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Doors Open to New Era of Technology, Security
When you consider the structural elements of a building, what comes to mind? Beams? Certainly. Roof? Absolutely? Girders? Definitely. But doors and the door hardware are vital structural components to buildings of any size. They provide not only structure and support, but also a security and safety component that is vital for facility managers and occupants alike.
Thomas Westerkamp, owner of the Westerkamp Group, LLC, says today’s biggest door and door hardware product “must haves” for commercial applications include durability (hardening), proper design, proper fit, and code compliance for the specific application. State-of-the-art trends are toward electronic hardware with intrusion alarms and hardened door and hardware components such as hidden hinges, locked hinge pins, reinforcing plates for locks, and remote computer-controlled systems.
“What makes computer systems state-of-the-art is that there is an unlimited capacity for continuous improvement. Programmers will develop new software programs to improve door and hardware design,” Westerkamp says. “They will build on some of the innovations already available, such as biometric readers, facial recognition, electronic hardware, motion sensors, and camera technology, to name a few.”
Ralph Vasami, executive director of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA), says that technology has continued to advance in the door and door hardware industry. The advent of smart technology has created the need for door hardware to be integrated into the smart building protocols that facility managers are using to drive many of the other systems in their facilities. Technology has advanced to allow for remote location control for “touchless” access and security.
“With these advancements have also come the need to focus on energy consumption through these power supplies,” Vasami says. “With increasing demand for electronic access control, BHMA standards have been adding requirements to ensure their reliability. For example, a recent standard was developed to measure battery life. There have also been updates to some products to address energy usage.”
Security in an insecure world
Oftentimes, a building’s doors are the only thing keeping the “bad guys” out. In view of the more common occurrences of break-ins, security is an increasing concern in schools, commercial areas, shopping malls, and places of business. As Westerkamp explains, years ago, facility managers made hardware and door purchases. Now, specifiers seek expert advice from the manufacturers’ representatives or safety and security consultants as the decisions take on more meaning and greater potential negative consequences.
“Security needs will always be important for facility managers,” Vasami says. “The level of security is usually determined by the type and use of the facility being secured. Door and door hardware products come with a variety of security features to match the needs of the facility.”
All BHMA lock standards include an array of security tests such as impact and torque resistance in three different grade levels to facilitate selection.
“Installation practices also have a role in safety and security. If a storefront door has only a recommended one-eighth-inch gap between the two panels, it is more likely to deter a pry bar than a larger gap,” Westerkamp says. “A crash bar anchored at both top and bottom, rather than one or the other, likewise will be more likely to prevent unauthorized entry.” Also, keep in mind that deliverers frequently prop doors open at the hinges, which misaligns the doors. The latch does not enter the strike cleanly to the full depth, offering an invitation to a break-in.
“And remember, intruders can more easily remove glass panels only pressed into the frame than those designed to install inside the frame,” Westerkamp says. “Safety glass rather than tempered glass is resistant to damage from heavy instrument blows. You can prevent attempts to shoot the glass by installing bullet-proof glass.”
Just as door designs and safety considerations have evolved, so too have the building codes and subsequent door and door hardware requirements.
As Vasami explains, changes to building codes have resulted in refinements of the code requirements to improve technical accuracy of the provisions addressing door locking and door operations, and language revisions to help the codes be more consistently interpreted, applied, and enforced.
“Additional provisions in the building codes have addressed applications where the codes were previously silent,” Vasami says. “Examples include child abduction prevention systems in healthcare facilities; increased locations where electrical locking systems are permitted in the means of egress; and door locking within educational occupancies.”
Specifically, doors and door hardware codes include forty-two ANSI/BHMA 156 group standards, such as:
- A156.1 Butts and Hinges
- A156.4 Door Control Closers
- A156.13 Mortise Locks
- A156.24 Exit Locks and Alarms
- A156.115 Steel and Wood Door Preparation
As Westerkamp points out, an important part of these standards for commercial application is the grade of the door hardware. Bored locks, for example, have a rated life measured in expected number of cycles to failure. Grade 1 (Commercial) – 1,000,000 cycles to failure; grade 2 – 400,000; and grade 3 (residential) – 200,000. Buying a residential lock for a commercial application will result in greater cost, less security and safety, and shorter life.
“The federal government has stated that all access means must have easy approved entrance, good security against intrusion, and safety and quick egress in an emergency,” Westerkamp says. The government also has additional special regulations that apply to ADA access, which can be found at www.access-board.gov.
BHMA recommends that facility managers always specify products that are BHMA Certified to ensure they are getting the level of quality and performance desired. The BHMA Certified Products Directory features some 15,000 products that are certified to the 40-plus BHMA standards that are approved by ANSI.
“Working with specialists in the architectural community to help determine the best products for the intended use will ensure that they are selecting the right products for the right applications,” Vasami says.
Maura Keller is a freelance writer based in Plymouth, Minnesota.
Doors Open to New Era of Technology, Security