Quick Code Q&A

Quick Code Q&A: Electromagnetic Locks with Door-Hardware Release

Last month, we introduced code considerations when using electromagnetic locks. In that post, we focused on the requirements for this locking hardware when it is released by a sensor that detects a building occupant approaching the door on the egress side. However, there is a different set of requirements for maglocks when a switch within door-mounted hardware releases them.

Like the sensor release configuration, this type of lock is acceptable in all building types except Group H–High Hazard, provided it allows free egress in the event of power failure and, according to some model codes, is listed as UL 294–Standard for Access Control System Units. Electromagnetic locks with a switch release within the door hardware must also fulfill the below-mentioned requirements.

Question: What codes apply to an electromagnetic lock released by a switch within the door-mounted hardware?

There is a different set of requirements for maglocks when a switch within door-mounted hardware releases them.

Instead of a sensor above the door, electrified locking systems may use an electronic switch in the lever handle, panic hardware or an electronic touch-sensor bar to release the mag-lock for egress. This switch is often called a request-to-exit switch or RX/REX switch. The model codes do not require mag-locks used in this application to have an auxiliary push button or fire alarm/sprinkler release, which are required for applications with a sensor release. However, the locks must unlock upon losing power to the electric locking system.

Operation of the door hardware in these electrical locking systems must directly interrupt the lock’s power to cause the door’s immediate unlocking. The door hardware that contains the RX switch must have an obvious method of operation and be able to be readily operated under all lighting conditions. It must also be able to operate with one hand and one motion in a single linear or rotational direction. On doors where panic hardware is required, the operation of this hardware must also release the electromagnetic lock. Note that for doors with panic hardware and an electromagnetic lock, the 2024 I-Codes do not allow the sensor-release application; the door-hardware release application must be used.

These requirements are listed in Chapter 10 of the 2024 edition of the International Building Code (IBC). The Life Safety Code (NFPA 101), past editions of the IBC, or location-specific amendments may have different or more stringent requirements. As such, verifying which codes have been adopted in a project’s jurisdiction is recommended.

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