9 Emerging Trends in Door Hardware

August 11, 2010

In high-end multifamily properties, architects are specifying non-corrosive hardware and finishes, such as stainless steel or aluminim, that not only look good but also use energy-efficient materials.
             
Turn and open. Sounds simple, but for decades Building Teams have been pushed to make door knobs, locks, and related door hardware as cost-effective, efficient, and good-looking as the rest of the building. And with so many bells and whistles now available in door hardware, getting a handle on the new trends in aesthetics, security, and installation could pay off in greater client satisfaction. Here are nine trends to keep in mind when specifying door hardware for your next project:
1. Concealment. In the middle to high-end segments of multi-use projects, architects are looking for ways to conceal door hardware to complement their overall design strategy. As buildings become more streamlined in design, architects are paying more attention to aesthetics, whereas mechanical efficiency would've been a much higher priority in the past, says Don Kirby, Dorma's product marketing manager. “We're seeing a trend toward requesting concealment of all or some of the hardware on a traditional door,” says Kirby.
   
A color customized floor closer that mounts below the door and uses cam and roller technology is one way architects can help conceal door hardware without losing its functionality.
       
Manufacturers are introducing security features, such as side-locking bar technology, that help prevent lock bumping and are easy to install.
     
To add an extra layer of security, Building Teams are looking to electronnics, such as card readers, to solve access control issues.
       

Lock sets and exit devices like push bars are essential for operation and difficult to conceal, but the traditional door closers mounted on the top of most doors are easier to hide.

“You still need something to mechanically close the door, but now you can hide it by specifying top or floor closers—mechanical devices that mount either above the door in the head frame or below the level of the floor,” says Kirby. “They control the motion of the door much like a typical closer, but minus the silver square box. It just feels higher end.”

2. Cam and roller technology. With the proliferation of top and floor closers, there's a trend toward employing cam and roller closer technology versus traditional rack-and-pinion closers. Cam and roller systems not only greatly reduce the force required to open the door to help comply with ADA requirements, but they also ensure a tight close seal, increase energy efficiency, and eliminate the protruding double-lever arm.

3. Color palettes. In the high-end multifamily market, customization in color rather than shape and texture is a new priority for interior design specialists, says Ralph Vasami, executive director of the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association, the national association representing door hardware manufacturers.

“Designers are using color to either contrast or complement their interior design scheme without losing the functionality of the hardware,” says Vasami. For example, a door closer and the visible parts of the lockset and exit device could be painted the same color as the door frame to help the hardware blend more readily with the interior design palette.

4. Mixed-use. With the growth of master-planned mixed-use residential complexes, more architects are coordinating the look and feel of the doors and door hardware within the entire development. So, the fire exits, main doors, and public areas might feature basic hardware while the apartments and condominiums have high-end systems—but all the hardware meets the team's design strategy.

“The new aim is to meet in the middle and coordinate design strategies for door hardware in all areas of the building,” says Vasami. He adds that customized commercial grade hardware is being used more often in mixed-use developments.

5. Finishes. More than anything, clients don't want cheap-looking hardware, says Joshua Early, Traco's manager of architectural products. Especially for high-end condominiums and high-rise multifamily properties in coastal areas, corrosion is becoming more of a concern. As a result, architects are specifying non-corrosive hardware and finishes, such as stainless steel or aluminum, to avoid pitting or discoloration and to improve durability. In coastal applications where environmental conditions may cause accelerated wear on standard finishes, Vasami recommends physical vapor deposition finishes. PVD is a metal finishing process that creates a finish more durable and sustainable than lacquer-based finishes.

6. Energy efficiency. Besides aesthetics, energy efficiency is one of the driving forces for door hardware innovations. Whether it's environmentally friendly anodized aluminum or low-energy automatic door applicators, door hardware is becoming as energy efficient as possible. Although the cost might differ from traditional systems, most manufacturers are realizing it's a valid investment and are starting to roll out new green product lines.

7. Security. No matter how green door hardware is, it also needs to be safe. An increased amount of lock bumping—an attack technique that uses specially cut keys to defeat conventional pin and tumbler locks—has prompted manufacturers to beef up security in multifamily residential locks. BHMA classifies bump keys as lock-picking devices and is working with the American National Standards Institute to modify the BHMA/ANSI A156 series standards for cylinder locks to include warnings for locks that are susceptible to bumping.

“We recommend the use of high-security cylinder locks that meet ANSI/BHMA standards in addition to a secondary item such as a restricted keyway,” says Peter Rush, executive director of BHMA. For example, products with side-locking bar technology can eliminate the typical pin and tumbler mechanisms in the lock's design and remove the most vulnerable points.

8. Ease of installation. The easier it is to install door hardware, the easier it is to save time on the total job, says Vasami. With that in mind, ease of installation is becoming more of a priority for specifiers. Manufacturers are offering pre-assembled products, more clearly defined instructions, installation methods that free the contractor's hands during installation, and designs that yield fewer components out of the box.

9. Access control. To add on extra layer of security, Building Teams are looking for alternatives to mechanical keys to control entry. Electronics are being applied to solve access control issues where a simple mechanical solution would have been used in the past. With everything from keyless touch pads to smart cards, the access control options are plentiful.