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ELEVATED EXPECTATIONS - Trends and challenges in high-end door and entrance hardware

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Owners and architects of high-end projects have higher expecta­tions with respect to design, engineering and performance, and these expectations present glaziers, with challenges and opportunities to stand out. High-end doors and entrances make a statement, and their hardware requires detail-driven focus in design and installation to satisfy customers, according to glaziers and suppliers.

Glazing systems and hardware for high-end projects aim to enhance performance, which may include hurricane and impact re­sistance, thermal efficiency, ease of operation, and high-tech options, such as wireless-enabled locks. Customization is a characteristic of these projects, which means that lead times are longer and that their installation requires more technical support from engineers and manufacturers, according to industry sources.

Hardware and entrance trends

Doors, entrances and their hardware can make a statement that is part of a unique, consistent and recognizable brand identity for high-end jobs. Customers continue to want more glass and less metal. Glass is getting bigger. Doors are often tall and may be frameless, with exposed glass edge and tall, slim door pulls and other hardware designed to disappear.

"[Customers] want open views, with no interruptions, with slimmer profiles and invisible tracks," according to Bob Linford, vice president, California operations, Giroux Glass,

Customizable features that help cre­ate a unique entrance are important to the market. "Customizable cladding finishes can promote a company's branding theme, and optional LED lighting can add distinct aesthetic appeal," says Andrew Haring, vice president of marketing C.R. Laurence,

Consistency is also important for creating specific looks. Officials from Assa Abloy,, note, "Attention to details makes the difference. Consistency in finish throughout all door hardware components is important to architects and designers."

Integrated technology is also an aspect of entrance designs and hardware. At Giroux, customers have requested security locks on frameless systems, card reader, and electrochromic and switchable glass, says according to Russell South, project manager, high­end design, Giroux Glass. Additionally, complex multipoint locks are often featured on sliding systems.

Unique visions

Key to the high-end door and entrance market is customization coupled, with performance, sources say. "Every job is not only different f om each other it's one of a kind. Each high-end project we do represents someone's unique vision of his or her own personal idea, so that no two projects are ever alike," says Rob Carter, chief estimator, high-end design, Giroux Glass.

Unique visions create challenges for glaziers "with expectations about ex­pertise, coordination of scheduling and partners, and engineering problems to solve. To meet that challenge, Giroux Glass, for example, focuses on building a team of specialists. Communication with customers is important, because they don't always know that their vision requires new systems and solutions, or what that can mean in terms of scheduling, company officials say.

Like Giroux, Crawford-Tracey Corp.,, does many high-end installations, although Florida building codes create an additional constraint to scheduling and logistical challenges already involved in these projects, due to the testing and code approval process, company officials say.

According to Ray Crawford, president, Crawford-Tracey Corp., "High-end designers typically want larger components, innovative designs, and increased spans and sizes. The turnaround time to develop custom products and have them tested is a relatively slow process in this industry, but we have been successful balancing the aesthetic and luxury feel designers want to achieve with the structural durability and strict compliance required by the Florida building code."

High-end retail requires saying on top of trends and developing products that appeal to designers. Like Giroux, Crawford-Tracey continues to see larger spans of glass in all its jobs, along with higher expectations across the board. Says Crawford, "There is greater concern for security/safety, thermal efficiency and ease of use as it pertains to entrances and energy performance."

Tips for success

High-end entrance system and door applications offer opportunities for companies looking to capitalize on value-added product and design installations. However, they also present notable challenges. (See sidebar at right). Custom products can increase lead times, requiring additional communication and coordination. Strict code requirements, increased system complexity and high expectations for quality demand extreme precision with fabrication and installation. Suppliers offer a number of recommendations for glaziers to ensure success on high-end projects.

To start, glaziers should take extra time and attention at the bid stage. "Customers need to be careful during the bid process. They need to understand the details and have a well­defined scope of the work, as part of their bid package:' says Mike Nicklas, director of engineered glass systems, J.E. Berkowitz.,

Once on the project, glaziers should take extra care in reviewing the specifications. "Specifications are one of the most important elements of the purchasing process. If the specification is not clear,… ask questions," says Gregg Wakefield, business development, Bella Architectural Products,

Due to increased complexity on many high-end entrance and door applications, suppliers recommend glaziers communicate early and often with project team members to manage scheduling and lead times. Companies should allow time for additional engineering and technical support. "This high-end work requires a lot of coordination of complex hardware items. Critical scheduling of equipment and manpower for these installations will be adversely affected if there are fitment issues," says Melissa Thompson, glass engineer, Assa Abloy Glass Solutions.

More complex systems generally translate to more complex installations. Suppliers should work closely with suppliers to ensure successful installation. "Installation is one of, if not the most, important factors in having your door work properly and last the duration of time. Being off level in the slightest of degrees can affect the whole system," says John Finley, regional sales manager, Panda Windows & Doors,

''Many designs incorporate unique features that add to their high performance, but many cause some complexity during the installation process," adds Dave Snyder, product manager, patio doors, AmesburyTruth, amesbury­ "The installer should follow all instructions throughout the installation process to ensure the quality and performance of the product."

Finally, as with any entrance or store front project, companies should verify local codes early in the process. "Building and energy codes can vary significantly from region to region so it's very important for glaziers to consult the authority having jurisdiction early on," says CRL's Haring. "This will clarify all entrance system performance requirements upfront, so they can avoid costly and time-consuming reworks down the road." END (article online link)

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