Security and Accessibility, Door Operators and the Locksmith

With extra effort and training, locksmiths can become accessibility and security experts.


In recent years, builders' hardware manufacturers have expanded their distribution of handicap access automatic door operators to lock wholesalers. Previously locksmiths largely avoided these products because they perceived them as unrelated to their daily activities in physical security. However...


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In recent years, builders' hardware manufacturers have expanded their distribution of handicap access automatic door operators to lock wholesalers. Previously locksmiths largely avoided these products because they perceived them as unrelated to their daily activities in physical security. However, enforcement of building accessibility codes and building owners' emphasis on security since the tragic events of Columbine and Sept. 11, 2001, causes locksmiths to consider accessibility in their daily security activities.

Automatic door operator sales and installation were once restricted to factory-owned or franchised dealers. However, the emergence of "low-energy" door operators offered by builders' hardware manufacturers like LCN, Dorma and Norton changed distribution of these products and made them available to locksmith wholesalers. Specialty contractors now have access to low-energy door operators.

Vigorous enforcement of accessibility laws and building owners' demands for security nearly forces locksmiths to consider installing low-energy swing door operators as part of their security offering. And who among the building trades is better qualified? Today's locksmith is already familiar with the tools and skills for installing door controls. He or she likely has a working knowledge of low voltage wiring from working with electric strikes and magnetic locks. Unprecedented training is available to locksmiths from manufacturers, wholesalers and their trade associations.

In 1990 Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a sweeping civil rights legislation with accessibility standards that requires public buildings to be accessible to disabled persons. All model and local building codes carry accessibility provisions, often stricter than the standards that accompany ADA.

Building owners feared that ADA would require expensive automatic "supermarket" door operators on their buildings. While high-speed operators provide accessibility, they are often impractical for use on restrooms, office doors or a swing door adjacent to a main entrance. Thus, manufacturers met and proposed a Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) standard that ultimately became American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard A-156.19, the standard for low-energy swing door operators. Unlike the standard for high-speed operators, ANSI A-156.10, the low-energy operators do not require safety equipment such as guide rails and presence sensors, provided doors do not exceed a safe weight and speed.

ADA legislation and local building codes do not require automatic door operators. However, they do limit opening force, which results in reduced closing force on doors with door closers installed. While ADA leaves the opening force limit on exterior doors to local authorities having jurisdiction, some model codes restrict opening force to as little as five pounds. The resulting closing force can be as low as 2.5 pounds due to friction within the hinges, locking hardware and the closer itself. Buildings with internal air pressure caused by prevailing winds or HVAC systems may keep doors from closing at all.

However, building codes typically allow up to 15 pounds manual opening force on a door installed with an automatic operator. The resulting closing force is enough to latch a security door in all but the most severe conditions. Further, many automatic door operator products have a "power boost close" feature that briefly increases closing force at the latch.

The locksmith who decides to expand his or her service offering to include handicap access products has the opportunity to participate in a rapidly growing market. This opportunity is not just limited to automatic door operators. It includes many other products such as lever locksets, low profile thresholds and wide-throw hinges that meet entrance width requirements.

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