic access control systems offer an effective way to control and manage access for facilities large and small. From retail and office space to education, government, healthcare, and multifamily complexes, today’s systems are versatile enough to not only meet current needs but also have the ability to expand in the future – giving you and your clients the peace of mind of knowing they are making a sound investment.

Electronic access control technology delivers value beyond security and safety by also providing valuable business intelligence – allowing you to monitor who is entering and leaving your facilities, time and duration of visits, traffic flow and more.

TYPES OF ACCESS CONTROL TECHNOLOGY
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all answer doesn’t work with today’s designs, access control technology is a diverse solution to secure any new or existing facility. Here’s an overview of three types of electronic access control solutions.

Stand-Alone Access Control
With stand-alone access control technology, all the decisions are made at the lock, by the lock. A stand-alone lock needs to be told what access to be given, so if a company wants to add – or delete – a user, they must physically go to the lock to reprogram it using a handheld device.

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Tiny Houses

Affordable housing is drifting further out of reach, especially for people who have had to face many challenges. Enter Dianne Marshak with Social Justice 4 All. Social Justice 4 All, a group of Catholics and other Christians from West St. Louis County, had been looking for a project to help people who were homeless transition off the streets.  This coming after a trip to Chicago where Dianne encountered several people who were homeless and was moved to do something to help.

Social Justice 4 All learned about the Solomon Project, a 12-year-old project to provide affordable housing in north St. Louis, from the North Grand Neighborhood Services (NGNS). During a panel discussion on homelessness, it was suggested that tiny homes could help people transition out of homelessness. As the discussion continued a teacher from Rockwood Summit High School (website) volunteered his students to build the houses. The Tiny Houses Project was born and a commitment of three tiny homes, measuring 14′ x 26′, was made.

Hager’s involvement began when a former employee now retired, reached out with an appeal for a donation of the door hardware for the exterior doors on each tiny home.  The Hager family, without hesitation, said yes. With Johnston Hager, VP of Residential Sales and National Accounts, as Hager’s point person our internal residential customer service expert, Angelia McGraw, worked with Dianne to make sure the door hardware fit the preps on the doors that the students at Rockwood Summit High School had built.

Today, there are two tiny houses on permanent foundations in the City of St. Louis. Interiors are being worked on and both homes are expected to be ready for occupancy later this year. Once both of these homes are ready for new residents the third tiny house will be built on site.

Hager Companies was honored to participate in this worthwhile project. For more information, or if you’d like to get involved, check out Social Justice 4 All’s website here.

We were touched when Dianne Marshak came by the office to present Johnston with a plaque thanking Hager Companies for the door hardware donation. The plaque was made by the students at Rockwood Summit High School, which made it exceptionally special. We were happy to play a part, along with many other companies and individuals, in providing tiny homes for people who just need a hand.

Dianne Marshak with Social Justice 4 All and Johnston Hager

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Latch Protectors

Being a door hardware manufacturer we are passionate about security. Keeping a door shut and locked plays an important role in keeping people safe. When you hear “security” you may be envisioning a lot of different equipment like cameras, card readers, and maybe even grilles over doors and windows. Hager offers several levels of door hardware security options, but depending on your facility some simple, first steps, may be a better choice.

In the photos below you’ll notice a metal plate that runs vertically along the seam of the pair of doors, by the lockset. This metal plate is called a latch protector and they are available in a wide range of sizes, finishes, and shapes so they can be installed or retrofitted to most locks on both single and pairs of doors.

While we don’t recommend this application, we appreciate the effort of the building owner to resolve a security issue on an existing pair of doors.

This piece of hardware is designed to deter forced entry through door prying, kick-ins, and other actions to gain unauthorized access. Latch protectors provide simple protection from break-ins that is easy to install and is a low-cost first step in a line of defense.  Door openings where latch protectors may be useful include exterior entry, storage, equipment, or any opening where you need a little extra bit of security.

For more information about our latch protection products or any of our many other security products please contact your local sales representative or our customer service department at 800-255-3590.

 

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How to Size a Push Bar

We’ve all heard the adage “measure twice, cut once”. This definitely applies when prepping doors for hardware. And, how to order certain door hardware for doors, like push bars.

We have several helpful documents on our website and How to Size a Push Bar is one of them. This document can be found under the Related Files tab on all our push bar product web pages.

Here are a few tips –

For a Flush Door

To determine the size of a bent end bar with bracket take the door width minus 5″ and that will equal the correct push bar length.

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Concave vs. Convex Wall Stops

Wall and floor stops are inexpensive products that, when installed correctly, can help prevent damage to a wall, lockset or door. If a door is forcefully pushed open, a stop is meant to protect the wall from being gouged by the door or lockset, and it will also protect the door hardware from being damaged by a quick meeting with the wall.

 

Wall and floor stops come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be mounted on the wall or on the floor behind the door.  For this post, we are going to focus on concave and convex wall stops.

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Team Member Profile – Sheryl Simon, CSI, CDT – Manager, Architectural Specification Consultants

Sheryl Simon has been with Hager Companies for 13 years and was recently promoted to Manager, Architectural Specifications Consultants. We sat down with Sheryl to ask her a few questions.

Sheryl Simon at one of the many CSI STL events she volunteers for. Sheryl currently is 2nd VP for the chapter. Photo credit: George Everding

Childhood AmbitionI was always interested in design. (I’m not sure if it’s an ambition or an obsession.) Even as a young child I was always re-arranging the furniture. My parents never knew what to expect when they came home. 

First JobWorking at a very busy ice cream stand. The lines seemed to never end but it was fun interacting with all the customers. 

What led you to the hardware industry: I married into it and very quickly became a hardware geek. 

Proudest professional momentWhen I passed my CDT. It is a very difficult exam and required a lot of studying. 

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