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Security Access Turnstiles

Updated: Nov 15, 2018

This article discusses turnstile types, relevant codes impacting their design and installation, and the new code reference to Security Access Turnstiles.

Turnstiles have been around for over a century, although their design, use and application has evolved as new technologies have immerged. They are in wide spread use around the world managing the flow of people from one area to another. They can be found in amusement parks, office lobbies, mass transit stations, industrial facilities, stadiums and many other locations.

They come in many styles and configurations, are used in both indoor and outdoor locations, and when used for security applications, are generally integrated with electronic access control systems to restrict passage to authorized persons with valid credentials. Both IBC and NFPA 101 regulate their use for new construction, which is the focus of this discussion.

In 2015, NFPA 101 introduced new language for “Security Access Turnstiles,” often referred to as "Optical Turnstiles" in most industry circles. In 2018, IBC followed suit and introduced similar language. A Security Access Turnstile, by design and operation, is uniquely different than the traditional waist-high or full-height turnstile that uses spinning/rotating arms.  

The Security Access Turnstile uses swinging/retracting barriers that provide clear, unobstructed passage when fully open. For this reason, the codes are less strict in their use and application, and also recognize the full passage width for egress calculations. More importantly, the new language gives designers, installers, and code enforcement official’s regulatory criteria for a product technology that has been in use for decades.

Despite the new language for Security Access Turnstiles, there is still considerable confusion in how to interpret and apply the individual code sections for each type of turnstile. Unfortunately, this often results in poor design choices and/or non-compliant installations. Still, the new language is a positive step in the right direction, and it is in everyone’s best interest to carefully read the new language or seek out consultation for their next project.

Also keep in mind that most states will not adopt the IBC 2018 Edition until 2021 (3 year lag), and some states will take even longer given their particular adoption process.  As a matter of good design practice, it is best to look at both the currently adopted IBC edition for the project location and the IBC 2018 edition. NFPA 101 is also a great reference, as it is considered the preeminent authority on means of egress and safety to life, and includes additional commentary on the practical use and application of the code.

Future blog posts will include other security entry technologies, with discussion about technology, applications, codes, compliance standards, and other areas of interest.

Dale Gigandet

Security Entry Consultants


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