Contributed by Al Eini
The Basics: Maintain Aesthetics, Ensure Safety
Life safety and egress are critical considerations in every building so it comes as no surprise that panic devices play a significant role in the design and installation of entrance systems. Panic devices come in several styles for various door types. With all-glass entrances growing in popularity, however, tubular panic devices are being specified more frequently, particularly in high-end applications. These elegant systems offer maximum transparency and a contemporary look.
Although panic hardware is nothing new, tubular panics and glass doors present unique challenges. For example, all of the mechanics of a standard panic need to be concealed in a sleeker, more attractive design while meeting safety standards. Issues with glass templates and sizing, and hardware compatibility can arise.
For successful tubular panic handle and glass door installations, key hardware and overall entrance design considerations must be taken into account, as well as specification criteria that will ensure door openings comply with life safety codes. Overcoming the challenges associated with tubular panics will lead to safe and secure all-glass entrances that meet the design intent.
First, Know the Code
Both the International Building Code (IBC) and NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code require panic devices to be listed in accordance with UL 305 – Standard for Panic Hardware. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) also has its own standard for panic hardware: ANSI/BHMA A156.3 – Exit Devices.
IBC and NFPA 101 panic device requirements apply to most jurisdictions. According to the IBC, panic devices are required on doors when Assembly Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 50 or more people; and when High Hazard Occupancies have any occupant load.
NFPA 101 requires panic devices on doors where Assembly Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Educational Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; Day Care Occupancies have a load of 100 or more people; and where High Hazard Occupancies have a load of 5 or more people.
Other key code requirements include:
Be aware that there are often exceptions, and every jurisdiction adopts specific code requirements for panic hardware. That’s why it’s very important to consult the Authority Having Jurisdiction early on in the project. Failing to do so can lead to compliance issues, which translates to costly and time-consuming reworks.
Entrance Design and Operational Safety
The desire to create unique and inviting entrances while meeting requirements for security and safety is influencing the types of door systems being manufactured today. Nearly every all-glass entrance is custom designed, comprising some iteration of the thousands of possible glass and hardware configurations available.
Architects are looking to merge transparency and contemporary styling with function and safety—that’s where glass panics are desirable. First and foremost, panic devices are engineered to save lives; therefore, close attention must be placed on the design of the entrance itself to ensure proper performance, security, and safety.
Critical considerations need to be addressed early in the design phase before the hardware schedule is written. While seemingly obvious, many fundamental questions are often overlooked. For example, what’s above the door (i.e. ceiling, transom, header, glass)? What are the sidelite conditions (i.e. supported structurally at the jambs or three-sided support via structural members)? Another consideration is that door and overall opening sizes will mandate the glass thickness and hardware required to mitigate deflection and ensure proper function. In addition, the doorframe depth will dictate the panic handle location.
“There are three main issues typically encountered with glass panic devices and all-glass door quotes: doors that are out of spec, glass template errors, and hardware compatibility,” said Paul Daniels, Senior Vice President of Sales at C.R. Laurence. Software can automate the design process, minimizing the requirements of the specifier or temperer. A program can recognize all relationships between hardware and glass across thousands of possible all-glass entrance configurations.
Along with design and estimating software, certified glass fabricators and temperers are a valuable resource that can help ensure accurate and code compliant all-glass door installations. They have a direct working relationship with the panic device manufacturer, which allows them to deliver single-source entrance system solutions. Complete doors are shipped with pre-installed panics and hardware, ready for installation and minor adjustment.
Glass is a highly specialized material, and fabricators and temperers are experts in the field. Not partnering with one can lead to several detrimental outcomes such as hardware compatibility issues, glass breakage, compromised safety, GANA standards violations, and voided warranties. Working with a local glass fabricator provides additional benefits in terms of logistics and experience serving the region.
All About Aesthetics
“The original tubular panic was patented over 50 years ago. Since then, architects, designers, and end-users have come to value the style’s slim and elegant design. The operating mechanism is discretely concealed within the tube, and a roller latch bolt at the top of the door retracts when the crossbar is pushed gently.
When paired with glass doors, tubular panics produce clean, unobstructed views and allow ample daylight to flow through building interiors. This makes them ideal for high-end contemporary buildings.
Designing for fast and easy egress during emergency scenarios is a primary objective for architects. The challenge is ensuring that safety systems do not interfere with an all-glass aesthetic intent. Panic devices that offer safety and security without compromising visual appeal are therefore preferred.
UL 305 4.3 states, “The ends of the crossbar or push pad shall be curved, guarded, or otherwise designed to prevent catching of the clothing of persons during exit.”
Curved crossbar ends are a key attribute to look for in glass panic devices. The benefits are twofold. First, they present a smooth, continuous flow of the hardware through glass doors, creating attractive streamlined visuals. Second, they enhance safety by preventing clothing and carrying bags from being caught on the end of the crossbar in an emergency exit scenario.
In many regions, evolving energy codes have essentially mandated thermally broken doors with insulating glass in exterior entrances. There are all-glass entrance systems that can accommodate tubular panics on standard 1” I.G. while handling the loads imposed by emergency exit tests required by UL.
Selecting the Right Manufacturer
Working with a reputable panic device manufacturer with years of experience can significantly reduce the risk of errors and expedite installations. They can provide the tailored services and technical support needed to overcome the unique challenges tubular panics and glass doors present. Here’s what to look for:
Established manufacturers also have greater fabrication capacities and customization capabilities. With thousands of possible panic device configurations, a manufacturer should be able to provide a panic handle for nearly every application. This includes tempered monolithic heavy glass doors, laminated tempered glass doors, insulating glass, aluminum rail and stile doors, hollow metal doors, wood doors, and balanced doors. Manufacturers should also be able to supply compatible manual strikes, electric strikes, or electric strikes with bolt position sensors.
The appeal of all-glass entrances is undeniable. Contemporary design, natural daylight diffusion, and maximum transparency are all hallmarks of a well-designed and thoughtfully specified system. As the popularity of tubular panic devices continues to grow, design and glass professionals must recognize the unique specification challenges they represent. When it comes to life safety, there are no cutting corners.
Understanding IBC, UL, and NFPA 101 requirements for panic devices, and identifying critical entrance design considerations is vital. Working with a certified glass temperer and reputable full-service manufacturer will ensure your glass entrance elegantly combines safety, aesthetic intent, security, and durability, while functioning properly for the lifetime of the building.
(This article originally ran in the April 2018 issue of Glass Magazine, www.GlassMagazine.com as 'Access Controlled: Glass Panic Devices')
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