Asumag 446 Anautomaticchoice
Asumag 446 Anautomaticchoice
Asumag 446 Anautomaticchoice
Asumag 446 Anautomaticchoice
Asumag 446 Anautomaticchoice

An Automatic Choice

July 1, 2007
When installed and maintained properly, automatic doors can provide safe, convenient access for schools.

When students think about the obstacles they must overcome to get into a school, most probably are thinking in terms of SATs, ACTs or other entrance exams. But for students with disabilities, the obstacles they face often are literal ones: manual doors. Accommodating those with disabilities or physical limitations is one reason for schools to consider installing automatic doors, but it is not the only one.

Automatic doors can modernize the aesthetics of a building and create a positive first impression. When properly installed, automatic doors are safe and easy to maintain. But before deciding if an automatic door is the right choice for a school facility, administrators should get a basic education in automatic door selection, safety and maintenance.

Door types

Automatic doors come in many types:

  • Automatic sliding doors

    These allow effective two-way traffic through a single door. These doors should be equipped with an emergency swing feature to ensure code compliance. Automatic sliding doors require an adequate amount of room in which the door can slide.

  • Automatic swinging doors

    For two-way traffic, typically two doors are required: one swinging inward and one swinging outward. The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM) cautions that two-way traffic through a single automatic swinging door normally is not recommended. A minimum of 11 feet of space between the two doors is suggested to give some separation and to eliminate sensor interference between the two doors.

  • Automatic folding doors

    A bi-folding door requires minimal space to install, yet provides plenty of clear door space, making this type of door a preferred choice when space is at a premium. These doors should have an emergency swing feature if the door is being used as an egress location.

  • Low-energy swinging doors

    Automatic, low-energy swinging door operators are designed for applications requiring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This type of operator usually is activated with push plates. Able-bodied individuals can use the entrance as a manual door, and people with disabilities can use the automatic option. The unit includes the header, operator and drive arm. Most manual doors can be retrofitted with a low-energy operator.

  • Revolving doors

    Automatic revolving doors are manufactured as complete packages. In general, they are offered in four-wing, three-wing and two-wing designs. Larger-diameter four-wing and three-wing doors also can offer center core displays. Two-wing doors typically have perimeter displays that serve as integral night shields when the door is closed and locked. Revolving doors can be center or perimeter driven — depending on size and design. As a rule, manual and smaller-diameter automatic doors have center-shaft drive systems. Larger-diameter automatic doors have perimeter-drive systems. Smaller-diameter doors typically are offered in a security version for controlled access.

Other considerations

The energy costs associated with automatic doors differ significantly depending on the climate, traffic, setting and type of doors being used. The cost of operating automatic doors is low. A vestibule area, while not required, may reduce energy waste that may result from loss of heat/cooling. Many facilities find that installing automatic doors decreases their energy costs, with or without vestibules.

No matter the type, automatic door systems should be designed in such a way that traffic approaches the door in full view, and users walk directly toward the door. Pedestrians must have excellent visibility of the door and its markings and be able to observe the direction of door travel clearly. Avoid positioning vending machines, pay telephones or anything else that has the potential to distract users within 4 feet of the moving door.

Automatic doors and components should comply with ANSI/BHMA A156.10, the American National Standard for Power Operated Pedestrian Doors. The latest version is dated 2005. The ANSI A156.10 standard provides details and installation specifications designed to provide a safe, properly functioning automatic door system.

Taking care of business

After selecting a door, officials should consider a planned-maintenance program, which can extend the life of the door and keep emergency service calls to a minimum.

A certified inspector should conduct annual inspections on every automatic pedestrian door system. When selecting a planned-maintenance program, administrators should take into account the number of automatic doors in the facility, the age of the doors and traffic. Manufacturers generally offer a range of programs that extend from basic to full service:

  • Basic planned maintenance

    This contract usually provides a facility with a certain number of on-site inspections. At these basic maintenance visits, an inspector checks that the doors comply with AAADM requirements. If necessary, the inspection may lead to repairs or adjustments.

    During a basic inspection, the doors' sensors are tuned, and opening and closing speeds are checked and adjusted, if needed, to comply with ANSI Standard 156.10. Components, belts, gears and lubricants, pivots, glass and guide rails also are checked.

  • Full-service planned maintenance

    A full-service contract includes all of the elements of a basic planned-maintenance contract, but usually has a set price per door for repairs. A full-service contract generally can be structured per year or per visit. In most agreements, it includes all parts and labor, routine service calls and any calls during business hours.

One of the biggest benefits of a full-service contract is that it enables schools to accurately budget what they will spend on door service costs. A full-service plan also ensures that doors are operating properly, reducing unscheduled downtime.

Regardless of the type of door maintenance program, it should include customized reports that allow a school to track and analyze costs for each specific door. These reports enable owners to identify exact costs and issues, and the data also provide useful information that can help institutions make better buying decisions in the future.

Johnson is executive director of The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM), Cleveland.

Check safety daily

Building managers and operators play a key role in ensuring that doors are working properly. One or more individuals at a school should be responsible for performing daily safety inspections of each door. Workers also should perform safety checks following power outages or any other time power to the door has been shut off. The checks typically are performed when the doors are unlocked, and they take only a few minutes to complete:

  • Check the electronic sensor by walking toward the door opening at a moderate speed and at various angles. The door should start opening as you approach, should swing or slide open smoothly and stop without impact. As you move slowly toward the door, it should remain open. For doors that are used for two-way traffic, repeat this process from the other side of the opening.

  • Now, step out of the sensor zone or off the floor mat. After a brief time delay, the door should close.

  • Approach the safety side of the swinging door first, then have someone else approach the activating side of the door. As long as you are in the safety area of the door, it should not open. It is recommended that you observe the traffic coming to the door and plan the traffic patterns so that people will approach the doors from straight on and not from an angle.

  • If doors are equipped with electronic holding beams, cover each doorway holding the beam with your hand and stand motionless for several seconds. The door should remain open. Remove your hand, and the door should close after the time delay expires. If other safety devices are being used, crouch motionless in the door opening for 10 seconds. The door should not close.

  • If the safety sensor is not working, the door may swing toward you without stopping.


In feet, the recommended amount of space between automatic swinging doors, to give some separation and to eliminate sensor interference.

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