October 3, 2016
by Michael F. Watkins
Responding to escalating competition, virtually every major automaker is outlining design requirements to the dealerships selling its cars. In many cases, high-speed, solid-panel doors play a role in the auto industry’s retail strategy—technological advancements with these types of systems are enabling dealers to improve the aesthetics and energy efficiency of their facilities.
Purchasing a car comes with a unique set of expectations. Everything around this transaction has to give confidence to the customer that the dealership with whom they are working is reliable, provides value, and reflects quality. An auto dealership location is a store, but unlike traditional shops, the product the customer leaves with is rather sizable—very large doorways are necessary to bring cars in and out of the building for showcasing or maintenance.
There are many considerations for dealership doorways when it comes to occupying a facility. These large doorways need to contribute to the operation’s ability to serve the customer, minimize energy and maintenance costs, and add to the design ‘feel’ of the dealership. Consequently, auto dealers are turning to high-performance, high-speed rigid panel doors to fulfill these needs.
Since coming to the brink of disaster during the recession of 2008, the auto industry has bounced back and has sparked a wave of new dealership construction. Manufacturers have urged—in some cases, even subsidized—renovations while the more successful auto groups are opening new locations. Attention is paid to every element of the building, and that includes the doors. There are criteria for dealerships, which doors and large doorways need to satisfy for the success of the operation.
Automakers see their dealerships as an opportunity to reinforce their brand every time potential customers drive by the store. All the major companies have developed programs that specify the look of the stores where their cars are sold, including layout, materials, finishes, furnishings, fixtures, signs, and space specifications for all areas of the facility.
The look of these high-speed doors used on large doorways is one of the main reasons why architects specify these kinds of openings. Along with enabling any paint color to be applied to the surface of the panels, high-speed rigid door panels do not roll up on each other, preventing ugly scratches from marring the door’s appearance. By design, this makes door operation extremely quiet. Further, the door’s high speed of 2540 mm (100 in.) per second or more creates a ‘wow’ factor for anyone seeing them in operation.
On a typical dealership, most service departments feature two to four of these doors, with the service area using about 70 percent, with one door for access to the showroom.
“The doors are an important part of enhancing our image when our customers come by to have their cars serviced,” says Ed Loyconi, business manager for Delaney Auto Group.
Dealership owners and automakers want building components that keep their stores looking good to satisfy mandates while operating efficiently. The goal is to nurture long-term relationships with service center customers to ensure repeat business—appearance is an important first step.
In the past, the service center was an afterthought. The area, including the doors, looked grimy and was located around the back. Since the old garage-style doors tended to be slow (and customers tended to be in a hurry), the panels bore battle scars from being hit by cars entering the service center, getting the relationship off to a rocky start.
The service center for many dealerships is now part of its street-view curb appeal, and what passing motorists now see are sleek, stylish aluminum slat roll-up doors. The look fits in with the clean architectural styling of the building, designed per the specifications of automakers’ signature architecture.
The slats are anodized aluminum, giving an extra layer of clear protection over the color to prevent wear and fading in the sun. Recently, roll-up doors have also become available with clear or tinted full width window slats. The top-to-bottom, full-length panels add to the high-tech look of the facility, bring in additional lighting to the area, and enable those inside the building to see when a car is approaching.
In an auto dealership, customer comfort is crucial, even in the service center where there has been a move away from relying on ambient temperature to heated or cooled environments. (This consideration makes visiting the service counter pleasant and the employees more productive.) However, with large doors opening and closing every few minutes, massive amounts of heating and cooling energy escape the building. That loss amounts to thousands of dollars in utility costs, in addition to making the systems conditioning the air work harder.
The rapid door speed minimizes energy loss by exposing the doorway for just seconds. For a typical service center, each door cycles well over 60 times a day. According to recently released research from the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA), the ability of high-speed doors to minimize air infiltration when cycled at least this amount can exceed the energy savings of a slower, insulated door.
The DASMA research alters the perspective in evaluating door energy efficiency. It took into consideration common U-factor, air leakage, and motor horsepower values in a comparison of high-speed doors to conventionally operating insulated doors. Rather than strictly relying on door thickness or insulation to prevent energy loss, the study showed high-speed doors become more efficient when cycled 55 or more times per day.
High-speed doors are excellent at controlling ‘air exchange’—that is, the air flowing through a door opening that is not fully closed. In fact, when taking thermal transmittance (U-factor), air leakage, and door power usage into consideration, the air exchange can be the most significant part of the total energy loss for a door, depending on the application.
The DASMA study brought about code changes related to high-speed doors. Given the significantly reduced air-infiltration window, Addendum da of American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) 90.1-2010, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-rise Residential Buildings, relaxes air leakage requirements for high-speed doors by factoring in this trade-off. (To read the January 2014 Consulting-Specifying Engineer article, “What’s new in ASHRAE 90.1-2013,” by Jeff Boldt, PE, LEED AP, HBDP, FPE, visit www.csemag.com/single-article/what-s-new-in-ashrae-901-2013/85cefb05bf5d6ceacbdf804fe32d2945.html.) This is also reflected in ASHRAE 189.1-2014, Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings. In fact, last year, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) recognized the energy-saving benefits of high-speed doors for the first time. (For more information, read the October 2015 Building Design+ Construction article, “2015 IECC recognizes benefits of high-speed doors,” by Peter Fabris. To check it out online, visit www.bdcnetwork.com/ 2015-iecc-code-recognizes-benefits-high-speed-doors.)
