Tie-Rod Doors Bring Durability to High-Traffic Entryways

The Elements Financial Blue Ribbon Pavilion in Indiana and the gift shop at Mount Rushmore feature doors that are made to perform.

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March 12, 2018 |

Considering that entry doors are among the most frequently used moving parts of a building, it is impressive how long aluminum doors last and how well they perform. The door of a high-traffic entry such as at a retail facility could see literally hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of openings and closings every year. 

Event venues are designed for large crowds of people, and their doors see intense traffic. The Elements Financial Blue Ribbon Pavilion, a 70,575-sf building at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, is one such example. It is used not only during the annual Indiana State Fair—its 2017 edition saw more than 900,000 visitors in 17 days—but for a variety of public events such as tradeshows and roller derby matches, as well as private events like corporate gatherings and retreats.  

The main entrance has eight sets of double doors, Tubelite medium-stile doors with continuous hinges, and a PVDF resin-based coating in medium green. They were installed in 2000 by Hoosier Glass Co. as part of a major renovation of the building. The pavilion receives 750,000 guests annually, and since every entry is eventually followed by a departure, that could total up to 1.5 million door cycles per year.

Blue Ribbon Pavilion

Dan Buchanan, vice president and general manager of Hoosier Glass, who was the estimator on the project when the doors were installed, describes the doors as high quality. “A durable, architectural-grade door means it’s high traffic, it even gets beaten around a little bit,” he says.

As far as Buchanan knows, the pavilion’s doors have never been repaired or replaced in the 17-plus years since installation. However, he points out that if they did need repair, it would be an easy and economical project because it is a tie-rod assembled door. “The good thing about a stile-and-rail door like that is if a stile gets damaged, we can replace just the stile,” says Buchanan. “But if you take a welded door, you’d have to replace the whole thing. It’s good for the customer, although I don’t know if everyone realizes just how good it is for them.”

As an installer, Buchanan likes tie-rod doors because they give his company flexibility. He can order vertical stile and horizontal rail materials and manufacture the doors to the exact sizes he needs.

Another destination that draws scores of people every year has a similar story of high traffic longevity. The gift shop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota has just one public doorway, a pair of narrow stile aluminum doors with center pivots, in a clear anodized finish. Every year, 1.5 million to 2 million guests go through that entryway, twice. These doors, installed in 1998, are unusually light-duty choices for such a high-traffic location. Nonetheless, they served well for 20 years before the owner considered replacement.

Mount Rushmore gift shop doors

In a situation like this, the owner actually has two options.

Tie-rod assembled doors can be refurbished, replacing worn parts such as hardware. A local installer can adjust the glass blocks and fasteners to bring door leaves back to square with the openings. Replacing the weathering and seals gives the entryway optimal air tightness. Surface wear from millions of contacts with users cannot be removed or repaired, but badly worn individual elements such as a rail or a stile can be replaced. This approach may be considerably less expensive than full replacement.

Replacement can also be done to varying degrees. New doors and frames can be ordered to match the adjacent storefronts, or all new framing can be installed to provide a fresh new face for visitors. It is recommended that new door products be used for such high-profile destinations as Mount Rushmore.

Replacement does not necessarily mean the end for the existing doors, either. Often the old doors can be re-used in other, less public applications. Glazing contractors can also disassembled them and use the parts to repair similar doors. A final purpose for aluminum door components is to recycle the metal for use in a variety of construction or commercial purposes from beverage containers to automobiles.

If the doors are not reused, the aluminum parts are fully recyclable.  Aluminum is a very environmentally friendly material because it can be recycled with no loss of metallurgical properties.  Recycling has been an integral part of aluminum manufacture for decades.  It accounts for much of the “new” aluminum produced, and is one of the major reasons that aluminum remains a highly affordable architectural material.

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