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Last updateWed, 21 Aug 2019 1pm

Why glass revolving doors are becoming more popular in UK buildings

Patented in the U.S. in 1888, the revolving door is not a new invention but its popularity in the UK has only been growing over the last decade. They are quite common in some parts of Europe, particularly in modern headquarter buildings as well as in the U.S. where they are routinely fitted to many hotels, shopping malls and offices.

In this feature, we take a look at some of the reasons why the UK is finally catching on to the benefits of glass revolving doors as well as addressing some common concerns and myths.

Glass Revolving Doors

There are quite a few designs of revolving door including both manually and automatically operated systems. The former requires occupants to push the door when they enter the wing (or arm) of the central unit to engage the rotating mechanism on the shaft.

Automatic revolving doors can be continuous in operation or employ the use of sensors to only commence rotation when someone approaches the unit.

Revolving door access systems can come in a variety of designs and offer larger compartments where required.

Most revolving doors are constructed using glass which allows incoming and outcoming users to anticipate each other’s movements.

The direction of revolving doors is usually adjusted according to the owners choosing; in North America and Europe, this is often counter-clockwise but in places like New Zealand and Australia the direction is clockwise. Here, in the U.K., revolving doors are mainly installed to rotate in a clockwise direction.

Benefits of Glass Revolving Doors

There are three main reasons that revolving doors are a popular choice for access to buildings:

  • They are more energy efficient than traditional doors or other access solutions such as sliding doors.
  • They offer greater security benefits.
  • They can improve the flow of traffic entering and exiting a building.

Energy Efficiency

Whenever a door is opened, air can escape from the building and allow air from the outside to enter. In the UK, most commercial premises now have conditioned air systems which can include heating as well as air-conditioning and, in some case, humidity control.

By contrast, revolving doors limit the amount of air that can escape and prevent the loss of warm (or cool) air. 

A study conducted by students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2006 found that revolving doors exchanged eight times less air than traditional doors. A lower air-change rate can significantly reduce energy usage... and costs.

Enhanced Security

Revolving doors are an excellent way to restrict the access to a facility to a single person at a time and can be coupled with automated and/or unmanned access control.

In some installations, revolving doors can replace full-height turnstiles.

This style of door is more commonly being used in airport security to restrict the flow of pedestrian traffic to one-way. 

Improved Traffic Flow

Unlike traditional doors that allow people who are entering and exiting to occupy the same space, revolving doors ease the flow of traffic by allowing people to come in and out at the same time.

Other Benefits of Glass Revolving Doors

As well as the above, revolving doors are also being requested and incorporated in building design as a result of the following:

  • Improved Working Conditions for Staff - Hospitality, reception and security staff who work in premises were revolving doors have been installed also report a reduction in the impact of draughts. This has been noted as making a positive improvement to their working conditions.
  • More Attractive Design Feature - Another reason that revolving doors are becoming more popular in the UK is one of aesthetics. Architects are taken with the way this style of entrance can improve the focus of a building’s design and are incorporating them more into their plans.
  • Reduced Noise – Revolving doors do not produce much noise during operation and, compared to the open/shut mechanism of traditional doors are much quieter. As they maintain a kind of ‘airlock’ there is also less noise disturbance from outside. 

Revolving Doors: Common Concerns Addressed

Despite all of these benefits, the uptake in the UK for glass revolving doors has been relatively slow. The reason for this is almost certainly due some of the following common concerns and myths about their safe use and operation.

Speed Control

Some people are concerned that revolving doors, either manually or automatically operated, can move too quickly for their visitors. In the case of manually operated mechanisms, this is further compounded by the fear that one user could force the rotation of a revolving door at high speeds making it unsafe for others to enter.

The technology employed in modern door units prevent this from happening as they are installed with speed control restriction.

Safety of Automatic Revolving Doors

There are some concerns over the safety of automatic revolving doors particularly with their use with small children. 

Modern revolving door technology is routinely fitted with safety sensors that prevent the main mechanism from working where an obstruction has been detected. 

Safe Exit in Emergency

In accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (RRFSO) 2005, revolving doors must not be used in place of an emergency exit and all installations of this design of access solution must also have safe escape provision in the event of fire or other emergency.

It is also worth nothing that many revolving doors are also designed to allow the compartments to be opened up and allow a building’s occupants to bypass the ‘managed’ entry/exit mechanism. 

Restricted Access for People with Mobility Aids

In the same way that the installation of revolving doors is governed by fire safety, commercial premises must also comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). This means that unrestricted access must be available. 

The British Security Industry Association has addressed this issue with their ‘Guidance on Access Control Systems’ and Disability Discrimination’ guide, stating:

  • Revolving doors used alone are not considered accessible and should be complemented by an adjacent door meeting the regulations; this door should also be powered.
  • Very large, slow, continually revolving doors may be acceptable for wheelchair users but may not be suitable for others.

Perceived Reluctance of People to Use Revolving Doors

There is some evidence to suggest that people have an aversion to using revolving doors and, when given an option, would rather choose a more traditional way to enter or exit a building.

There are several reasons for this including claustrophobia, anxiety about getting stuck inside the compartment as well as perceived physical effort (manually operating revolving doors). In Britain, this is compounded by social etiquette and the fact that revolving doors are relatively new and uncommon.

The same students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who recorded improved energy efficiency with revolving doors were able to demonstrate that just 30% of people voluntarily chose to use one over a traditional method. However, in a repeat experiment, the group were able to improve this uptake to over 70% via the use of clearer signage that:

  • Asked people to use the revolving doors and
  • Advertised the energy efficiency benefits of using the revolving doors.

It is not hard to change behaviour if the reasons for doing so are made clear.

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