Advances in Hardware Could be a Game Changer for Glazing Contractors

By Joshua Huff

Pick any glass door you see adorning a building’s entrance. Odds are there’s more to it than meets the eye. Technological advances have allowed hardware companies to develop access control devices that can be embedded in doors to provide a greater level of security and convenience.

Tyler Baker is the director of business development–glass and aluminum solutions for New Haven, Conn.-based ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. He defines access control hardware as a product tied into a software system that requires a user credential such as a card, smartphone, biometrics or fob, among other applications to gain access.

Components of a commercial access control system include control panels, door readers, credentials, unlocking mechanisms and management software. Every access control system features two components: hardware and software. The software directs the system, while the hardware comprises physical components with which the user interacts.

Types of Access Control Hardware

Electronic strikes are one of the most popular types of access control hardware, according to Baker. Their popularity stems from the added security and convenience they provide. Electric strikes replace a standard door strike and are connected to a power supply. When the electric strike is activated, it releases the latch, unlocking the door.

“When you present a credential, it will send a message to the back end of the access control system, saying, ‘Hey, is this person allowed in this door?’ The system will say yes and fire a solenoid that allows the strike to swing, so the latch allows the door to open freely,” explains Baker.

Electronic door strikes fall into two categories: fail-safe strikes and fail-secure strikes. A fail-safe strike always has power flowing through it, while a fail-secure lock uses a burst of electricity that signals the lock to unlock when a user scans their credential. A fail-secure lock ensures the door remains locked when there’s no power; a fail-safe lock will unlock automatically and allow access when there’s no power.

Panic devices are also in high demand, says Baker. These devices are installed on doors to help people exit in an emergency. They are designed to be opened easily during a crisis, hence the name. Companies often wire panic devices to alarms, so when opened, the system recognizes an emergency, sounding an alarm throughout the building.

Brian Albanese is the vice president of Forno Enterprises Inc., a Trout Creek, N.Y., architectural aluminum and glass company. He says access control hardware is now found on more jobs than not.

“Technology is in every facet of our lives,” he says. “It continues to grow more and more. There are now more electrified items per entrance door. You have door monitoring switches, time-controlled access, card-controlled access and everything from a simple electronic strike that has been around for many years to electronic latch release mechanisms and exit devices. I’m surprised people don’t get electrocuted when they touch a door now.”

Access hardware devices are not going away anytime soon. The 2021 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) requires buildings that serve the general public and with an occupancy load greater than 300 to be equipped with automatic operators on at least one door or pair of doors at each public entrance.

The doors must be either a full-power operated door or a low-energy power-operated door.

Developments in Hardware

The future of access control door hardware is not only mobile but wireless.

“The big problem with glass is you have difficulty running wire and covering it up,” says Baker. “All glass storefronts look great, but when you start running wire, you have to hide it.”

As a result, hardware companies are developing products with wireless readers to limit the amount of wire needed for electric door hardware. For instance, Baker says ASSA ABLOY is developing electric strikes with wireless readers to fire the strike. This removes the need for wires and added metal components that degrade the aesthetic appeal of glass doors and increases longevity “tenfold.”

Robert Lovato, vice president of technology and training at Memphis-based Dillard Door, a provider of security system hardware, says the future of smart hardware is mobile access control.

Smartphones are key to gaining access to a building.

“Mobile access control usage is the rage,” says Lovato. “Your phone becomes your credential. I can leave my card at home, but I won’t leave my phone at home. With that, two technologies are living within the smartphone. One is Bluetooth. That’s the play. Everyone is scrambling to get their Bluetooth solution into their card readers and keypads.” Lovato says the other technology found in smartphones is near-field communication (NFC). This technology is used for higher-security entrances. It reduces the distance and read range without the need for internet access. As a result, Lovato says hardware companies have begun to shift from Bluetooth to NFC in recent years.

Installing Access Control Hardware

Glazing contractors have different procedures for installing electrified hardware in glass doors, says Matt Fox, a glazing training specialist at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

Fox says glazing companies either work with low- and high-voltage electricians, access control subcontractors or install the electronics themselves. It depends on the training and skillset of the company’s glaziers.

Fox explains the IUPAT meets every two years to review its curriculum to ensure glaziers are properly trained in the newest procedures, such as working with electrified hardware. In fact, the organization recently established a new local in Toronto that focuses on automation.

