Where are the door operators?

by Steve Anderson, Tee Jay North, Horton Automatics Distributor


the obvious person to take responsibility is the automatic door operator supplier


That is often the question that must be asked in dealing with electromechanical, low-energy door operators that must comply with ANSI/BHMA Standard A156.19-1997. Should they be in 08400 - Entrances and Storefronts, 08460 - Automatic Entrance Doors, 08710 - Door Hardware, or 08740 - Electro-Mechanical Hardware? On any given day you can find them in all of these sections on different projects.

Fully understanding that these products represent less than one percent of the total cost of a project, it is understandable that many specifiers don't consider this a critical issue. From the user's view, though, it is an important issue. For the user, door function should be a "no-brainer" - it should work as intended. The card reader should cause the strike to retract, door movement should be timed to begin after latch retraction, and the door should close and latch without assistance. This type of performance does not just happen, but requires conscious effort by someone familiar with all aspects of door operation.

Main entrance operation becomes critical when it is not correct. In most cases, it is not because of inadequate operators, bad latches, or ineffective card readers. Instead, it is usually the result of improper coordination and installation.

When low-energy operators are specified in Section 08710 - Door Hardware, they are often supplied by the hardware supplier, installed by carpenters, connected by an electrician, and berated by those responsible for the security system. And who gets the calls when they don't operate properly? The automatic door company, of course! Even though they did not control the installation, they are expected to show up and correct any problems.

Many factors affect operation of an automatic door - electric strikes, card readers, remote switches, electrical exit devices, fire alarm systems, central monitoring equipment, power supply, and programming of the unit. To be successful, the installation of an automatic opener must address all of these factors; in other words, a single entity must have responsibility and control over the installation.

The obvious person to take responsibility is the automatic door operator supplier. The people in this business are trained and experienced in all aspects of openings that require automatic operation. They will ensure proper size and function of automatic operators, and make sure that the installation complies with all applicable codes. Did you know that there are differences between the Minnesota and Federal codes? While the Federal codes require that wall press-switches be at least twenty-four inches beyond the arc of the door, Minnesota requires that they be thirty inches beyond. Federal codes allow the switches to be mounted as high as forty-two inches above the floor, but Minnesota requires that they be mounted at thirty to thirty-six inches.

Even though these systems represent a relatively small part of the total construction cost, their headache potential exceeds that of much more expensive items because they are used daily by every person who enters the building. To minimize later problems, these operators should be specified in their own section, where they will be most likely to be assigned to a company that specializes in their installation. There are many such companies, ready to help with design, installation, warranty, and maintenance service.

Rather than just adding automatic operators to a door hardware section, take a little time to develop a separate section. The results will be well worth the effort.

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