Getting In, Getting Out

Door and door hardware manufacturers follow college and university needs closely. Their observations about the college market may provide facility managers with new ideas worth considering. That said, here’s a roundup of door and door hardware products that manufacturers believe are particularly useful to facility managers today.

Laminate Doors Take on Natural Wood

Laminate doors comprise eight percent to 10 percent of the door market, says Catherine Wilcke, marketing coordinator for the architectural door division of VT Industries, Inc., in Holstein, Iowa.

Certain pockets of the country purchase more laminate doors than others, continues Wilcke. “Texas is a huge laminate market,” she says. “We see a mix of laminate and wood throughout the Southeast, West Coast and Midwest. Customers in the Northwest, Northeast and Canada seem to prefer wood or wood veneer doors.”

Across the country, however, demand for laminate doors appears to be rising. Wilcke attributes this to the emerging importance of certified wood products, products built with wood from managed forests, which has raised the cost, both economic and environmental, of natural wood.

Benefits of laminate doors begin with low cost. VT Industries recently compared the cost of decorative laminate doors with six kinds of natural wood veneer doors. The company based the comparison on a 100-door project using three-ft. by seven-ft. particle core doors with 20-minute fire ratings. The comparison assumed the doors would all accept standard hardware. The results placed the total cost of a laminate door at $135. The closest competitor was red oak veneer, which cost $135 for the door plus $75 for field finishing. Anigre veneer doors ranked as the most expensive door in the comparison, with a total of $284 per door.

Wilcke says laminate doors also provide more consistent aesthetics compared to natural wood, whose qualities may vary from door to door. In addition, the range of available laminate patterns has expanded recently, increasing the selection available to customers.

Inadequate durability has limited the use of laminate doors in the past. Laminate edges tend to chip and peel. “Manufacturers have addressed this problem by applying the edge material before the face material,” Wilcke says. “We offer this as standard with our laminate products.”

Automatic Glass Doors for Security

The market for automatic sliding glass doors has grown with rising concerns about security, according to Mark Dugo, director of sales for Dor-O-Matic of Harwood Heights, Ill. “To increase security, you can install automated glass doors and tie them in with an electric strike,” he says. “A person at a desk inside can see individuals approaching the door, identify them and press a button that opens the door.

“A lot of colleges are installing these kinds of doors in residence halls to increase security on campuses located in areas where crime is a concern.”

Dugo adds that prices for automatic doors have fallen by about 10 percent in the past three years, as demand has attracted more suppliers and boosted competition.

Recessed Exit Devices That Can Take It

I-R Security and Safety, an Indianapolis-based division of Ingersoll Rand, has detected a growing interest in recessed exit devices among college and university administrators, says Cindy English, the firm’s marketing communications manager.

Originally developed to meet mandates established for California hospitals, these devices replace protruding panic bars with crossbars recessed into doors. When a door is opened, recessed exit devices do not protrude into the width of a doorway and so widen the effective opening.

Recessed hardware is also less susceptible to damage than push-bars. On campus, recessing the hardware into the door reduces the distance the unlatching mechanism travels as well as the likelihood that it will be repeatedly rammed by accident as students crowd through doors in corridors and at building exits, where these kinds of doors are typically used.

Electric control of push-bar hardware latches is also becoming important in the college market, says Trice Kasten, a spokesperson with Detex Corporation in New Braunfels, Texas. Detex recently introduced a new electric latch retraction product to tap into this trend.

In a survey of institutional locksmiths, Detex found a demand for electric “dogging” incorporated into mechanical exit devices. “Dogging” is the term applied to the task of retracting the latches on panic bar doors so that the doors can be opened from inside and out. Doors all across campus are often “dogged down” in the morning by retracting and fixing latches in open positions. In the evening, the operation is reversed, and the doors are locked from the outside. On some campuses, thousands of doors might have to be “dogged down” every morning and then reset every evening.

Electric latch retraction systems use timers to unlatch and relatch doors automatically at the appropriate times of day, reducing the need for manual management of these doors day in and day out.

Wall Switches That Weather the Storm

Early this year, Larco, a door accessory manufacturer in Brainerd, Minn., introduced a weather-resistant wall switch with campus ADA applications. Designed to withstand the elements, the new switch comes inside a sealed assembly with a rubber boot over the actuating plunger. The company believes the switch will last for more than 10 million operations.

“Typically, these switches mount on a wall near the door,” says Joe Schultz, sales manager with Larco. “But it’s important to put these kinds of switches in areas where they are easy to use. When a switch is on a wall on the same plane with a door, a person in a wheelchair has to get close enough to the wall to press the switch, back up to avoid the door as it swings open and then enter the building.

“We can mount our switches on a post set away from the building,” he continues. “This allows a user to press the switch on the post and keep right on going into the building.”

Hardwiring or a radio control system can activate the switch. According to Schultz, most customers choose the radio control system, whether the switches mount on a wall or a post. Radio-controlled switches cost $200 compared to $100 for hardwired switches. “But hardwiring the switches probably costs more than the $100 increase in price for radio control,” Schultz says.

Choosing the right doors and door hardware may seem a small decision. But when you factor in security and durability, it’s obviously an important decision. Scanning these product lines makes sense every now and then, especially now, when getting in and getting out of buildings has gotten a little easier and a little more cost effective.