Many of us have experienced a project where the doors were subjected to unexpected wind loads, causing problems with the hardware and the operation of the door. I’m not talking about the occasional wind that comes with a hurricane, tornado, or tropical storm – I mean the everyday wind gusts due to the building location or other factors.
One of my projects with a wind problem was a hotel in downtown Boston. Just as construction ended, someone opened an exterior door to the lobby and it was whipped out of their hand by the wind. This building isn’t right on the water, the door is at street level, and we weren’t in the midst of a hurricane. I had no way of knowing that wind would be an issue, and even if I had, I’m not sure I would have initially been able to talk the architect into the solution we ended up with – a heavy-duty surface mounted closer with a separate overhead stop.
Someone recently contacted me about a door that had been subjected to 60 MPH winds and had injured someone. The question she asked was whether there were code requirements pertaining to the opening/closing cycle of doors in windy conditions. As far as I know, there aren’t. The only thing that comes close is the accessibility requirement which states that the maximum closing speed must be 5 seconds to go from the 90-degree position to 12 degrees from the latch. I don’t know how this would be applied to a door caught by a sudden gust of wind.
My recommended solution was a heavy duty cast iron closer with a separate heavy duty overhead stop. Advanced Variable Backcheck (AVB), which starts the cushioning effect of backcheck earlier in the opening cycle, could help if the door was being whipped open by the wind, but would also make the door more difficult to open. This might be a solution for some doors, but I wouldn’t use it on the main entrance.
- What would you do to improve the situation if a door is being slammed closed by the wind or blown open by the wind? Keep in mind the opening force limitations of the accessibility and egress requirements.
- And what about pressure relief valves (PRV)? The one I tested in the lab would allow the door to slam closed or fly open as soon as I applied abrupt pressure to the door. I wouldn’t want a closer with a PRV on a door in a windy location.
- Finally, whose problem is it when the hardware you specified is not able to withstand the unexpected wind loads? Is it the hardware consultant’s responsibility to pay for the solution? The architect’s? Is there some way to determine in advance that the wind will be an issue?
I’d appreciate your feedback!
Here’s what 40MPH winds look like (no, this is not me):
And a glass door battling high winds (and losing):
And here’s one more broken glass door which has nothing to do with wind but will provide some entertainment value: