New Developments and Trends Take Door Hardware to the Next Level

By Travis Rains

“Once it starts, it doesn’t stop,” says Bob Massey, president and CEO at Massey’s Plate Glass & Aluminum Inc. in Branford, Conn., of the use of access control technology on commercial door entrances. Acquiring the hottest access control products and staying ahead of the curve is a priority for many. Still, as technology in the industry advances, aesthetics are an increasingly important part of the discussion.

The doorman, Massey says, has been replaced. With many companies pursuing doors that can be opened electronically or hands-free, he says the days of hardware being considered “boring” are over. Now, thanks to the prevalence of technology, it’s a challenge that comes with continuous education.

“What’s going on right now is crazy, and the biggest problem we have, besides the wait times, is everything has to interface together,” Massey says. “We’ve gotten so sophisticated that everything gets locked electronically.”

And everyone wants to get in on the ground floor of those advancements that center on transparency and workplace safety. These developments include hands-free mechanisms and the ability to remotely lock and unlock doors from cellphones and other mobile devices.

“Something that was the big streamline five years ago is something else today, and everybody wants to be up on it,” Massey says. “They want to have the newest trend for electronics, it seems. Everybody wants it; it’s what they want to build.”

Balancing Capabilities and Aesthetics

But Massey says fitting everything they want into an operational door can be like trying to put 10 gallons of water into a 5-gallon bucket. That’s because new trends are leading architects to design entryways that not only have technological capabilities but aesthetic appeal as well.

Sometimes, architects have to sacrifice aesthetics to some extent so that the door can function.

“They don’t want to see these big, hefty doors,” Massey says. “They want everything transparent. But sometimes it doesn’t work, and you have to go to a biger door.”

Whatever the size of the door, Massey says aesthetics further come into play as hardware and security measures must be located where they will not detract from the door’s appearance. These hardware developments and preferences all increase the time it takes to complete a project, and paired with the fact that wait times for doors are as long as 26 weeks, Massey believes the advancing industry would benefit from a renewed focus on
pre-planning.

“You’re lucky at 26 weeks, I’ll be honest,” Massey continues. “Hardware is tough to get. We’re in a little bit of a pattern where it’s hurting us. It’s all about pre-planning. If we can get the architects and consultants involved to start early, it would help us all. I stress to our people how we have to be on top of doors and hardware. It’s big, it’s huge.”

Bill Grimley, project manager at TSI Corporations in Upper Marlboro, Md., says his company’s hardware hasn’t changed much recently. He and Massey agree that the increased incorporation of that hardware into building access has changed. Grimley says interiors are currently undergoing a preference shift more so than exterior doors; his company focuses mainly on the exterior.

“The biggest thing is the security contractors are trying to tie it into the system,” Grimley says.

He also agrees that exterior or interior doors can no longer be an afterthought in construction with all the technology in play. That’s why TSI has made some changes to how it handles that process. His company’s new hands-on approach sees their inspectors head to the jobsite early in the process to talk about doors, specifically what functions they need to have. TSI meets with security contractors to figure out which piece of hardware will control what.

“We provide a working door system, but the security contractor controls it,” Grimley says. “We get all the cards on the table, figure out what they need it to do, and what locks will work with those functions or what locks have those functions. It seems to go smoothly when we get a chance to do it that way.”

Ben Williams is the director of product management for electromechanical solutions at Assa Abloy, headquartered in Sweden. He, too, has seen the shift toward aesthetics.

“Most of what you would see historically over the last, I would say, 30-plus years is a maglock that can be surface mounted both for new applications or retrofit applications relatively easily,” Williams says. “There are additional options for use, such as in a sheer—the transom—either in the header or in the floor if a frame is available. Then they can use that magnetic locking device to secure it in correlation with things such as a card reader mounted on a wall.”

However, some options are not always aesthetically pleasing with the other pieces of hardware required. He points to products such as the M380 and M680 EcoMag series from Assa Abloy’s Securitron brand, with matching designer finishes with seven different options.

“In addition to that, it works in a very eco-friendly way from a power standpoint, which includes integrated motion-sensing devices, so you’re not mounting multiple things around a glass-door opening,” Williams says.

On the Horizon

While the industry is no stranger to consultants, an emerging trend puts a new spin on those services. Hardware consultants differ from traditional consultants as they perform all hardware work on a structure.

For example, Total Opening Consultants, based in Toronto, Canada, writes on its website that its consultants know the codes and standards for door openings at a time when hardware is increasingly becoming more complicated.

Skutch Montgomery is the lead estimator and project manager at Alliance Exterior Construction in Baltimore, Md.

He believes the trend comes from the “finicky” nature of door hardware. However, Montgomery noted that his company typically relies on the expertise of its distributor and vendor partners.

“Doors are almost always the longest lead item from aluminum storefront manufacturers, and a lot of this has to do with specific hardware prep. Getting hardware right the first time is essential because if a door gets to the site at the end of the project and does not align with hardware requirements, the project schedule and critical path could be busted,” Montgomery says. “The hope is that a hardware consultant would bring clarity and transparency to ensure all owner and architect needs are met with hardware the first time around.”

While these services may help to streamline the construction process and ensure those involved follow all necessary steps and regulations, some industry professionals have expressed concerns about the trend. At least for some, the issue is that the glass industry should retain its presence when it comes to hardware.

Travis Rains is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine. Email him at trains@glass.com.

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