Article in constructor and architect

For Future Constructor & Architect – April issue

Automatic doors are a commonplace feature in today’s society, but choosing the right
automation system involves a number of careful considerations. Will Walker, UK General
Manager of FAAC, one of the leading manufacturers of access automation systems,
explains some of the systems available.

Under the British Standard 7036:1996 code of safety at powered doors for pedestrian use and
the Disability Discrimination Act, all automatic door installations are required to fulfil certain
guidelines and regulations. To address these requirements, manufacturers now provide a range
of door operators for varying door sizes, traffic volumes, user types and budgets.

When specifying an automatic door system, a risk assessment should be carried out, taking into
account the lay-out of the door and the approach of traffic to the door. The entrance should be
adequate for the volume and type of traffic using the entrance and there should be no notices or
signs that may distract the user from the door. Escape routes and activation zones should also
be considered. As with most purchases budget is an important factor, but this should not be the
main driver in selecting a door automation system.

There are three main types of automatic door operators: sliding, swing and revolving. Sliding
doors are currently the most common type of automatic door and come in three main types:
straight sliding, curved sliding and telescopic. They are more costly than swing doors due to the
inclusion of the doors and/or screens required, but are inherently safer and easier to operate if
the area can accommodate the door.

It is a pre-requisite in the UK that all sliding doors are fitted with a monitored battery back-up
system that will allow the doors to fully open in the event of a power failure or emergency/fire
alarm signal. In some cases, a further evacuation system called ‘break-out’ is requested, which
allows either the door(s) and/or the side screen(s) to ‘break away’ or swing out in the direction of
escape. Generally, this would be requested by the local Authority or fire officer as a means of
increasing the ‘escapable area’ of the exit.

Swing door operators are the easiest of the three to install and generally the cheapest, as the
operators can be easily retrofitted to existing doors, although care is required in the placing of
sensors and activators. Most swing door operators can accommodate various modes of
operation from fully automatic, to push and go and manual operation.

Swing doors fall into two categories: high energy or low energy. High energy doors are designed
to manage heavy traffic flow and are normally used in busy or public areas. In most cases these
doors are fitted with safety devices to prevent the doors from contacting the user. They provide
a flexible solution in areas such as retail, health or transport, where they can help maintain free
traffic flow through doors with fast, automatic, hands free operation.

Low energy operators, as the name implies, have a reduced operating speed and in turn a
reduced kinetic energy. The weaker operation of the door means that the need for safety
devices may be eliminated in certain circumstances. However, this will limit its applications as
the energy may be insufficient to open or close doors in windy or draughty locations. It is
generally accepted that low energy doors should not be used for external doors due to their light
duty. They are designed to provide cost effective and reliable internal access for the elderly,
disabled or the domestic user.

Revolving Doors in their crudest form have been around for some 120 years and are the most
effective way of moving volumes of traffic without heating the outside world. Revolving doors
can have two, three or four wings or leaves depending on the type of traffic using the door. For
retail, transport and hospital applications then large two or three leaf doors are best suited, as
the compartment size is better able to accommodate trolleys, luggage or beds. Smaller,
pedestrian entrances would tend to have three or four leaf doors.

The revolving door is the most cost effective when it comes to energy conservation, as the door
is effectively ‘always open, always closed’, so that the transfer of heat and cold is kept to a
minimum. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology carried out an extensive study on
revolving doors which revealed that, on average, eight times as much air is exchanged when a
swing door is opened as opposed to a revolving door. It is, however, the most costly to install
and should always be installed with alternative means of escape or disabled access, unless the
door is in excess of 3000mm diameter.

In all automatic door installations, specifiers and installers should consult the British Standard
7036:1996 which provides information on the types of safety and activation devices, detection
and safety zones and other areas of concern, such as body traps.
For additional advice on automatic door operators, most manufacturers offer technical support
and training. To contact FAAC’s UK headquarters in Basingstoke, call 01256 318100, e-mail
sales@faac.co.uk or visit the web site www.faac.co.uk.


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