How to Properly Select and Maintain Automatic Doors in Retail Environments
By: Christopher Johnson, the American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers
In retail environments, the decision to specify and install automatic doors should be primarily dictated by the types
and quantity of users that are expected to enter and exit the location on a regular basis. Automatic doors are a
natural choice in an environment where anticipated users include shoppers carrying packages or pushing strollers or
carts, handicapped individuals and elderly patrons. It is also widely understood that automatic doors demonstrate
overall good customer service. In fact, a recent study that was conducted by the American Association of Automatic
Door Manufacturers (AAADM) indicated that 98 percent of consumers who expressed a preference between
automatic and manual doors favor automatic doors.
After the initial decision to install automatic doors has been made, it is important to take steps to guarantee that the
ideal type of automatic door is chosen and subsequently maintained in a manner that ensures it will be a fairly
trouble-free and valuable asset to the business for many years.
Simplifying the Selection Process
Selecting the best type of automatic door for a particular retail operation is a challenge that can be easily overcome
with the help of qualified professionals who are familiar with the desired traffic flow, types of users of the facility and
visual impression desired. So, it is important to choose a manufacturer that will take the time to understand the
specific needs and preferences of your business.
When meeting with potential manufacturers, AAADM recommends asking them for proof of compliance with codes
and standards. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), and other nationally recognized test agencies, label and list products
for compliance with their regulations.
It is also fundamental for the business owner to be involved in the decision making process. Besides obtaining input
from the prospective manufacturer, he or she should also confer with an architect or consultant knowledgeable of
applicable codes and regulations.
There are many questions that the owner and architect should answer in the initial phase of their discussions,
- Will the door serve as an emergency exit during evacuations?
- Does the door need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG)?
- How will it meet fire regulations?
- Does it need to be locked?
AAADM has developed a guide to selecting automatic doors, which is available as a free download on the library
page of the AAADM Web site.
Key Issues to Consider
While factors such as appearance are important, they should be a secondary consideration when selecting an
automatic door. More importantly, federal, state and local codes must all be met. Fortunately, given the wide range of
options, you will not be forced to sacrifice form for function.
Generally, codes for automatic doors intended for pedestrian use require that the door swing out in emergencies
when pushed in the direction of egress. The code mandates the net door opening be a precise width based on the
size of the store or facility and usually it must be a minimum of seven feet high.
To meet minimum ADA compliance guidelines, there must be an adequate area around the door for maneuvering, a
clear opening of 32 inches and a threshold that is tapered. The door should also be able to be opened with minimal
ANSI A156.10 Standard for Power Operated Doors is the top source for specifying automatic doors. It covers all
required safety-related elements. To guarantee the door is installed properly, an AAADM-certified inspector should
inspect the door immediately following installation. .
Matching the Door to the Application
The floor plan and layout of a facility significantly influence the type of automatic door that will be installed. Whether
the intended traffic flow is one-way or two-way is a crucial consideration as well. The size of the opening that will be
required to meet the traffic conditions should also be determined. And, remember that a vestibule might be a good
option to help control the heating and cooling costs and keep employees stationed by the door comfortable.
The costs associated with properly equipped automatic sliding, swinging and folding doors are about the same. So,
price should not play a significant role in the decision.
Maintenance is another factor, and its costs can vary by door type and sensors in use. Finally, aesthetics come into
play. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of diverse finishes available to meet business’s likings. Painted, cladded,
anodized aluminum, stainless steel, brass and powder-coated are only a few of the options offered.
There are three basic types of automatic doors
Automatic Sliding Doors:
Automatic sliding doors allow effective two-way traffic through a single door. It is vital that
the doors be equipped with the emergency swing feature (SX) for code compliance. Automatic sliding doors require
an adequate amount of slide room in which the door can slide.
Automatic Swinging doors:
When a swinging door is automated, two doors are required. One door swings inward
and the other door swings outward. This enables two-way traffic. AAADM cautions that two-way traffic through a
single automatic swinging door is not normally recommended. The exception is a low-energy swing operator that has
different characteristics than a fully automatic door. It is crucial that these types of doors are well marked to indicate
their direction of travel. A minimum of 11 feet of space between the two doors is suggested to give some separation
and to eliminate sensor interference between the two doors.
Automatic Folding Doors:
A bi-folding door requires minimal space to install, yet provides plenty of clear door
space. This makes this type of door a preferred choice when retail space is at a premium. These doors should have
an emergency swing feature if the door is being used as an egress location.
No matter the type of door, the automatic door system should be designed in such a way that traffic approaches the
door in full view and users walk directly toward the door. Pedestrians must have excellent visibility of the door and its
markings and be able to clearly observe the direction of door travel. Avoid positioning vending machines, pay
telephones or anything else that has potential to distract users within four feet of the moving door.
Performance and Maintenance
When choosing an automatic door supplier, there are a number of issues to take into account. Timeliness in delivery
and installation are important. Fundamental, of course, is that the door works properly and safely.
Providing automatic door equipment is just a small portion of a successful door automation program. A planned
maintenance program should be strongly considered to guarantee that the automatic doors remain in superior
condition and working order. These programs often reveal small issues before they become large, expensive
There are numerous kinds of planned maintenance programs available. The number of automatic doors the chain
owns, the amount of customer traffic, the age of the automatic doors and the retailer’s overall attitude toward
maintenance programs often influence which program they choose. Regardless of the program that is chosen, it is
imperative to select a manufacturer/supplier that employs AAADM-trained technicians.
AAADM Guidelines For Automatic Doors
The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers is a trade association of power-operated automatic door
manufacturers. AAADM was established to raise public awareness and administer a program to certify automatic
door inspectors. AAADM advocates proper specification, installation and maintenance of all automatic doors.
Teaching automatic door safety to inspectors is part of AAADM’s certification program. AAADM also conducted a
public awareness campaign to inform people that automatic doors are safe, but advises users to keep moving when
passing through door openings. AAADM’s guidelines include the following:
- The automatic door should be properly specified to suit the intended use, and the ANSI A156.10 Standard for
Power-Operated Doors should be followed.
- Qualified technicians with AAADM certification should install automatic doors.
- Planned maintenance and daily inspections are strongly recommended. Daily safety-check procedures are outlined
on a label that can be obtained from AAADM or any certified inspector.
- An AAADM Certified Inspector should inspect automatic doors annually.
- Doors should be properly marked as automatic.
- Door closing speed and force should be adjusted for the intended public. Time delay should be set, and activating
devices properly positioned and adjusted.
Safety and Responsibility
Remember, these guidelines should only be used as s a primer. It is extremely important to consult with qualified
professionals throughout the design, selection and installation process. Furthermore, if even the slightest problem is
detected, the automatic door in question should be shut down and its operation should cease until a certified
technician can diagnose and address the issue. When it comes to automatic doors, safety is a critical responsibility
that should and must be shared by the business owner, specifying architect and supplier.