What Else Are Your Doors Letting Into Your Building?
Recently, the city of New York passed a law stating all city businesses are now required to keep their doors closed during business hours. We’ve all seen this: businesses on a crowded thoroughfare with their doors propped open to make it easier for passersby to be enticed into spending some money. Unfortunately, the problem with propped doors was the large amount of energy that was being wasted by heat and conditioned air leaking out of these establishments. That’s why city officials moved to put a stop to this practice.
Energy freely escaping any building is clearly not good, and it is likely that other cities will follow New York’s example, but how many of us consider what we may be letting into our buildings? Unwanted materials or substances often include hot and cold air, dust, fumes, dirt, snow, rain and anything else that can make it through. What’s surprising is that most building managers don’t consider the impact of these undesirables when they specify a door — but they certainly should. The type of door you have can make all the difference.
Let’s review the many unwanted “guests” that come in through swinging and sliding doors.
Cold and Hot Air
Unwelcome temperature and humidity differentials can make a lobby downright inhospitable, which is the last thing a hospital or school needs. No building is ever intended to have a frigid 50-degree or sweltering 85-degree lobby. Yet, with sliding or swinging doors, it happens, and the fine décor and seating areas are ignored as people flee the lobby.
Aside from people feeling downright uncomfortable and distracted, there is a costly load impact to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which must work to replenish the lost heat or cooled air. A study conducted at MIT in 2006 on a particular building found that its two revolving doors reduced air infiltration by as much as 800 percent compared to the swinging doors in the same building. If the students could be convinced to use only the revolving doors, 15 tons of CO2 or $7,500 in natural gas could be saved annually.
Another unwelcome guest is wind. Dublin City College in Ireland experienced this discomfort in their student union where the doors were often left open. Initially, the building had a single pair of sliding doors, which during the colder months would allow so much wind into the lobby atrium that a wind tunnel was created. As a result, papers on bulletin boards would fly off, and displays and stands for events would blow over. Additionally, patrons would huddle away from the wind coming through the doorway.
The solution to this challenge was to replace the sliding doors with a revolving door. Now the entire space has been reclaimed for year-round comfort and happier attendees.
When it comes to restaurants and retail, outdoor air and wind can have a negative impact on revenue. Have you ever been to a small restaurant and were seated at a table near the door? You probably asked to be moved because it was so drafty and uncomfortable. No waiter wants that section of tables near the front door either. Larger restaurants tend to create waiting areas as a foyer that separates the entrance from the dining room — a kind of “dead, sensory-deprived, holding tank” for unseated customers. But, is it really necessary for the restaurant to pay for all that extra space and get nothing in return, or keep customers waiting for refreshment?
Bonefish Grill started installing revolving doors back in 2006 around the country, introducing a new concept: customers enter directly into a comfortable, lively bar area via a revolving door. They sign in with the hostess for a seat in the dining room and can have a drink and appetizer in the bar area right away—thus ringing up sales within minutes. Every square foot of the floorplan is now productive, energized and revenue driven.
No one ever expects to hear outside sounds once they have crossed a threshold to the interior of a building. The idea is to leave the world “out there” behind you and enter a new environment. That was the plan all along when the building was designed. However, rarely do things go as planned, particularly in urban areas, airports, near stadiums or even at the town square in a small town. Noise infiltration is especially unwelcome for libraries, hospitals, schools and hotels, all of which seek to create a peaceful atmosphere for learning, healing or escape.
These examples are obvious, but in reality no lobby in any building should have noise from the outside. Haven’t we all experienced entering a nice hotel in a busy downtown area and a jackhammer was within 100 feet of us? Every time that sliding door stayed open due to guests constantly coming in and out, didn’t it sound like you were outside waiting to hail a cab from the street? The interior may appear to be fit for a king, but none of that matters, right?
On university campuses, consider the sound of a student pep rally or cultural event right outside a library on the quad and the impact an open swing door would have on those trying to crack the books.
Garbage, Debris, Water and Pollution
Because each of us comes through an entrance only once, we probably don’t think of all the dirt, debris, water and other materials that come into a building lobby from hundreds or even thousands of pedestrians entering each day. The facility manager, however, certainly does.
For example, a chain of hospitals in Wisconsin made a simple yet highly effective change to its entrances. Now, instead of a single sliding door, the entryways have a sliding door followed 20 feet inside the building by a revolving door (see diagram below).
This diagram illustrates an effective way to keep your building lobbies free of debris, noise, rain and snow. A sliding door is installed closest to the street. Then, a vestibule about 20 feet wide is placed behind the sliding doors and in front of a revolving door. Be certain to also include secondary/emergency egress to any entrance.
This single design change had enormous positive effects on these medical buildings. Not only did the new set-up stop a wind tunnel that employees had to suffer through, but the facility manager noticed almost immediately another unexpected benefit. The distance between the sliding door and the revolving door created a vestibule, and combined with the right kind of flooring, most of the debris and trash coming from the outside stayed outside (in the vestibule). The lobby remained much cleaner and more appealing.
These lobbies went from gusty and often dirty or wet (posing a slip-and-fall risk) to temperature-controlled, clean environments. And there was another bonus: by stopping nearly all the dirt, debris, snow and rain before the revolving door, costly maintenance on that door was cut substantially. Additionally, the facility’s energy bills decreased.
Disagreeable odors are another unwanted “guest” that most building designers do not consider when they specify a door. Admittedly, there are plenty of buildings that aren’t around bad odors, for example, out in the suburbs or on nice campuses. But there are a staggering number of urban buildings subject to fumes from cars, diesel trucks, sewage systems and rotting garbage. There are entire towns with commercial buildings, government buildings, hospitals, hotels and universities that are downwind from poultry processing plants, livestock or paper mills. Often these buildings use swinging or sliding doors that allow foul odors to enter. Installing different doors can help to address this issue.
Do your Entrance Doors Truly Fit Your Needs?
The vast majority of buildings have many unwanted elements coming through their doors. Often the management of these buildings don’t know how much pain or expense their organizations are incurring unless there is a crisis.
Choosing the right entrance can make all the difference in solving problems of environment, cleanliness, excessive noise or noxious smells. Often, the solution is to significantly reduce air infiltration by installing a revolving door. In places with more challenging climates, a combination of a sliding and revolving door may be appropriate. Unfortunately, without a sufficient pain point, decision makers are often hesitant to make the jump to the entrance they really need.
Are you grinning and bearing it with the wrong entrance for your building?
Written by Tracie Thomas, Boon Edam Marketing Manager, and published in Campus Safety Magazine.
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