Kinds of Automatic Doors

Introduction to automatic doors

Humans have been developing ways to automatically open and close doors since Heron of Alexandria devised an underground mechanism for a temple entrance in 100BC. Two thousand years later, there are more reasons than ever to specify automatic doors. These include:

  • Ease of access For many people who lack physical ability or who are encumbered by pushchairs, for example, heavy manual doors can be a barrier. Two factors that now make this an essential consideration are the Equality Act (previously known as the Disability Discrimination Act or DDA – see overleaf) and the UK’s ageing population.
  • Aesthetics Automatic doors can make a visually appealing entrance – automatic doors were a trend on the UK high street long before the Equality Act came into force.
  • Energy efficiency Using automatic doors to provide a draft lobby between external and internal areas can cut down heat loss.

Types of automatic door

There are many types of automatic doors, and the correct specification can depend on the type of pedestrian traffic, whether use is continuous or intermittent, environmental conditions, and whether the door is an emergency exit. Here are some of the different types of automatic door available:

Automatic sliding doors

A sliding mechanism maximises the open width of a doorway, and avoids the need for the deep lobby areas required by swing doors. Automatic sliding doors can be single leaf or bi-parting, but the door system must be wide enough for the panels to slide back into the side screens. Variations on automatic sliding door include:

  • Telescopic systems These are useful when wide doorways are required. Because the door leaves consist of two sections, when they slide back they require only around one-third of the structural width of the door system.
  • Curved Automatic sliding doors can be designed as outwardly or inwardly curved semi-circles and segments, as full circle configurations, as oval and double-segment units, or as any combination of these shapes. They can perform draught exclusion and airlock functions, and create a sense of width and depth to entrances.

Automatic swing doors

Automatic swing door systems contain powerful operating units that provide functional reliability. Types of automatic swing door include:

  • Full automatic Powerful swing door operators are suitable for standard as well as for large and heavy doors, and can be adapted to a wide range of applications. Some are suitable for fire and smoke doors.
  • In-head These units are designed to fit almost invisibly within the transom of the door.
  • Low energy These units are perfect for areas of low traffic or where the door will usually be operated manually. For those who do need assistance the door can be automatically operated by use of a push pad or frequent users can be provided with a remote control. These units do not need to be fitted with safety sensors.

Space-saving doors

Balanced or folding doors offer a solution when space is at a premium:

  • Balanced doors These use a swivel movement to provide the widest opening for narrow widths. The pivot centres are located off-centre, below and above the door opening, which means that the space swept by the door leaves is kept to a minimum. Balanced doors can be used on emergency escape routes, as they can be opened like a normal hinged door.
  • Folding doors These are easy to install, economical and safe. They make full use of structural widths. Automatic folding doors are suitable for emergency exits.

Revolving doors

Revolving doors are an elegant solution that also hold back noise, dust and dirt, and help to keep heating costs down. They come in many sizes and types including manual, automatic, servo-assist and positional. Where revolving doors are installed, automated pass doors should also be provided for people who are not able to use the revolving door.


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