Access control for custom glass doors is always challenging...

One of the challenges for access control installers is putting together access control solutions that incorporate glass doors. What’s tough is coming up with a solution that blends the aesthetic of glass with a reasonable measure of security.

At the sharp of any access control systems are physical barriers – doors, jambs and walls – that are sufficiently robust to keep intruders out. Materials that are robust include metal and timber. Not only does their heavy construction provide strong support for locking devices, it also allows wiring and/or sensors to be installed in frames or even within the bodies of doors where required.

Glass is another ballgame altogether. Architects go for a glass look to increase feelings of light and space. Cluttering their precious glass up with lock bodies and stray conduit is not going to be in the script. Recognising aesthetics as the over-arching agenda is important for electronic security installers who are going to need to think about surface mount solutions like magnetics and shear locks instead of strikes and bolts in some cases.

Using products like shear locks comes with a few challenges, too. On the one hand, shear locks are recessed into door frames and have the lowest visual profile. On the other hand, installations like this can be twitchy. Shear locks, like other magnetic locking devices, need a clean bond between magnet and armature to be effective. Too much overlap caused by poor installation, challenges of frame construction or sagging hinges will surely lead to unreliability.

The sorts of things you may need to do with glass door will demand some improvisation or customization. If wires need to be run, you could install metal strips of chrome or stainless steel that cover and protect wires. In some cases, it might be possible to just install a magnetic or shear lock armature onto a glass door frame, but if strikes are involved the glazier may be involved in the customization of the door to receive a lock installation.

Making things a little easier is that some glass doors need to be manufactured with metal header tubes, rails, frames or patches that are designed to allow installation of electronic locking devices to them. This is a configuration that throws the integration process wide open, allowing competent techs to use the door’s robust metal footprint to get their hardware in position. But there customised doors which take curved glass right to the edge and these will require custom solutions.

The biggest challenge with glass door is alignment and it’s not just a matter of the way the door is hung. Alignment also comes down to the accuracy of the site survey conducted before the door was designed and built. Alignment is a challenge for physical locking devices used with glass doors and it’s even more of a challenge for electronic devices – that’s strikes and bolts too, if they’re the preferred option.

Making the business more demanding still is the fact most glass doors represent a floor to ceiling opening. This means the doors are heavy, the working heights are getting towards ladder tops, and extraneous protrusions from ceilings above or from out of the door edge will mean a seal can’t be obtained. There’s also absolutely no chance of pulling a door off a frame and planning out an organic solution to a mistake made through some minor miscalculation during installation. The job has to be right first time, or a door worth tens of thousands of dollars could be ruined.

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