Glass Canada


The most important factors in automated entrances

April 16, 2010  By Brian Burton

There was a time not that long ago when the concept of a door opening
automatically when you approached it was considered to be science
fiction. Today we take this technology entirely for granted.

There was a time not that long ago when the concept of a door opening automatically when you approached it was considered to be science fiction. Today we take this technology entirely for granted.

 As is the case with many fenestration products in today’s marketplace, automated entrance systems are becoming more and more complex and are utilizing digital and computer technology as well as many new security features.

The architects I spoke with confirmed that a great deal of attention and thought goes into the design, orientation and technology that is utilized in an entrance system and these elements can be critical components of a building’s functional success.


The primary reasons for the popularity of automated entrance systems are convenience (especially in buildings with high traffic), energy conservation, ensuring accessibility for all users, security and safety in cases of emergency exit.

 In some cases codes and regulations have been a factor and all 12 Canadian provinces and territories have adopted the NBC requirement that at least one automated door be installed for certain types of buildings.

Early automated systems used pneumatic or hydraulic operators coupled with swinging doors and floor mats.  Recently, the trend has moved away from pneumatic and hydraulic operators towards electro-mechanical devices, which have a lower initial cost and require less maintenance.

 Factors in designing and planning the building entrance system include customer traffic flow, the width and ease of entry, security, safety and the use of windows.

Tony Menecola of Applewood Glass in Mississauga has been installing entrance systems for a considerable length of time. “Entrance systems are a significant element of our first impression of a building and what we can expect from the companies and occupants of the facility – be it an
office building, small office or retail store,” says Menecola.

Tony pointed out that aluminum doors and frames (both thermally broken and/or non-thermally broken), glass systems, revolving doors and automatic sliders can be considered.

“Hardware should be supplied to suit the intended use. In most cases standard hardware are more than adequate; however, there is an increasing trend to fit up entrance systems with easier access through the use of electronic hardware such as card readers or magnetic locks.”

Other considerations are more aesthetic in nature, such as type of glass (clear, tinted or, patterned) and type of frame finish (anodized, painted or clad). 

While automated doors have been used in commercial applications for years, they are now beginning to gain popularity in residential setting applications.
 The idea of automated doors is not new. The first foot-sensor-activated “automatic” door was made in China more than a thousand years ago during the reign of Emperor Yang of Sui.

Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia, Penn., invented and patented the revolving door in 1888 when he noticed that doors were hard to open because of the vacuum caused by air flowing upwards through stairwells, elevator shafts, and chimneys.

In 1954, Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton co-founders of Horton Automatics, invented the first automatic sliding doors in 1954. Today millions are sold every year around the world.

The latest innovation is the “face recognition” door lock. The new locking system uses night vision cameras and 3-D technology to recognize faces in a fraction of a second. It can store up to 500 faces, and businesses can use it to record exactly who is coming and going and at what times. When programmed correctly it can also lock the door on unwanted visitors.

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