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Part 1: Door and Hardware Selection Factors
By James Piper, P.E.
September 2008 -
Doors & Hardware
Doors and door hardware have never received much attention during the design process for new construction or renovation projects. Beyond making certain that the selection meets minimum functionality and code requirements, more attention is usually paid to the look and finish of the door and its hardware than to how well they will function over time. But what goes unnoticed by most stakeholders during design can become an unending chore for the operating staff to keep buildings accessible and secure.
Not that long ago, it was possible to get away with ignoring door and door hardware requirements. Doors and door hardware, and the functions they were expected to perform, were relatively simple. The biggest operational concern was keeping the doors working properly. Security concerns were limited to having a properly operating lock.
Today the situation has changed. Doors and door hardware no longer are simple, low-cost components. They are now expected to perform more functions beyond simply looking good and locking. And potential conflicts among these functions are not uncommon. For example, safety requirements for building occupants often are in direct conflict with security requirements for the building. As a result, doors and door hardware can no longer be taken for granted. Facility executives should use the same approach when evaluating door options that they apply in selecting other building systems and components.
Door and door hardware selection goes beyond simply matching components to the needs of the facility. It should also take into consideration the costs associated with maintaining what has been installed. Failure to consider maintenance requirements will result in staff spending too much time and money trying to keep doors and door hardware functioning as they are supposed to. Consider that poorly or improperly functioning doors and door hardware can easily compromise building security and the safety of the occupants. Additionally, they can negatively impact a building’s energy use. What’s more, they can cause damage to surrounding building components, including floors and walls.
Before one can even begin the door and door hardware selection process, it is important to understand what factors particular to the installation will affect their long-term performance. For most applications, these include life-safety, emergency egress, loss prevention and security for building occupants. Each of these factors should be examined for each application to determine the door’s performance level. While all will apply to some extent, some factors will be more important than others for that installation.
Another thing to consider is the type of facility where the door is being installed. For example, doors installed in educational facilities, such as middle schools or high schools, will be subjected to an entirely different type and level of use and abuse than doors installed in a typical office or retail building.
Consider the weight and size of the door. One of the biggest mistakes involving door installation is the use of lightweight hardware on heavyweight or oversized doors. Larger and heavier doors require stronger, heavier gauge hardware if they are to stand up to even normal use. Undersized hardware will wear more quickly, resulting in misalignment of the door, difficult operation and security compromises.
Another factor that should be considered is the level of use that is expected for each door. A typical residential application might be subjected to no more than 20 cycles per day and have a service life of 30 years or more. A typical commercial application will be subjected to hundreds of cycles per day. Even so, a properly selected door for that application should have a service life of 25 to 30 years. Install the same residential-style door in that commercial application, and it will be lucky to last even five years.
Environmental factors should also be considered. Doors constantly exposed to high moisture levels, such as in facilities located in coastal areas, should have finishes and hardware that are highly resistant to corrosion. Without proper protective finishes, doors installed in this type of environment can fail in as little as five years. Door hardware that is not resistant to corrosion can stick and bind, making doors difficult to operate and eventually, damaging the door, the hardware, or both.
In dusty environments, dirt can load up on hinges and other door hardware and interfere with door operation. Doors may not fully close, or the build-up may prevent latches from closing and operators from opening doors, compromising both safety and security. Over time, this build-up can accelerate wear on hardware components, resulting in early failures.
Temperature extremes can also interfere with door operation. Changes in temperature can cause door materials to expand and contract. Extreme changes in temperature can result in binding between the door and the door frame. This binding will increase wear on door components, and cause physical damage to the door, the door frame and the door hardware.
Another factor to consider is standardization. For maintenance personnel to respond quickly to door issues, it is necessary to stock a range of repair and replacement parts. In facilities with a large number of doors, this can result in having to maintain an extensive and costly inventory. It will also increase maintenance costs as maintenance personnel, when responding to a work order, have to visit the site, determine the type of replacement component required, draw the item from inventory, then return to the site to perform the repairs. With standardization, staff can take a limited number of widely used items with them, reducing both response time and maintenance costs.
Standardization of replacement hardware components will reduce the size and cost of the inventory that should be maintained. But standardization does not mean that the same hardware components will be used on every door throughout the facility. Different types of doors and different applications will have varying hardware requirements. Hardware will still have to be matched to the requirements for the particular application. But standardization will allow facility executives to maintain a minimum number of replacement components suitable for the range of applications that exist within their facility.
For Doors and Hardware, Think Long-Term
Part 2: The Role of BHMA Door Standards