Why School Architects are Switching to Steel Doors
Published in the Nov. 2015 issue of Door & Hardware Magazine
Take a look at a nearby school and you’ll most likely see steel doors on the exterior. But you’d have to venture inside to spot the latest trend: more and more schools are opting for steel doors there too.
Why? Because steel is tough as… well, steel, and can withstand the
flurry of abuse that kids unleash on doors every day. The old knock on
steel doors was that they looked too industrial. Nowadays manufacturers
offer custom finishes, stile & rail designs, embossments, and even
elegant woodgrain stains to make them attractive.
Few places have doors more prone to abuse than schools. Kids throw their
backpacks against them, bang on them, kick the doors open and slam
them shut. Teachers and maintenance staff roll carts into doors and wedge
them open with chair legs or broom handles. Steel provides superior resistance
to this relentless abuse because it is naturally strong and durable.
Steel’s inherent strengths make it the perfect door material for schools.
- weather resistance
- dent resistance
- easy to remove graffiti from properly
- extremely hard to pry open when
paired with appropriate hardware
- low cost of maintenance
Placing wood doors in such a high use, high abuse area is wasteful. Much
of the splinters and cracks that wood
doors are so susceptible to are irreparable.
When wood doors are repaired,
it's often a laborious and expensive
task. The same applies to aluminum
doors. When they are repairable, they
usually have to be removed and sent
to a workshop. However, aluminum
doors are often irreparable too because
they cannot be reannodized.
Steel doors are less likely to need
repairs in the first place because they
don't crack. Most damage that does
occur can easily be addressed in the
field by applying a filler material and
some fresh paint. Graffiti can often be
easily removed from steel doors too.
Schools can also benefit from many
of the specialty steel doors that are
IBC 2015 mandates that new construction
of schools in areas susceptible
to tornadoes—specifically those
located in the 250mph wind speed
zone—have storm shelters. Tornado resistant
door assemblies required
on these storm shelters must pass
the testing requirements of ICC 500
and be provided with a certified
label of compliance.
Many schools in the eastern U.S. but
outside of ‘Tornado Alley’ already
specify hurricane-resistant door
assemblies to increase safety and minimize
the risk of property damage.
Many more will soon follow.
With the abundance of steel specialty
products available, the possibilities
- Noise-reducing acoustic doors are
ideal for classrooms, music rooms
and quiet rooms.
- Steel fire doors are rated up to three
hours, offering more protection
than other door materials. They
are often lighter than fire-rated
wood doors too, and do not require
through bolting the hinges or door
closers—a common requirement
for heavy fire rated wood doors.
- Wood-grained finished doors provide the durability and ease
of maintenance of steel, with the
appearance of wood.
- Hurricane-resistant assemblies have
a variety of glass light, louver and other options, while meeting hurricane
resistant building codes.
- Custom doors and frames allow
unique design elements with the
durability of steel.
- Stainless steel doors and frames are
often used when a high-end appearance
is desired or when rust or
corrosion is a concern in areas such
as cafeterias, pools or wash rooms.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOORS
In these times of ever-tightening
budgets, the biggest driver of schools’
opting for steel is its longevity. Steel
Door Institute member manufacturers have successfully tested steel doors
to 10 million cycles per ANSI/SDI
Design professionals and school facility
managers should keep strength,
durability and safety in mind when
choosing doors. For example, a Florida
county has the following requirements
for the doors in their schools:
- windstorm-resistant exterior doors
- steel-stiffened core
- seamless edge
- compliance with ANSI A250.4
Level ‘A’ criteria and tested to
1,000,000 operating cycles and 23
Steel also offers extensive
LEED credits due to it being
100 percent recyclable.
The threat of gun violence in schools
is an unfortunate reality, but one
architects are increasingly addressing
when drafting plans for schools. Bullet-resistant steel doors can be
an essential element of a school's security
plan when gun violence may
be an issue.
Before specifying bullet-resistance
steel doors, it’s important to understand
their capabilities to avoid
Bullet-resistant doors are manufactured
at eight different levels, which
indicate the number of shots from a particular caliber of bullet that a door
can resist. For example, a
level 1 door can stop three shots from
a 9 mm; while a level 8 (AP) can withstand
eight shots from a 30-06 rifle.
A level 3 door offers plenty of protection
for most applications. Some
people fall prey to the ‘more is better’
mentality and waste money by overspecifying.
Save money by choosing
a more reasonable level of resistance.
A level 8 door could easily cost eight
times more than a level 1 bullet-resistant
WORK WITH A SECURITY
Even the most seasoned professionals
benefit from working with security
consultants. They are familiar with
the codes, trends, and products that
will help specify the appropriate door
for the schools' needs.
Security consultants can offer guidance
to help ensure that the entire
plan makes sense. For example,
a school recently being constructed
requested bullet resistant doors
and frames for a drywall application.
Having a bullet resistant assembly in
drywall can create a false sense
of security and waste the school’s
money. Security consultants are experts
at helping people avoid
these kinds of mistakes.
Between the hustle and bustle of
school activities and staff turnover,
mechanical keys are sometimes lost
by faculty, posing a security risk. Steel
doors are compatible with a variety
of electronic access control hardware
that is more secure and convenient
than standard keys. The majority of
electronic hardware is activated by
codes or cards.
- CODES – School staff enter a PIN
to unlock certain doors. PINs can
conveniently be created or disabled
at any time.
- CARDS – Many schools require
staff to carry around ID cards.
Other than for identification, staff scan their cards to gain entry to
locked rooms. Similar to PINs, ID
cards can easily be activated and
deactivated as necessary.
Retrofitting steel doors for electronic
hardware is much easier than it is for
wood doors. Steel lends itself to modifications;
it can be punched or drilled
and then filled and painted.
Aesthetics are undeniably an important
factor when selecting doors. Some
design professionals are under the
false impression that all steel doors
are plain. Fortunately, that isn’t the
case. They can be shaped, painted, or
finished to add an attractive design
element to any classroom.
Steel doors can be manufactured with
vision lites of any size or shape, or
with a stylish stile and rail design.
They can also be custom painted to
match any interior theme.
Many industry professionals have
learned over the years that the
strength and durability of steel doors
makes them a perfect fit for educational
facilities. Next time you’re inside
a school, check to see if the doors
are made of steel. If they are, the architect
or specifier was probably
an "A" student!