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Darren Hyde for the Automatic Door Suppliers Association (ADSA), outlines how to balance safety, security and accessibility requirements when identifying powered pedestrian door (PPD) solutions for commercial buildings

There are a variety of challenges that architects and specifiers need to consider when identifying powered pedestrian door (PPD) solutions for commercial buildings.

Specifying the right solution

To begin with, the right solution needs to conform with various standards, laws and Building Regulations to ensure that it is fit for purpose – encompassing safety, security and accessibility, along with complementary overarching design.

A bigger picture view is essential to maintain this equilibrium – a view that considers the location and position of the building, its intended use and footfall, how the volume of traffic may need to be channelled around the building, and identification of key entrances and exits – externally and internally.

This includes accessibility requirements, safety and security, alongside an ever-increasing awareness of fire resistance and escape routes. Knowledge of all of these standards, acts and/or regulations will also help build a clearer picture of what is required for your specification.

This may seem like a lot to consider, but taking a common-sense approach can help you arrive at a decision – ruling out the impractical and including the essential. Asking who, what, where, when, how and why is a good place to start, especially when balancing client wishes with practicalities.

The location of the built environment will have a significant effect on the outcome. Is there likely to be an effect from wind loading onto elevations and the door? Is the building in a coastal location, or among other tall buildings where wind is channelled? 

A door is similar to a sail: wind loading may detrimentally affect its operation if the ‘sail’ is too large, or the wrong type. It could cause operation and/or safety issues, resulting in damage. The effectiveness of door operators, sensors and mechanical elements can be compromised by force or environmental conditions such as salt in the air.

Identifying the user

Building use and considering who it is for, is also a cornerstone when it is likely that vulnerable people are occupants or users. Special measures may be required to enable accessibility and safety while maintaining security. This is particularly pertinent in buildings used for specialist or supported housing and education.

Quite rightly, the role of an architect is to stretch the boundaries of aesthetics, form and function, but this should never be at the expense of user safety. For example, safety sensors and signage can be viewed as an unsympathetic addition to an expensive door but they are essential for the safe operation of the door. The look of activation devices has improved significantly over the last 10 years; they are now slimmer and less obtrusive, discreetly enabling state-of-the art technology without negatively impacting the appearance of the installation.

Meeting safety requirements

The same can be said of other entrance devices, powered turnstiles, swing lanes and retractable lanes, which are frequently found in larger or shared commercial buildings. These must meet the new EN 17352:2022 standard which addresses safety in use and machinery safety requirements and test methods.

The need to protect and secure our buildings is ever-increasing but specification of high security doors must be balanced with escape requirements. The introduction of the Building Safety Act has highlighted these issues in respect of high-rise living, but as city landscapes change and taller buildings begin to dominate the commercial centres, we should look to how this can best be achieved in these environs. A correctly specified system should take both needs into account, and if correctly specified, will achieve the desired outcome.

The demand for smart buildings, with integrated building management systems and access control, will also determine choices. Again, these need to be factored in from the start. Most powered pedestrian door and window operators can be linked for wider estate management but selecting the right solution at the start can avoid expensive mistakes.

By working with an ADSA accredited member, architects can be assured that they will be supported in system design and specification. Although the process may be challenging, when properly realised, it can ensure that the outcome is not only fit for purpose but can be incorporated with dynamic design that will enhance our communities. 

ADSA has produced a free guide to burglary resistance standards for Security Rated PPD available from adsa.org.uk/news

Darren Hyde is technical and training manager for the Automatic Door Suppliers Association (ADSA)