Jul 24 2019

Barrier-free door construction in a new design

Today’s society is older than ever before. Designers and above all architects are having to rethink how they work because of this demographic change. Property developers have to find solutions for daily life that will ensure that the elderly and disabled people have equal opportunities. Küffner’s space-saving door is one possible answer to this challenge: it is barrier-free, ergonomic and economic.

The door that folds

Anyone building or renovating homes today is already thinking about the future. When the residents reach an old age and need crutches, a stick or perhaps even a wheelchair, they shouldn’t face any obstacles within their own four walls. But problems for physically disabled people often start the minute they enter the building: the entrance door is an obstruction.

The swing and sliding doors that dominate the market make life easier for users, but their space requirements are a challenge for property developers. Swing doors have a leaf that rotates around a vertical axis. They are available as single-action doors, where the door leaf hits some form of resistance, and as double-action doors, where the door leaf swings through the opening.

Some double-action doors have two leaves that spring back into the closed position after opening. Sliding doors are opened with a horizontal sliding action instead of a turning movement. Both types of door generally operate automatically, but they require sufficient space to be fully functional.

The question of space or, to be more accurate, how to save it, is one that Küffner’s solution addresses. With the development of the space-saving door, the company based in Rheinstetten near Karlsruhe has created a real alternative to existing swing or sliding doors. The space-saving door is a folding door that folds away to the side as it turns.

The folding mechanism is not located in the centre of the door. Instead, it divides the door leaf into two differently sized parts. Split into one-third and two-thirds, the door saves space because only the smaller section of the whole width of the door leaf projects into the room when it is opened. The barrier-free folding door can therefore be used with a wheelchair or a walking frame without hazardous manoeuvring – and it can even be installed where there are special requirements for escape routes.

The sophisticated construction means that the door handle is always within reach for a wheelchair user, and it can be operated on both sides of the entrance. But its advantages over swing and sliding doors don’t just lie in its design: it is the space saved in the rooms and the door installation that makes the difference.

The space-saving door: ergonomic and economic benefits

The door’s usability, ease of operation and space savings for different user groups have been examined by the Institut für Holztechnologie Dresden (Dresden Institute for Wood Technology, IHD) and directly compared with standard swing doors and sliding doors. Their findings clearly demonstrate the space-saving door’s advantages: less space is required in front of and behind the door, and operating the door is easier and more ergonomic for walking frame and wheelchair users.

In terms of safety, a finger protection gasket in the folding area between the door leaves – with the option of additional finger protection on the main closing edge – ensures there’s no risk of injury to the fingers or feet.

But barrier-free design does not necessarily have to result in additional costs when construction takes this aspect into consideration. As the folding door only takes up a third of its width when it is opened, the space saved compared to a swing door is around thirty per cent.

This space can be put to good use by enlarging the bathroom or the bedroom. If it is planned at the right stage, construction costs can be cut and the project’s profitability improved. Ultimately, smaller-scale rooms mean that a smaller plot of land will be enough for the project or that more residential units can be built on a given plot.

But the door doesn’t just offer advantages for new-builds. Renovations also stand to benefit. Its universal design means that the space-saving door can be combined with any kind of door frame, and it is inexpensive to retrofit.

Cramped spaces call for intelligent solutions. The folding mechanism in the space-saving door is an answer to this challenge and meets all the requirements for accessibility. It can create space in private homes and in hospitals, retirement homes, schools and nurseries.

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