Automatic Entrances - Know When to Fold 'Em
By Kristi Duce, RA, CCS, CSI, AIA, NCARB
Architectural Specification Writer
Automatic entrances are a great way to add convenience and accessibility to any type of facility; however, if you do not correctly specify the right automatic entrance for your situation, it can become anything but convenient, and can potentially cause injury. Automatic entrances are manufactured as complete entrance assemblies that include the door, framing, transoms, door operator, and controls, including activation and safety devices. A folding automatic entrance has door panels that automatically fold either inward or outward to one or both sides. A folding automatic entrance is best used where there is not enough space available in front of a door opening for a swinging door, or where available side room is inadequate for a sliding door, and where the width of an opening is restricted to approximately six to eight feet and there is a desire to move traffic in both directions through a single opening.
Once you have determined that a folding automatic entrance is the right solution for your layout, there are still several elements to consider in order to completely specify the entrance. These considerations include appearance, activation and safety devices, operator type, and safety and emergency features.
Standard design options for folding automatic entrances are somewhat limited. They are typically constructed of aluminum with a narrow stile design. They require guard rails or side walls to safely control traffic flow, unless low-energy door operators are used.
Folding automatic entrances function when the control system is activated by an activation device. The activation device initiates the operation cycle and the door operator which opens the door. The door operator holds the door open for a predetermined period of time to allow the individual to enter or exit, then permits the door to close unless a safety device senses a reason to delay closing.
Activation and safety devices that can be used for folding automatic entrances include control mats, motion and infrared sensors, presence sensors, wall- or post-mounted switches, wireless or remote radio controls, and access control systems.
Operators for folding automatic entrance doors are typically electromechanical and are packaged with the door and frame, meaning they cannot be furnished separately from the door and frame as can be done with other types of automatic entrances. Folding automatic entrances are typically fully power operated. Power-operated doors operate faster and with greater kinetic energy than other types of automatic door operators. Low-energy operators may be able to be applied to folding automatic entrances depending on the manufacturer. Folding automatic entrances are not typically available with power-assist operators.
If folding automatic entrances are being used as emergency exits, they will require emergency breakaway features. They may need to either break out or have a breakaway device. Other important safety features include finger guards. Folding automatic entrance doors may pinch fingers at the hinge stile and between each panel. Providing finger guards at the hinge side of power-operated, center-pivoted folding doors will alleviate this concern.
More detailed requirements for folding automatic entrances can be found in BHMA A156.10 Power Operated Pedestrian Doors. BHMA A156.10 is the established standard for power-operated doors applying to folding automatic entrances. This standard includes requirements for items such as door operators, signage, presence sensors, guide rails, activation and safety devices, and breakaway functions, among others.
There can be a lot involved with specifying folding automatic entrances; however, once you have an understanding of how they function and where they best function, you can be assured that you have the right automatic entrance for your purpose and that it will be correctly specified to meet the needs of your project.