CPD articles

CPD: Door systems and accessibility

5 January 2015

Doors can be a barrier for many people with disabilities, but innovations are making it easier for the industry to comply with regulations and make buildings accessible to all, says Graham Hulland. 

Specifying door systems is a crucial task for every construction project, from extensions and refurbishments to new builds. And with government statistics indicating that more than 11 million people in Great Britain have a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability, access needs to be addressed across all public buildings.

Meeting the needs of people with disabilities is a moral and legal duty for those responsible for buildings, from retail and financial sectors to residential, education, healthcare and transport. The Equality Act 2010, which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and several other pieces of legislation, states that all public buildings must be accessible to those with disabilities.

Although the Equality Act does not offer specific targets or guidance to achieve compliance, it does set out clear and transparent demands.

The specific performance of door closers in meeting this requirement is detailed within the Building Regulations: BS 8300:2009 + A1:2010 and Approved Document Part M in England and Wales, Section 3 in Scotland, and Part R in Northern Ireland.

So which type of door control will best help to achieve the strict requirements of the Equality Act and fire regulations? Specifiers should consider automatic doors, such as Dorma’s range of operating systems, which can offer suitable and efficient solutions.

Automatics for the people

Automatic doors are the ideal way to ensure safe, reliable and easy access into and around a building. As they provide a means of opening and closing doors without physical effort, they can remove barriers for many people who lack physical ability or who are encumbered by shopping or pushchairs.

In applications where space is limited, bi-parting sliding doors use adjustable operation settings to ensure that door movements can be tailored to specific requirements. Alternatively, automatic telescopic sliding door systems have leaves consisting of two sections that only require around one third of the structural width available for a door system.

Automatic curved sliding doors are another solution for creating an entrance that is both enticing and unique. The doors can be designed as outwardly or inwardly curved semi-circles and segments, as full-circle configurations, as oval and double-segment units or as tailored constructions using any combination of these basic shapes. They can be manufactured as either concave or convex assemblies.

Automatic curved sliding doors can be designed either as noticeable features or architecturally coordinated to harmonise with the facade. They perform draught exclusion and airlock functions, guide the pedestrian traffic flows as required and impart width and depth to entrances even where the available structural dimensions may be tight.

Swing sets

For standard large and heavy doors, powerful automatic electrohydraulic swing door operators are available. These can be adapted to a wide range of applications and mounting requirements and offer numerous adjustable features.

In the past, architects may have had to compromise when adding surface-applied door automation units. Although these units can be housed behind covers coloured to match their surroundings, they still affect the overall aesthetics of the installation. But an alternative is in-head swing door operators, which do not incorporate any bulky box units or swing arms and are designed to fit almost invisibly within the transom of the door. This makes them an ideal swing door operator where aesthetics are important.

Low-energy doors offer increased access and independence to people who would otherwise be restricted by conventional manual swing doors. In areas of low traffic, or where the normal manual operation of the door needs to be retained with only occasional assistance to those who need it, low energy swing door operators are ideal. They do not require additional safety equipment to operate, and thereby offer inexpensive assisted access to both existing and new doors.

Specification is crucial

Although automatics are clearly the specification of choice for Equality Act compliance, most buildings will have a number of internal manual doors. Dorma offers manual door controls that also ensure compliance.

There are two main considerations in specifying door controls: does it meet the requirements of the Approved Document M and BS 8300, and, if applied to a fire door, does it satisfy the fire regulations?

Dorma’s TS 93 cam action door closer

In a commercial building, to meet the requirements of Approved Document M and the BS 8300, a door closer must “produce an opening force of below 30N between 0˚ and 30˚ and below 22.5N between 30˚ and 60˚”. On a fire door this must be achieved at minimum spring strength of EN3.

BS 8300 and Approved Document M state the maximum opening forces in respect of the door closer, but the complete doorset must be compliant with this opening force. Additional items of door ironmongery may also contribute to the opening resistance of the doorset. Therefore care should be taken when selecting hinges, intumescent seals and latches to keep the resistance added to the doorset to a minimum.

Types of door controls

There are two types of door controls: traditional “rack and pinion” closers with scissor arms, and “cam action” closers with slide arms. The latter are designed to provide the required maximum closing force within the final few degrees, and yet the opening force falls away even more rapidly than the scissor-armed rack and pinion. After the first few degrees, there is little resistance throughout the opening cycle, thus helping to ensure doorsets can meet the requirements of Part M and BS 8300.

As well as the closer, there are many other elements of a manual door design that can affect accessibility. Good quality hinges will ensure closing forces can be kept to a minimum. Locks can provide a high degree of resistance over the final few degrees of closing. A silent pattern latch bolt offers little resistance when engaging into the strike plate, helping to keep closing forces to a minimum.

To ensure that people with impaired vision or manual dexterity problems can use the keyway – which guides the key into the lock – the cylinder should either be above the lever handle or there should be a minimum of 72mm between the handle and the keyway.

The shape of handles is an important consideration for people with manual dexterity problems. The grip zone of any lever handle should be at least 95mm and 45mm clear of the face of the door.

DORMA Group is a global partner for premium access solutions and services designed to enable better buildings. With more than 100 years of tradition behind it, DORMA has developed, in revenue terms, into the world market leader in door controls, movable walls and glass fittings and accessories. It is a top firm in the automatics segment, a successful player in the security, time management and access control segment, and number one in Germany for emergency exit control and escape route security systems.

