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It’s Called... Architectural Hardware

Rick Gallant, ESNT

Door, portal, entry, exit, gateway, opening. These words are typically used to describe a common door opening. What hardware is typically installed on door openings to make them functional? When most people think of a door and the hardware it requires, they will likely immediately think of hinges and a lock. There... Door hardware...done. But, is it really that simple? Well, for a common residential door or basic interior office/closet door, yes. 

But now, step into a number of different commercial buildings across different vertical markets and the conversation goes deeper. The next time you go for a walk and step into one of these buildings stop for a moment and ask yourself some questions as you open the door (if it’s safe to do so): How is the door being hung? hinges or pivots? And the lock, what is the function? Entrance, storeroom or passage? Ummm…(maybe you start scratching your head now. I know I sometimes do). Does the opening have any type of security or access control? If so, how does the opening operate? Why all of these questions? I mean, who really cares? Your right, most people who not even blink an eye as they pass through an opening not to mention stop briefly to take a look at it. I don’t blame them. Openings just don’t really inspire us that often, but in the future maybe they will.

So, Why am I suggesting you do this little exercise? Well, Just to appreciate the complexities that often come with door hardware and its application. Especially if you work in or around the access control/security industry. Yes, at first glance door hardware sounds very simple. But, in a great number of facilities, you are now stepping into a world where building codes, design, function, accessibility and user experience all come together. 

In fact, when it comes to door hardware for commercial openings, it’s called... Architectural Hardware. Why is it called this? 

Definition of architectural: “relating to the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings”. 

Definition of door hardware: “any items attached to the door to enhance its functionality or appearance” or “locks, handles designed for use on doors. 

Now put the two definitions together and we come up with something like this: “the art or practice of designing and constructing openings that enhance the building’s functionality and appearance”.  

You probably won’t find this exact definition anywhere. I made it up because I think it best describes what architectural hardware is all about. When you stop and think about it it’s kind of cool, right? It’s actually designing an opening to suit the function of the building and to enhance it. 

Another name for it is builder’s hardware or finish hardware. The hardware doesn’t actually make the building itself. But, rather it supports it and makes it work. So, Architectural hardware plays a major role in making the building operate and function, allowing people to move about the facility from one area to the next while ensuring their safety and security. Without it, the building simply could not function on its own. So, door hardware or architectural hardware is absolutely essential to the life of a building and the safety and security of its occupants! 

So, thinking about architectural hardware, what usually gets specified on a typical opening? In the most basic application, there will be hinges, a lock, and a door closer. Yes, hinges are used to actually hang the door and make it movable so that we can use it.  A lock of course secures the opening. But, why a door closer? Well, the name speaks for itself in that it ensures the door will stay closed when not in use, thus ensuring security. Also, they are mandatory on any openings that are fire rated so that in case of a fire the door will close and stop the spread of smoke. It also controls the door and makes it act properly, you could say (so that the door doesn’t leave itself open or be allowed to slam shut thus causing a potential injury to someone). Also, on an opening with access control, a good door closer is a must to ensure the door stays closed and locked when not in use. Otherwise, the door could easily be left open and un-secure.

It’s too bad Seinfeld didn’t think of putting a closer on his apartment door before “someone left the door open”:

Jerry gets robbed - the Klapco 29 lock

Yes, you could have the best, most secure lock on the door or a really good access control system but without a door closer it can be all too easy to forget to close the door. The door could easily be left “wide open”.  The good thing is that today, most openings in commercial spaces will be specified with a door closer thus ensuring safety and security.  If you notice an opening that should have a door closer and doesn’t have one, say something before it’s too late!

So, overall how can we ensure that a door opening will have all the necessary hardware it needs to balance safety, security and functionality?

The door hardware institute (DHI) describes the process of specifying door hardware this way (following this sequence):

  1. Hang the door 
  2. Secure the door 
  3. Control the door 
  4. Protect the door 

Following this sequence will ensure the opening gets everything it needs to be fully functional, safe and secure. In future articles, we will discuss each step in this sequence more (especially as it relates to access control and security). In the meantime, check out this article from Allegion which breaks these 4 main steps further:

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