Exit Doors

Q: We have converted our old hospital building into a combination of outpatient facilities and office (business) uses. There are three exits that have no fire listings on the door or frame. All three have panic hardware, but not fire-rated hardware on them. It has been the common practice to dog these doors during the day so anyone ingressing does not have to push the release to enter, just pull the door open. These are all marked exits. Do these non-rated doors still have to positively latch to prevent drafts should there be a fire? Everything I find mentions fire rated doors, but does not mention non-rated doors.

A: The answer to your question is… it depends. You do not clarify if the three exits that you mention are upper floor doors to exit stairwells, or lower level doors to exit discharges. Since you didn’t specify, I will presume the ‘exit doors’ that you mention are doors on the level of exit discharge directly to the outdoors. (If they were doors to exit stairwells or exit passageways, then they must be fire rated and must be equipped with fire-rated hardware that cannot be ‘dogged-down’ to disable the latching mechanism.) So… presuming the doors in question open directly to the outdoors, it depends if they are required to be fire-rated. If the building is Type I or Type II construction, then the exterior exit doors are not required to be fire-rated if the exterior walls are non-load-bearing (typically, Type I and Type II construction has exterior walls that are non-load-bearing). However, if the exterior walls are load bearing, then the doors must be fire-rated and must positively latch. If the building is Type III construction, then by design, the exterior walls are load-bearing and the exit doors would then be required to be fire-rated. So… presuming the doors in question are not required to be fire-rated, then there is no Life Safety Code requirement for the doors to positively latch and to have fire-rated hardware. That means horizontal crash bars on the door leaf that are capable of being dogged-down (rendered incapable of latching) would be permitted. As discussed, it all depends on whether or not the wall that the doors are located in, is a fire-rated barrier.