DORMA maintains production plants in Europe, Singapore, Malaysia, China and North and South America. With an international workforce of around 7,500 employees, the group realised sales of more than €1bn in 2013/14. Headquartered in Ennepetal, Germany, the DORMA Group has companies in more than 50 countries.

DORMA UK & Ireland: Two companies comprise the firm in this region: DORMA UK Ltd and DORMA Ireland Ltd.
In the UK, DORMA leads the market in product quality and innovation for door hardware, automatic doors and glass fittings.

The lever should have a diameter of at least 19mm and locks should be inset at least 54mm from the edge of the door. If the handles are to be fitted to narrow stile doors, the effective gripping distance of the handle should start 63.5mm from the door edge. A high visual contrast between handle and door is essential for visually impaired users.

These are important considerations for wheelchair users, and the minimum requirements, as stated in BS 8300: 2009 + A1:2010 differ depending on the direction and width of the approach, and whether the door is for a new building or is retrofitted. For example, the minimum clear width of an external door for use by the public is 775mm for an existing building, but 1,000mm for a new one.

Fire safety

More than 50% of all deaths resulting from fire are caused by smoke and gas inhalation. If fire doors are wedged open they allow smoke and fire to spread throughout the building. However, if fire doors are properly closed they contain the flow of smoke and fire in the area where it started, enabling people to exit safely and limiting the damage.

Most fire doors are designed to be kept closed at all times, but permanently closed fire doors can present an obstacle to building occupants, particularly for people with disabilities. There are a range of products that can be used in conjunction with a closing device to allow free access in normal circumstances and automatic closure in the event of a fire emergency.

Hold-open closers, as they are known, enable the door to be held open at any angle between 75˚ and 180˚ by means of an electromagnetic control. These can be mounted in surface-fitted door closers, floor springs or transom closers. Magnets that are surface or flush-mounted on the wall can also be used with door closing devices. In the event of an alarm or a fault in the power supply, the electromagnetic hold-open is released and the door is shut by the door closer.

In addition to electromagnetic hold-open closers, free-swing door closers can be used where doors are required to be closed or left ajar. These units allow manual operation of the door without the user experiencing any resistance from the door closer. The door can be left in any position, as if no door closer were fitted, but will close on alarm or power failure. Any electromagnetic device must be CE marked to BS EN 1155.

A clear route to compliance

In many situations, automatic door systems provide an ideal solution to the barriers otherwise presented by internal and external doors. Advances in technology and continuing innovation by manufacturers have led to the development of a wide range of systems to suit every scenario.

Owing to the complex technical characteristics and broad range of systems available, the selection of automatic door systems is a specialist area. For anyone considering the procurement and installation of an automatic door system, it is crucial to seek the advice of door control manufacturers and their approved suppliers. In many situations, the advice of the fire and building control authorities may also be an important factor.

Specifying an automatic door system for a particular building will depend on how the door is likely to be used. Relevant criteria include the volume and types of pedestrian traffic, environmental conditions such as wind exposure, whether use is continuous or intermittent and whether the door is designated as an emergency exit route.

Initiatives such as the Equality Act drive manufacturers to improve their products to make them specifiable. However, for manufacturers such as Dorma, aiming for the basic standards as required by BS 8300: 2009 + A1:2010 and Approved Document M should be the absolute minimum.

Graham Hulland is product marketing manager with Dorma. For more information, please visit www.dorma.com

Access all areas

Automatic doors by Dorma were used for the refurbished step-free entrance at Clapham Junction station

As part of the government’s £370m Access for All scheme to make UK railway stations easier to use, a £14.5m step-free entrance building was built at London’s Clapham Junction. Delivering smooth operation and closing reliability in all weathers and seasons, Dorma’s ED 100 swing door operators were chosen for the building’s automatic doors.

Thousands of passengers use the station every day and it is Europe’s busiest in terms of the number of trains passing through each year. Delivered by Network Rail with main contractor Osborne, the improvement package made the station fully accessible for all passengers.

Even in tough conditions, such as strong winds and extreme cold temperatures, the ED 100/250 swing door operators from Dorma perform extremely well. Their opening and closing behaviour responds flexibly to the prevailing conditions, helping to avoid heat loss and contributing to the reduction of the building’s overall carbon footprint.

During in-house testing at temperatures of –15°C the ED 100 improved closing speeds by up to 50% compared with Dorma’s previous model of electro-hydraulic operator, the ED 200. Also, its integrated Initial Drive Control (IDC) ensures functional stability, as the system detects and compensates for even the slightest irregularities in the door’s performance.

The ED 100 swing door operator is also equipped with Dorma Wind-Load Control. When adjusted to automatic mode, the system recognises and compensates for wind loads with a force of up to 150N (the maximum admissible force) making it the perfect solution for doors subjected to high winds and extreme temperatures.

Suitable for internal and external doors, both single and double leaf, the ED 100/250 swing door operators are designed as part of Dorma’s Contur range. ED 100 operators offer a contemporary, unobtrusive and compact design suited to all environments and interior designs.

As part of the major improvement works, Osborne completed construction and delivery of new ticketing facilities, travel information screens and toilets in a fully-refurbished ticket hall, helping to make the station more accessible, brighter and easier to negotiate.

For the entrance to the new lift lobby at Platform 17, which provides access to a number of platforms, Dorma supplied the ES 200 sliding automatic door operator.

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