Beginning with the 2015 edition, IECC includes a maximum allowable air infiltration rate of 1.3 cfm/sf of door area for high-speed doors. This requirement is consistent with the 2013 version of ASHRAE 90.1. In the current edition of IECC, ANSI/DASMA 105, Test Method for Thermal Transmittance and Air Infiltration of Garage Doors, is listed as the acceptable approach to obtain air infiltration values for high-speed doors. Although IECC requires a restrictive R-value (minimum 4.75) for the door component, a design professional is permitted to employ the U-factor trade-off method across the entire building envelope to compensate in the form of increased wall and/or roof R-values.
When they are closed, high-speed roll-up doors have gaskets on all four perimeters to effectively bottle up conditioned air in the building. The tight seal on any door can be threatened if it is hit, but the speed of these assemblies means this is unlikely to happen at a dealership, despite the very short distance a car travels to enter or exit the building. By the time the driver shifts the car into drive, the door is very likely rolled up and tucked away under the door header.
This same tight seal of high-speed doors to keep energy in the building, also keeps intruders out. Although many of thefts involve taking vehicles off the lot, break-ins at the dealership can be common as well. Along with the cars, thieves will take tools and spare parts from the service area. This is greatly discouraged by the closed doors’ rigid aluminum slat construction and integrated locking system.
Some dealerships are using fabric high-speed roll-up doors during operating hours with a backup garage-style door to lock up at night. While this may be a lower up-front cost investment, two doors double the facility’s maintenance costs. As for the issue of aesthetics, the surface of a fabric door also will show signs of wear and tear over time, while a rigid panel door will not.
Customer service considerations
Generally, people who bring a car in for service are on a tight schedule. High-speed roll-up doors capable of operating at 1524 mm (60 in.) per second—five times faster than conventional doors— is the first indication to customers their service needs will be taken care of efficiently. Motion sensors can activate the doors, so that when customers arrive, the sensors detect the car and begin opening the door.
As fast as these doors are, their design takes safety into consideration. People sometimes use vehicle doorways to access the building on foot, and a solid panel door operating this rapidly could be a safety hazard. Modern doors include important safety features, such as a photo eye that prevents the door from closing if someone is strolling through the opening or if a car is sitting in the way. This safety system can be backed up by a pressure-sensitive edge that causes the door to reverse instantly upon contact.
Benefits with low maintenance
Along with saving customers time, door speed also saves the door. A slow-operating door can suffer collisions from those customers in a hurry, possibly resulting in doorway downtime, and repair costs to the door and car. From the dealer’s perspective, a completely disabled door will impede efficient service center operations and cause significant heating/cooling energy loss.
To address this situation, motion sensors let customers into the service center can be timed with high-speed door operation to avoid collisions altogether between car and door panel. These doors travel fast enough to be well out of the way by the time the vehicle passes the threshold. Door speed, motion system positioning, and the safety features that protect pedestrians all combine to ensure the door panel is not in the way of doorway traffic.
As mentioned, service center doors open and close dozens of times a day—how well a high-speed door is engineered contributes to maximum life and minimal maintenance. Easily accessible control boxes enable technicians to tune door performance for smooth starts and stops. The electronics inside these boxes allow for easy diagnosis and have cycle counters to track maintenance intervals.
One of the prime benefits of high-speed doors is they require very little room around the dealership wall. The side guides fit inside the doorway rather than around it. Depending on the height of the door, less than 0.6 m (2 ft) of headroom is necessary for the rolled up panels.
The same door controls that enable easy maintenance also provide simple installation. Since electronics replace many mechanical parts, this design helps to minimize involving a man-lift during installation.
The compact, water/weather-resistant National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Type 4 case housing the controls takes up spare room on the wall. The electronic controls enable door adjustments to take place at floor level rather than using a man lift. In the controller case, an intelligent processor monitors and controls power consumption. The controller performs self-diagnosis for continual trouble-shooting.
With the wave of auto dealership renovations, management’s concern is the project takes minimal time to minimize disruption to the business. A standard rigid panel roll-up door installation takes no more than eight hours with a two-person crew, including wiring the door to make it operational.
An auto dealership is more than a place for buying cars—it plays a vital role in the business plan of an industry that is a huge contributor to the nation’s economy, making up more than three percent of the GDP and employing 1.7 million workers. With much of the bricks and mortar portion of retail succumbing to the clicks of the Internet, cars are still sold in buildings—and these buildings play a crucial role in the overall marketing, image, and success of dealerships. The use of high-speed doors can be a crucial part of this.
Michael F. Watkins is vice president of marketing at Rytec High Performance Doors, a manufacturer of high-speed doors for industrial, commercial, food and beverage, and controlled-temperature environments. Watkins has consulted to the industrial and durable goods industry and has held management positions in marketing, business development, and new product development. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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