Door Hardware: ADA, NFPA Affect Product Specification
Specifying doors and door hardware has become increasingly complex as institutional and commercial facilities face mounting pressure to, among other demands, offer occupants better security, comply with applicable regulations, and extend the performance life of door-hardware components.
By understanding key regulatory requirements for door hardware and staying abreast of evolving security considerations, maintenance and engineering managers will be better able to ensure the long-term performance and maintainability of door and doors hardware.
Guidelines and Standards
An array of laws and guidelines — including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and standards from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) — affect the design, specification, testing, and maintenance of doors and door hardware, including closers, locks, hinges, exit devices, and alarms. Local building-permit offices are the first place managers should check to determine the authority having jurisdiction when questions arise about door-hardware codes.
Usually, local codes take precedence if numerous jurisdictional codes conflict. But in some states, such as California, multiple jurisdictions exist. Guidelines specify that the strictest code takes precedence. Independent labs and manufacturers can guide managers in finding out about a product's ability to meet specific standards.
ADA standards apply to private-sector facilities, as well as state and local governments, while The Architectural Barriers Act governs access to federally funded facilities, such as federal buildings, military posts, and the U.S. Postal Service.
To ensure compliance with ADA requirements, managers must fully understand the provisions of ADA's accessibility guidelines related to doors and door hardware. For example, guidelines contained in section 4.13 of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design specify:
- A 32-inch, clear opening with the door open.
- Lever-, push, or U-handle design and no tight grasp or pinching. Knob handles might not comply, due to gripping pressure required to operate them.
- A closing speed of 3 seconds from 70 degrees open to 3 inches from the latch.
- An maximum opening force of 5 pounds for an interior hinged door.
- Low-energy, automatic operators that meet ANSI/BHMA Standard A156.19.
One significant change in the ADA access guidelines is the side-reach range, which has been reduced from 54 inches to 48 inches.
Managers also must be aware of 29 ANSI/BHMA standards that cover different components, materials, and finishes used in doors and door hardware systems, including butts, hinges, closers, operators, electromagnetic locks, exit locks, and alarms.
While managers must be aware of standards in specifying door hardware components, they also must consider them in planning retrofit and upgrade projects. For example, managers might be inclined to improve security in a way that unintentionally limits free egress through a fire door, such as chaining the crash bar on an emergency exit to prevent intrusion. While improving security, this modification jeopardizes the safety of occupants in a fire or other building-evacuation emergency, where speed of egress is essential.
Consider: In NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, a key provision bars modifications or additions to fire-door hardware. In an exception to this rule, NFPA 80, 2010 Edition, says exit signs may be affixed if they are surface-applied to the lower 16 inches of the door.