“They’re doing everything,” he says. “Low voltage, electronics and things with computers. They’re even working on wireless components.”

As a union contractor, Forno gets pre-trained installers who have learned how to mount, troubleshoot and service advanced door hardware, says Albanese.

“If I were to pull people off the street or from the community who are not pre-trained and going through these apprenticeships, we would have many more callbacks and struggles,” he says. “That’s because they’re learning on the job as they go.”

Drawing the Line

Brian Hale, president of Hale Glass, says his glaziers work with access control subcontractors who wire, connect and set up low-voltage devices when installing access control hardware. Hale Glass is a contract glazing company based in Placentia, Calif.

Hale says the installation begins with the arrival of the glass doors already set up with embedded electronic components. These include low-voltage wires that stick out of the door, usually by the panic. Upon installation, an access control technician will run their wires to the door wires, hook them up and then activate the door with card readers, fobs or other access devices.

Despite the need for additional steps in the installation process, Hale says the increased use of smart access hardware has not changed the installation process much. What it has done is change service.

He explains that customers assume that since the glaziers installed the doors, they are responsible for all the embedded electronic hardware. That’s not the case, he says.

“If the door is not operating right, like if they push a button and the rod doesn’t disengage, they call us,” he says. “That’s become the number one issue. They need to call the electronic guy first. Our responsibility is that we hang the door. We ensure it closes properly at the right speed, meets code, has the right gaps around the door and meets basic door mechanics.”

Hale adds the issue is telling clients they can’t fix electronic hardware issues without acting like they’re unwilling to help. He says as a courtesy, his employees will take a look and advise the client to contact the electronic installer. However, “we have put our foot down,” he says. “We tell them we are not returning after the first visit.”

It’s a balancing act, he adds. You have to show your customers that you care, but at the same time, you need to let them know that it’s not the glazier’s problem.

We’re Glaziers, Not Electricians

Albanese says Forno used to wire access control devices themselves, but they quickly realized that “we’re glaziers, not electricians.”

“We had our growing pains and learning experiences where we’ve gotten our wrists slapped because we tried to be electricians,” he says. “We would use incorrect wire, and yeah, the device was connected, and power was running to it, but it wasn’t the right amount of power. It was a debacle because we didn’t know we were doing anything wrong.”

As installations became routine, Albanese says they learned the best methods to mount the devices. However, when it comes to electrically connecting each device, they turn the work over to the project electrician unless it’s a plug-in-play application.

Installation Challenges

Jordan Blatter, a glazing instructor for IUPAT, says he’s encountered various obstacles throughout the years, including a lack of education and communication between the hardware supplier and contractors. He adds door types are often overlooked, especially when it comes to thermal doors.

“There’s usually these unforeseen modifications that must be made to account for some of the hardware,” he says. “Whether that’s cutting, webbing, door webbing, adding channels and trying to use backer plates to fit them in the doors the way they’re supposed to. But you’re up against thermal breaks and internal webbing. That’s always been an issue, mostly with inexperienced fabricators that didn’t understand the door make-up.”

For Albanese, the biggest challenges have centered around fitting hardware, such as panic devices, on large glass doors.

“When you go out of your standard door size, you find that your panic bars are either too short or too long; your rods don’t reach. Everybody wants big, wide and open doors. The hardware sometimes doesn’t line up properly.”

Baker says that when hardware companies write door and hardware specifications for Division 8 Specialty Hardware, they coordinate with various trades to ensure the hardware works with the door from the fabricator.

However, Baker admits the glazing community was once considered an afterthought. But now, hardware companies strive to ensure that everything is plug-and-play when a door shows up on-site for a glazier to install.

What is Access Control Hardware?

Access control hardware combines hardware and software to enable facilities to control which users enter and when. There are several types of access control hardware, including security hardware, internal hardware and credentials.

Security hardware includes maglocks, electronic strikes, readers and keypads. Electronic locks can connect to a system that locks and opens a door without manually turning a key. Readers allow access through various technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and facial recognition.

Internal hardware includes access control panels, servers and wiring. The system stores all the data on a server. Software can communicate via mobile apps, which enable smartphone usage to gain entry.

Access credentials include fobs and smartphones. Fobs allow users to communicate with an electronic lock or access control system.

 

Joshua Huff is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. Email him at
jhuff@glass.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.