Q: We have a new facility which has recently opened, and it is a physician’s office/business occupancy. There is a medical record storage room which contains combustible files which we have determined to be a general hazard. Per the LSC, the hazardous room needs to be either one-hour fire-rated or sprinkled. If sprinkled (which we are), the room needs to be smoke partitioned with a smoke door and a closer (no mention of latching). The door to the room has a closer and opens onto an egress corridor, yet it is not supplied with a latch. My gut tells me this door should latch. What are your thoughts?
A: My thought is a gut reaction is usually very reliable. The storage room is required to comply with section 188.8.131.52 of the 2000 edition of the LSC, which refers to section 8.4. Section 8.4 requires a hazardous area to be protected with either 1-hour fire rated barriers, or protected with an automatic sprinkler system, so your code assessment is correct. In your case, the storage room is protected with automatic sprinklers and smoke resistant barriers, since new construction requires that. Technically the door to the storage room is not required to latch because it is not a fire rated door and corridor doors in business occupancies are not required to latch according to section 38.3.6. I agree with you that one would think it should latch, especially since the same scenario in a hospital would require it to. But, the LSC does not require it in a business occupancy, which is one of the many advantages to having an area classified as a business occupancy. I still would check with your local and state authorities to see if they have any requirements you need to meet on the subject. Final thought on the issue: If your gut tells you the door needs a latch, then by all means, follow your instinct. The codes are minimum standards, and there is nothing wrong in exceeding the minimum standards.