The vexed question of fire door compliance and how that fits into accessibility and security requirements is one which causes public sector specifiers a headache.
At Astra we fit our concealed closers onto dozens of local authority and housing association
projects every year and find that many social housing specifiers are really struggling to
understand how to make their flat entrance doors work as fire doors, and comply with the
Equality Act and Building Regs – let alone Secured by Design and PAS 24 compliant.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the FSO) came into force in October 2006
and brought the common parts of blocks of flats within the scope of mainstream fire safety
legislation for the first time. Since flat entrance doors are critical to the safety of the
common parts in the event of a fire within a flat, the FSO requires them to be fire-resisting
The strength or size (opening and closing force) of the door closer is critical to this. The
closer must be strong enough to close the door and latch it reliably to comply with fire
regulations. But it should not be so vicious that residents fight to open it – often getting so
fed up with struggling to open their own front door that they will often attempt to disable
the closer – leading to the door not complying with fire requirements. A vicious circle.
Lots of factors need to be taken into account when selecting the size of closer for a door –
the weight of the door, the prevailing environmental conditions, air pressure, the use of the
door, and, critically, the width of the door. We encounter many narrow doors with a Size 3
on flat entrances that are nigh-on impossible to open, especially for older and disabled
The current standard for fire doors (BS EN 1198) is very prescriptive, and, we believe,
leading to a great deal of confusion for specifiers. It states that, on fire doors, a size 3 closer
must be used, regardless of the size of the door. But in real life situation, not only stifles
innovation it also means that many doors are not actually complying with UK Building
We believe that the universal adherence to selecting a size 3 closer, regardless of the size of
the door and the real life situation means that many doors are not actually complying with
UK Building Regulations. It is all very well to carry out torque force calculations in laboratory
conditions on 1m wide doors, those of us working in the field know that the outcome of
using a size three closer on a narrower door of 750mm for example, is very different. A size
3 closer exerts an opening force of 30N on a metre wide door, but on 750mm door that
increases to 40N on the leading edge. In many cases it is nigh on impossible to achieve
reasonable opening forces using a size 3 closer on a narrower door and a much more
sensible – and compliant – option would be to use a correctly adjusted size 1 or 2 closer.
Using a size 3 closer, regardless of conditions can result in a door that is very difficult to
open, especially if it is not opened at the leading edge as is so often the case when people
are struggling with shopping, buggies, wheelchairs or walking aids. And these doors are
either being rejected by Building Control Officers; they are also being altered to power
down the closer, negating CE Marks and making the door intrinsically unsafe. Very few
specifiers seem to realise that powering down a size 3, CE marked overhead closer makes
the CE Mark null and void and potentially puts them in a risky situation regarding liability
should the worst happen.
We are calling for changes to the standard and it seems like that could be happening – albeit
slowly as is usually the case with standards legislation. In the meantime we are urging our
social housing customers to use common sense and select the correct size closer for the
actual doors being used every day by actual people. WE often supply sample closers on
social housing projects so that tenants can get a real sense of how their door will work in
actuality, not on an architect’s drawing. After all, the door is one of the very few working
parts of a building. And if the entrance door fails, the whole building fails.