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The Automatic Choice: How and when to select power-operated doors

Photo courtesy Horton Automatic

by Michael Tierney
Selecting the best type of automatic door for a particular building can be challenging for any specifier, as it requires several considerations, ranging from desired traffic flow and expected user types to aesthetic preferences, space available, and whether the door meets state and federal codes. This means when it comes to selecting automatic doors for hospitals, airports, hotels, shopping malls, retail stores, government and office buildings, and colleges and universities, it is never a matter of ‘one size fits all.’ In fact, it may be surprising how many choices are available.

The decision to specify and install automatic doors should primarily be determined by the types of users and the quantity of people expected to enter and exit the facility on a regular basis. Such doors are typically used in facilities where users may include persons with disabilities, the elderly, or others who may have trouble opening the door manually (e.g. a shopper with multiple  bags or someone pushing a shopping cart or stroller).

There are three major types of automatic—or power-operated—pedestrian doors:

  • swinging;
  • sliding; and
  • folding.

Power-operated revolving doors may also be considered.

In order to guarantee the proper type of automatic door is selected, the following questions must be asked:

How much space do I have?
The facility layout is the first thing to consider when deciding which type of door to install. For example, swinging, sliding, and revolving doors require more wall and lobby space, making them good options for facilities with larger entrances. Automatic folding doors, on the other hand, require minimal space to install, yet still provide an ample amount of clear door opening. This makes them a great space-saving option.

American National Standards Institute/Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (ANSI/BHMA) A156.10, Standard for Power-operated Pedestrian Doors, defines clear openings as follows for the purpose of sizing activating and safety zones. Applicable building codes pertaining to means of egress should be consulted for clear-width requirements.

Swing doors
With the door open 90 degrees, the clear opening is measured between the face of the door and jamb or jamb stop.

Pair of swing doors
With the doors open 90 degrees, the clear opening is measured between the faces of the two open doors.

Sliding or folding doors
In the fully opened position, the clear opening is measured from the edge of the leading stile to the jamb or jamb stop if present.

Pair of sliding or folding doors
In the fully opened position, the clear opening is measured between the edges of the leading stiles of the two doors.

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