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By David Lewellen
Doors & Hardware Article Use Policy
Factors to consider in life-cycle cost include labor for installation and maintenance. Westerkamp says there is no easy, uniform way to calculate those expected costs in advance, but many companies keep maintenance records that can give an idea — or they can look up labor timetable documents.
"Openings over the next decade are going to be considerably different than they were a decade ago," Hallgren says. Electronics will play a greater role in function and security, but they will also become obsolete as quickly as a typical computer, even if a door's mechanical components are as durable as ever. "As soon as you add a wire, you shorten the life cycle," Sabatini says.
That rapid advance also means that new features may become affordable in more situations. Westerkamp says that nuclear plants are installing locks that respond to iris or fingerprint scans. But in a few years, the cost may come down to the point where pharmaceutical labs and other medium-security facilities might consider a similar strategy.
Hallgren points out that a decade ago, when hotels switched to electronic locks, they were operated by swipe cards. Now, several different versions of proximity cards and smart cards are on the market.
Sometimes, it's possible to upgrade a door's electronics while leaving the mechanical systems intact. "Who knows what the technology's going to be five years from now."
Functionality becomes a security issue when a door or a component fails suddenly, making regular inspections and maintenance that much more important. Regular internal inspection can also point out when it's time to replace a door. Exterior, high-traffic doors get more wear and tear, and Hallgren says that if there's a back door where freight is unloaded, "it gets hammered." Interior doors may get abuse, too, such as banging from gurneys in hospitals. "Healthcare is a very abusive environment," Sabatini agrees, mentioning elementary schools as another example.
Often, of course, the maintenance is simpler than replacing an entire opening — if an inspection catches a worn hinge, replacing it promptly will prolong the life of everything else in the system. "Most doors are taken so for granted, they're not looked at until they don't work," Hallgren says.
Any time a door needs to be replaced, Westerkamp says, managers should check out new developments, mechanical as well as electronic, such as more robust hardware and locks with fewer moving parts to wear out.
Every decision involves tradeoffs. A three-point lock, with latches at the top, middle and bottom and operated by a single panic bar attached to a rod, offers much greater security, but will require more maintenance. Hallgren says that for such fixtures, facilities need to create a regular preventive maintenance program, rather than simply fixing problems as they occur.
Another tradeoff is appearance versus function. Sabatini points out that metal has a much higher fire rating than wood, but "people love the look of wood." One compromise is a metal door with wood cladding or laminate, which is popular in hospital or university settings that are "high cycle, high use, high abuse."
Sabatini suggests that facility managers should press architects for simple solutions, with easily available replacement parts and/or training for maintenance workers. A staffer who improvises a solution to a problem "may have violated the rating for that opening, or the warranty," he warns. "Find a good resource in your area for ongoing training of staff."
David Lewellen is a freelance writer based in Glendale, Wis.
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