Spring Hinges - Do they meet ADA? What about fire rating?
Spring is in the air.
And in some hinges too.
Spring hinges (ANSI/BHMA A156.17) can be an economical substitution for an ordinary closer (A156.4) on swing doors of light to moderate weight. They are often used in multi-family residential, light commercial, and other building types, and some can be used in fire rated door applications. Depending on the closing strength needed for the specific door application, two or three spring hinges may be needed to properly close the door.
But how good are they from an accessibility standpoint? ICC A117.1 (2009 and 2017) do allow for their use on doors in an accessible path of travel so long as specific criteria are met. Within those standards the maximum opening force is the same (5.0 pounds, 404.2.8) for both spring hinges and standard closers.
The difference is in the allowable closing speed. A117.1 allows spring hinges to close much more rapidly than an ordinary door closer. A door on spring hinges is allowed to close from a 70-degree open position in no less than 1.5 seconds (404.2.7.2), whereas a door with an ordinary surface closer is allowed to close from a 90-degree open position to a 12-degree open position in no less than 5 seconds (404.2.7.1). The way the code is written makes it a little difficult to directly compare the requirements for closing speeds, but generally speaking the spring hinge is allowed to move the door about three times faster than the ordinary closer.
Spring Hinge, Ives 3SP1 Surface Closer, LCN 4010
Products by Allegion shown for example only. Similar products are available from most major manufacturers.
Now here is a somewhat different question. What is it like to use a door on spring hinges as opposed to an ordinary closer? A standard swing-arm closer (A156.4) that is properly configured to meet accessibility requirements must follow a tightly prescribed closing sequence. A feature commonly referred to as "backcheck" slows the movement of the door near the end of the door's swing (both for opening and closing). This provides a comfortable and controlled sequence of movement, gives the building occupant ample time to pass through the door before it closes, and near the end of the movement arc it slows down the movement of the door to bring it to a gentle close. Spring hinges do not follow this controlled gradual closing sequence, they simply accelerate until slamming shut. This does not provide for a comfortable operation of the door by a person who has mobility challenges, who would benefit from having additional time to pass through the opening before the door closes.
Also, because the closing operation of the spring hinge is based on momentum built up from a mostly open start point (70 degrees or so), it is possible that if the door is only opened a slight degree and then released, the spring may not have adequate force to latch the door (not the case with an ordinary closer). This is a concern for fire rated doors, which are required to be self-closing and positively latch.
Although spring hinges can “meet ADA” the interactive quality of their operation is very different from an ordinary closer. It is important to make sure that building owners are informed about this difference so that their decisions will not only be based on cost, but also balanced with the quality of how the door operates for the occupants.
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