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Door Hardware In Modern Life

Posted:  May 02, 2016
A fellow architectural rep was previously employed at a school for mentally handicapped adults. She said that leaving that facility where everything was automated – the doors, the faucets, the lights – was a bit of a shock to the system. She would often walk into a room (after having to negotiate opening it herself with the door lever) only to wave her arms around in the dark hoping to trigger the motion-activated lights.

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The Far Side, by Gary Larson

Honestly, the day is probably coming when this kind of automation is going to become a part of everyone’s day-to-day life, and we will look back at modern door locks, closers and exits with the same kind of confusion as we would today at ancient door pulls and latches.  

As a newcomer to the hardware industry, though, there are a lot of modern door accoutrements that most people don’t notice.

-    Closers.  They can be adjusted to slam doors or have them whoosh shut so slowly you barely notice they’re moving.  When I discovered this a light came on – I can’t be the only person who thought I might be to blame for the slamming door?

-    Magnetic hold opens and other electrified hardware.  I worked in a science building with a very high tech fire alarm system.  Fire doors between wings were held open (I came to learn) with magnetic hold opens, and if an alarm went off in a different wing, every fire door would release and swing shut.  It was creepy if the alarm was in a remote wing and the only clue was the silent closing of the doors.

-    Knobs vs. levers.  According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, door openers in public spaces must be able to be opened without any extreme grasping, pinching or twisting to allow for people with arthritis or other mobility issues to use these doors.  I always thought that the disappearance of knobs in favor of levers in public spaces was a fad or aesthetic concern.

-    Lever returns.  While these may also be aesthetic issues, did you know this kind of lever is actually a fire code issue, as it can snag a fire hose?  They’re also an accessibility issue, as they can grab onto clothing.  As a klutz who has caught a belt loop, purse strap, or sweater on these levers more than once, I appreciate this distinction.

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