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 spaces.

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 of environments.

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

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 elegant entrances.

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

Wave-to-open switches, coupled with low energy door operators, allow occupants to easily move through a building without transferring germs.

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.

Hassle-free Upgrades

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 covers.

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.


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