Comments attributed to: Paul Smith, Head of Specification Sales at Häfele...
“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to rethink how we live, move, and get together and with businesses able to utilise a £6m fund to rethink the design and operation of their buildings , now is the time to consider how ironmongery can play a vital role in keeping the public safe.
“As restrictions fluctuate – with regional spikes leading to local lockdowns while others enjoy relatively free movement in their area – offices, leisure facilities, shops and more will be tasked with identifying the changes they can make to their premises to ensure users can visit with confidence.
“The rise of the ‘contactless society’ was already accelerating before the coronavirus became commonplace, but now more than ever there is a need to implement technology which reduces the amount of touchpoints outside and within the buildings we frequent on a regular basis. And, for the cases where automation and contactless design isn’t an option, the use of materials which minimise transfer of bacteria must be prioritised.
“Increasingly, designers are working with firms to identify the ironmongery and technology which can be retrofitted to doors, to ensure people can reduce their interactions with handles and doors. At Häfele, we’ve been advising our customers on the best ways this can be achieved, suggesting a combination of approaches to make a space more COVID-secure.
“Implementing a remote access control system, such as Dialock, the advanced door and furniture locking system from Häfele, is just one way to minimise touch points within a building. Using Bluetooth in combination with an app which acts as a digital key, companies will be able to offer their staff access to meeting rooms, locked offices and other facilities. Dialock can link to an automatic sliding or swinging door operator, which would allow members of the public to open the door without touching a single surface, enabling safe and simple entry to a building. Not only does it improve convenience, but businesses are able to work with a sleek and sophisticated piece of technology. Dialock can also be used in conjunction with flow control technology to automatically limit the number of people entering a building at any one time, ensuring social distancing measures can be adhered to.
“There are ranges of newly configured door handles which have been designed to facilitate use with an elbow, rather than with a hand, while other ironmongery items are manufactured using anti-microbial, natural materials, such as copper and bronze. These materials are EPA registered and could be used to minimise transmission of COVID-19, with copper ironmongery having previously been used to reduce the spread of MRSA and E. Coli.
“While a large focus is on making buildings COVID-secure, it’s important not to neglect other elements of safety. Companies may look to improve movement around a building by wedging doors open but many of these will be life-critical fire doors. Holding them open without using the correct products to ensure they close again in the case of a fire, is a huge risk. Instead, consider using products which keep fire doors held open in a safe and compliant manner, such as electromagnetic hold-open door closers that can be wired up to a fire alarm system. When a fire alarm is triggered, the power to the hold-open unit is cut and the door automatically closes, providing a barrier to the spread of fire.
“This period of time is going to go down in history. It’s impossible to predict how long social distancing measures and an increased need for hygiene procedures will be necessary, but manufacturers are acting quickly to ensure that architects and specifiers working on commercial, civil and public facilities are equipped with the fixtures and fittings they need to make spaces secure, whether that’s for the short or long term. And while COVID-19 remains a concern, it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of other elements of health and safety, such as fire risks; that’s a compromise that can’t be made.”
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