A Hands-free Environment
How to prepare for the new normal
No one will argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has
dramatically changed the way we interact in public
Since the pandemic struck, and the United States
has been struggling to adapt to the “new normal,” facility managers
in organizations across all industries and sectors have been
scrambling to implement effective, efficient solutions to minimize
the risk of exposure for their employees, visitors and patrons.
As workplaces implement new processes, including making
schedule changes, facilitating cohort rotations or reconfiguring
work areas to achieve the recommended six feet of separation,
leaders are looking for solutions that fit their specific needs –
ranging from low-to-high tech – to keep their staff safe in a variety
One of the most frequently touched surfaces is door hardware,
so it should come as no surprise that alternatives like hands-free
door openings can minimize a multitude of skin-to-surface touch
points throughout the day. Regardless of future regulations, reducing
the number of contact points in a facility will be an effective
way to minimize future germ spread.
As there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to ensuring a building
is a completely touchless environment, facility managers must
assess and identify door opening solutions that meet the specific
needs of their spaces to minimize the spread of germs and bacteria.
Automated openings like revolving doors, swing doors or sliding
doors, offer stylish touch-free convenience for building entryways
that are high risk areas for the spread of viruses – simply based on
the sheer number of people passing through them each day.
Modern automatic sliding door systems can be customized for
all uses, tastes and architectural styles, from rugged aluminumframed
door systems for demanding high traffic areas, to all-glass
systems for unobstructed views, and even curved sliding doors for
Key Card or Mobile Entry Systems
Managing secure entry with key cards or mobile entry systems
will be integral for facility managers to monitor access to areas
within their buildings. With heightened concerns around adjusting
capacity to allow for the required social distance in spaces
like lobbies, elevators and conference rooms, understanding and
tracking not only how people move about the building, but also
which areas are “hot spots” for activity, is critical to upholding
occupant health and safety.
Key cards and mobile entry systems are easy to use and allow
for access to multiple areas with a single card. Additionally, with
the ability to grant and remove access rights remotely, facility
managers can control access as remote workforces return to work
in various shifts and in different numbers.
Hands-free Arm and Foot Pulls
Now more than ever budgets are tight, but facility managers
need to take urgent action to retrofit existing hardware to dramatically
reduce skin-to-surface touch points, like door handles
and pulls for bathrooms, entrances and offices, as populations
begin to return to work and public spaces.
Hands-free arm and foot door pulls are cost-effective options
for low-touch door operation for both pre-existing and new openings.
Push/pull hardware enables occupants to open doors with a
nudge of the hip. Arm and foot pulls offer a method of opening
doors without grasping hardware by the hand. Best of all,
these hands-free solutions can be quickly and easily retrofitted in
existing buildings. In addition, they support ADA standards and
regulations to ensure all openings remain accessible to everyone.
Radio Frequency Sensors
Radio frequency devices automatically open doors when an
individual comes within the range of the door operator’s sensor.
Some receivers can accept up to 30 transmitters, making these devices
ideal solutions for spaces where wave switches are not practical,
or for situations where individuals regularly pass through speci
fic doorways, such as maintenance workers or luggage porters.
Wave-to-open switches, coupled with low energy door operators,
allow occupants to easily move through a building without
The sensors in wave-to-open switches detect hand gestures
within four inches of the switch and are highly precise to avoid
false activation. They can be programmed to hold a door open
up to 30 seconds allowing multiple people to move seamlessly
between conference rooms and offices without worrying about
touching and transferring germs.
All types of swing doors can be upgraded to open automatically
using a low energy door operator paired with a wave-toopen
switch, RF device, and/or remote control fob. And, these
devices can work alone or in concert with fire alarm, access control
and other building automation systems.
The latest door operators are designed to be installed by one
person on single or double doors. They address a critical pain
point by enabling integrators and facility managers to quickly
and easily program and adjust door operator settings using a
WiFi-enabled smart device.
In addition, if multiple door operators exist in the same facility,
installers can simply save and port over settings to other units,
eliminating the trouble of setting up ladders and removing device
As the pandemic continues to evolve and as our nation’s nearly 6
million commercial buildings prepare for a new normal, the question
of how to protect tenants, staff, and visitors will continue to be top of
mind. Limiting contact and exposure by retrofitting with hands-free
door hardware is an important line of defense in rebuilding trust and
reducing risk for building occupants and guests.
Investing in these solutions to minimize germ
spread will deliver both immediate and long-term
tenant health and user experience benefits.
This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Security Today.