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The Basics of Photoluminescent Products  

By Joe Gallagher, Senior Project Manager – PL Egress Division

One of the ultimate ways to add safety to any egress stairwell is through Photoluminescent signage and path markings. But, there’s a lot more to it than you may think. Let us introduce you to these products and discuss a few ways they can benefit your property.

What is Photoluminescent (PL) Anyway?

Photoluminescent is any material that absorbs light energy and then releases that energy in the form of light. Essentially it is a “glow in the dark” type product. Photoluminescent (PL) is used in luminescent egress path marking and photoluminescent stairwell wayfinding signage because it can still be seen even if the power is out, during a fire, flood or other disaster situation. One example of this in action was in the World Trade Center during 9/11 attack. The World Trade Center was on of the first facilities to install PL as an egress path marking system in the late 1990s. Survivors listed the PL markings as one of the top 3 things that helped them exit the building safely. However, at the Pentagon, electrical systems alone where insufficient because the buildings emergency lighting system was damaged, impeding egress for some of the occupants.

Code Compliance Woes

While the biggest benefit to installing luminescent egress path marking is, of course, the improvements to safety it provides to those working or visiting the building. The reality is that there are a number of building code requirements regarding such marking that overlap, conflict and are downright confusing. Some of these include NFPA 101 – 5000 requirements as well as IBC 1024, division 10 101443, 101447, and 104600. Each of these is a precise requirement that must be followed to the letter or you risk the chance of having a project stalled, getting shut down, needing to demo and reinstall cast-in-place stair nosings, all of which are undesirable.

With so many projects being broken into core & shell, interiors and flooring, you have tile and millwork involved at different levels, it can be very confusing. It is easy to make a big mistake with each trade focusing on their division of the code and no one understanding the overlap, exemptions and caveats that can kill your schedule and bottom line. Call us if you need a team that understands the code requirements across the various divisions, to assure you have the spec correct and install the right product in the right locations.

For more information please read the Photoluminescent Egress: A Critical Safety Specification article in The Construction Specifier.  

When Should I Consider PL Installation?

There are three occasions when installation of PL egress path marking are commonly installed:

  • New Construction – The International Council of Code Officials adopted the 2012 International Building Code 1024 and International Fire Code Chapter 11 which mandate that all non-residential buildings over 75 feet in height must install Photoluminescent Exit Path Markings in all enclosed emergency stairwells.
  • Building Remodels – Most high rise buildings, 4 floors or more, built before 2000 are now eligible for city and or federal monies to update. PL Egress Systems are now standard with NFPA 101 – 5000 requirements as well as IBC 1024.
  • Vertical Expansions – Adding floors to an existing building and integrating new egress stairwells with existing stairwells and making all the path markings consistent.

In each case, Commercial Flooring works with the general contractor, building owner or facility manager to determine what options are needed based on code requirements for the situation, plus what options are desired from a stylistic standpoint. The overall results are both attractive and functional–what’s better than that?

Photoluminescence Egress Path Products

Having an egress path marking strategy pays off

  • Consistent path marking layouts throughout the egress paths
  • Consistent luminescent color and brightness with coordinated products
  • Compliance with the build codes, even the tricky ones
  • Smooth certificate of occupancy

Luminescent signage and path marking is a very big deal. Not having the proper items installed now could mean big money later when you have to essentially rip out stairs or surrounding areas to do what you should have done the first time. Plus, with the often confusing codes in existence today it is vital you are on top of getting PL marking in place.

If you are wondering which of these codes applies to your build, give us a call and we will review it with you and give you our recommendations. When you choose Corporate Floors, you are assured of meeting all PL egress codes, a safe working environment for your staff and visitors, and a job well done with unsurpassed durability.

We look forward to helping you with choosing and installation of your luminescent signage products.

CODES FOR PHOTOLUMINESCENT EGRESS

Important building code sections requiring photoluminescent (PL) exit path markings are:

  • International Building Code (IBC) 1023. 9, “Floor ID Signs”
    • Photoluminescent stairway identification signs shall be included in interior exit stairways. This is effective from January 2009.
  • IBC 1025, “Egress Path Products”
    • Photoluminescent markings shall be provided in interior exit stairways of building types A, B, E, I, M, and R-1. This section became effective in January 2009.
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, and 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, Sections 7.2.2.5.5, “Exit Stair Path Markings” and 7.10, “Marking of Means of Egress.”
    • Effective from January 2009, the section makes photoluminescent exit stair path markings optional for all buildings, new and existing, regardless of height.
  • California Building Standards Code (CBSC), Chapter 10, “Means of Egress in Group A, E, I, R-1, R-2, and R-3”
    • Required in occupancies in exit corridors leading to emergency exit stairwells. This was made effective in January 2008.
  • General Services Administration (GSA) P-100, Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service, Section 7. 8, “Exit Path Markings”
    • Required in all new and existing buildings, and effective from March 2005.
Photos courtesy of Balco using IllumiTread™ Egress Path Products