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Standard 2.9 (Escape) states: ‘Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, the occupants, once alerted to the outbreak of the fire, are provided with the opportunity to escape from the building, before being affected by fire or smoke.’
2.9.21 Electric locking devices that unlock on electrical power being withdrawn
Where there is a choice of escape routes and the doors on one direction of escape are fitted with devices giving mechanical escape which operate on body pressure alone to BS EN 1125: 2008 or by the use of a lever handle or push pad to BS EN 179: 2008, the alternative escape route could be fitted with fail unlocked, electric locking device, such as an electro-magnetic lock. These are devices that require electrical power to be withdrawn from them to unlock.
Aberdeen City Council
The building warrant application is for a new school and the referral relates to Mandatory Standard 2.9. Specifically, to guidance clause 2.9.21 in respect of electro-magnetic locks (mag-locks). The guidance states that mag-locks may be used where there is a choice of escape routes and the doors on one direction of escape are fitted with devices giving mechanical escape which operate on body pressure alone (non mag-locked). In this instance the applicant has indicated that; “Difficulties are being experienced with children who get upset and leave the school during class time.” and “There is doubt whether the guidance is appropriate considering the risk associated with school pupils leaving the building unsupervised.”
The view of Scottish Ministers
On behalf of Scottish Ministers, the Building Standards Division has considered all the information submitted in this case and their view is set out below.
The applicant wishes “Access Controlled” doors to be fitted with mag-locks within the school. The key area of doubt is in relation to compliance with standard 2.9 and whether the proposed access control system within the school is appropriate given that in some instances there is no alternative exit with devices giving mechanical escape which operate on body pressure alone (non mag-locked). The proposal indicates that the electronic locking devices will release the door by push button and are installed to meet all aspects described within clause 2.9.21. Therefore, the focus of this Ministerial View is on whether the proposal adversely affects occupants opportunity to escape should they wish to evacuate.
BS 7273-4:2015 Code of practice for the operation of fire protection measures – Part 4: Actuation of release mechanisms for doors states, “in principle, actuation of release mechanisms is intended to occur in response to any of the following conditions:
operation of the fire detection and alarm system, whether by operation of a manual call point or activation of an automatic fire detector
any failure of the fire detection and alarm system including system error
any electrical power failure and
in the case of electronically locked doors, activation of a manual release control"
Concerns regarding residual magnetism within these devices, thus potentially holding a door closed despite activation of the alarm or local break glass switch have been previously expressed. The verifier has however indicated that “it is the verifiers understanding that this concern may no longer be valid with no recorded cases of residual magnetism. In addition, double pole switches provide extra assurance that the active system of release will operate directly and without failure. With this in mind, there is doubt whether the provision of a non mag-locked escape is still necessary.”
It has also been indicated that the school building will have public access on occasion however, this access throughout the building will be limited. The proposal also indicates that “the public areas will always have a 2nd means of escape via doors that are openable by a single action.”
Having carefully considered all the information submitted in this case, it is the view of Scottish Ministers that the proposals do meet the requirements of Standard 2.9.