Door Hardware: Security Solution

Proper attention to specifying door hardware is essential for maximizing facilities’ security efforts

By James Piper  

When maintenance and engineering managers consider building security issues, door hardware generally does not place high on the list of priorities. Systems such as access control, alarm, and surveillance receive far greater attention. But using the wrong type of door hardware can negate the effectiveness of many of the other security measures.

Even worse, the wrong type of door hardware can hamper to those who have a legitimate need to gain access to a facility. Compounding the problem is the requirement that doors and door hardware must meet accessibility requirements.

The Role of Door Hardware

Door hardware selection impacts many aspects of the operation and use of a facility. Doors are the first building component that visitors and occupants come in contact with. If managers want their facilities to make a good first impression, then all hardware components must present a good appearance and must be in good working condition.

Door hardware must also be capable of standing up to the normal wear and tear that comes from use and abuse. Hardware that is not properly matched to the needs of the application will create maintenance and security problems for managers.

Frequently, these problems are blamed on the door itself when, in reality, they can be traced back to poorly performing door hardware — doors that are difficult to open or close, that open or close too quickly or too slowly, or that stick open or closed. All of these common problems result from faulty door hardware and will compromise building security, disrupt building operations and increase maintenance costs.

Typical door hardware components include hinges, locksets, panic hardware, closers, stops and holders, thresholds, weather stripping, and tracks and guides. While all play important roles in the proper operation of doors, the ones that play key roles in maintaining the facility’s security include the hinges, locksets, panic hardware, and closers. Matching the features of the hardware components to the needs of the application is the only method of ensuring adequate building security without interfering with the operation of the facility.

Components of Security

In response to changing security demands from managers, manufacturers have introduced a number of new products. While security is a major driving force behind many of these products, other factors such as the need for low maintenance, durable door hardware components have driven their development.

It wasn’t that long ago that a simple key lock on a door provided the level of security needed for most applications. Control access to the keys controlled security within the facility.

But keyed access, while simple and inexpensive, has serious drawbacks when it comes to maintaining security. Keys could be lost or duplicated. Doors could be propped or held open. The use of keys did not provide a log of who entered the facility and when, or where they went within the facility. While issuing keys still is sufficient for some facilities, new security needs dictate greater controls over access into and within facilities.

One of the most significant trends in locksets is the movement to keyless locks. Keys have long represented a major security threat and maintenance cost to managers. Keys can be readily lost or duplicated. When employees leave, keys are not always recovered. Re-keying building entrances or portions of building interiors is costly and time consuming. Also, it is difficult or impossible to track people’s entry or exit in keyed buildings.

Managers have a number of keyless lock systems to consider, making it possible to install one that meets the security and access requirements of their particular facility. Mechanical and electronic keypad systems, most requiring no batteries or wiring, can serve as direct replacement of keyed locksets. While they do not provide a record of who accessed the door or when, they do eliminate many of the other disadvantages of keyed lock systems.

More recently, self-contained, electronic keypad access systems have been introduced that make use of individual user codes for access. Since each user must enter his or her particular code, units can track use of the door and can be changed easily should it become necessary to change or delete a particular individual’s access code.

Card-access systems can be either standalone or connected to a central monitoring station. In standalone systems, cards are programmed to present the proper access code to the system. With no wiring or computer requirements, the standalone system offers a reasonable level of security without the expense of having to connect each door lockset to a central station. Many standalone units can provide a limited history of door use and are well suited for use in applications with fewer than 200 users. 

Central monitoring stations allow full tracking of door entry and exit. Access through any door can be modified from the central station. In the event of an emergency, all door locks can be bypassed or locked. Central monitoring systems are best suited for larger, multi-building facilities, particularly those with unusual security requirements. In the event of a lost or stolen access card, re-keying can be done electronically.

Proximity readers also have become more widely available. They require no physical contact between the reader and the card or tag. Using radio-frequency technology, cards or tags need only be passed near the reader. With no physical contact, readers can be mounted behind a protective covering to prevent damage from vandalism or the elements. The lack of physical contact between the reader and card or tag also reduces maintenance requirements. 

While keypads, cards, and proximity tags can provide varying levels of security, some applications demand more. For these applications, biometric verification devices can provide rapid identification of individual users based on their fingerprints, handprints, or retina scan.

Hardware Evolution

While the secure access portion of door hardware has received much attention, it is not the only hardware element managers must consider. If the door itself is less secure than the lock mechanism, it becomes a relatively simple matter to simply bypass the lock to gain unauthorized entry. Door security is only as good as its weakest point.

A common problem with heavy-use doors is loose, worn or poorly aligned hinges. Hinges are subjected to high levels of stress and wear. If they go out of adjustment, they can cause damage to the door or the doorframe. Uncorrected, this damage will result in sticking doors or difficult operation. Sufficient damage can lead to the failure of the door, resulting in a breach in security.

While two- and three-hinge door installations are the most common, continuous geared hinges are gaining use in applications with high-traffic. In these applications, managers have found that it is common for conventional door hinges to wear or loosen sufficiently from the frame to allow the door to sag in as little as six months.

Full-length hinges distribute the door’s weight over its entire length, eliminating the stress that results in sagging. Continuous hinges are available for both wood and hollow metal doors and frames.

When door closers do not operate properly, two things happen; door latches, hinges and frames can be damaged, and building security can be compromised. If doors are opened beyond their normal range, hinges can be torn away from jambs. If a closer allows a door to close too quickly, it will slam, stressing lock assemblies. If a closer operates too slowly, the door might hang and not fully close, compromising security and the door’s fire rating.

New-generation closers are designed with limits to help prevent overextending the operating range of the door, as well as relief valves and oil-bypass ports that better regulate the rate at which a door closes, reducing damage to closers and other door components.

Panic bars, like door-access systems, are going electronic. When installed on a door that uses an electric locking system, panic bars can be incorporated into centralized access systems. As a result, the panic bars can be remotely locked and unlocked according to preset schedules. In an emergency, all or selected bars can be locked or unlocked remotely.

When selecting door hardware components, managers should start with an examination of the particular application. What level of use will the door be subjected to? Is it an application where abuse and vandalism can reasonably expected? What level of security is required? Can that level of security be provided on an individual door basis or is a central system required?

Remember too that no matter how well planned and secure the installation, performance and security will suffer without proper maintenance. Managers must make certain that the required programs are in place to support the new door hardware.

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  posted on 3/1/2004   Article Use Policy

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