top of page

Which Way Does Your Exit Door Need to Swing?

One of the most common questions we get asked as fire engineers relates to door swing directions and how Performance Solutions can be brought into the equation.

fire engineers door


Under clause D2.20 of the National Construction Code 2019 Amendment 1 (NCC), exit doors must:

  • Swing in the direction of egress travel unless it serves a building or part not exceeding 200 m2 or is a sanitary compartment or is a farm building (South Australia).

  • Not encroach on the required width of required exits (stairways, ramps, passageways) if it is likely to impede the path of travel (spoiler: it almost always does).

The intent of this requirement is to promote an unobstructed and smooth flow of occupants from a fire-affected area to an area of comparative safety.

Exceptions to the rule (floor area threshold and compartment use) are applied to account for the potentially lower population in smaller spaces thereby balancing architectural needs with fire and life safety.

Problem Definition

afraid fire engineering

A door swinging against the direction of travel creates an obstruction to those seeing egress as it occupies floor space local to the exit point but also can create a situation where some people are forced into the empty space behind the open door and become trapped by the flow of foot traffic.

Possible Solutions

Aside from the obvious solution to swing the door in the direction of travel and thus complying with the DtS provisions of the NCC, fire safety engineers can get involved with Performance Solutions to justify the reverse swinging of the doors.

Things to consider:

  • What sort of people will you have in your building and will they be aware of this inward swinging arrangement?

  • Will occupants receive special training relating specifically to this issue to implement in fire drills?

  • Is the quantity of people within the building known? And is it less than what the NCC would specify under their standard population densities? Perhaps the lower quantum of people could reduce the risk of becoming trapped behind the door due to less queuing.

  • Are there any non-required fire safety systems in the building which may offset any additional time required to negotiate reverse swinging doors?


This type of Performance Solution is fairly common in industry and, like all Performance Solutions, must be carefully considered against the remainder of the building's fire and life safety systems to ensure a balance approach to occupant safety is achieved.

As always, we're ready to talk to you about your next project and what sort of Performance Solutions can be accommodated to achieve your desired outcomes.


bottom of page