Specification switching is an issue in all areas of construction. Here, Graham Hulland at dormakaba looks at how, when it comes to doors and their hardware, deviation from the original specification can have a significant impact on long term costs, compliance with relevant legislation as well as user experience.


The specification created for a construction project details the exact requirements of the building as designed, as well as the products and materials that meet those needs. The process of translating a design for a building into reality is often complex and so generating a full and robust specification is a vital part of ensuring the long-term success of the project.


Changes to an approved specification can be made for a number of reasons and architectural ironmongers have an important role to play in protecting a specification - providing advice, as much detail as possible and highlighting potential issues that could occur should changes be made.


Factor in long-term costs

Arguably, cost is perhaps the main driver behind specification switches. In a highly competitive environment, financial pressures can lead to elements of the building being altered from the original product specified in an effort to reduce initial costs. While this may alleviate short-term pressures it can consequently increase the long-term costs of maintaining the building as a whole.


This is because doors and door hardware are among the most heavily used elements of a building. For example, in high traffic areas such as corridors, door components will be subjected to thousands of open/close cycles a year and potentially millions throughout its life. This is especially true for public sector and commercial environments where taking a long-term approach to door component specification is vital. In fact, independent research has found that where doors and hardware represent less than 1% of the building’s initial cost, they can account for up to 80% of maintenance costs.


Architectural ironmongers will be well aware that the intended level and type of use should always be part of the considerations when specifying doors and components. Products with certain features may have been specified to meet the needs of an environment. Selecting the most suitable product is the first step, but ensuring it is then installed correctly has equal importance as this can reduce the wear over time, any potential damage and ultimately the costs of maintenance, repair and replacement.


For example, a door control product that includes a backcheck feature may have been selected to help protect the door, ironmongery and the surrounding area from the door being opened aggressively. This is particularly important for fire doors where damage can compromise its performance in the event of a fire. For example, the ‘Thinking Backcheck’ feature fitted to the majority of dormakaba door closers allows a door to be fully opened during normal operation with no increased resistance, but will cushion and arrest the door at 85º to 90º if opened aggressively.



The complexity of meeting all relevant legislation, including both fire and access regulations means that where a specification is not followed there is a risk that the installed doors will not perform as required. If the force exerted by the closer is too high the occupants of the building will find the doors heavy and difficult to open. However, if the force is insufficient, fire doors may not fully close and could compromise the protection of the building and its occupants if a fire occurred.


Approved Document B of the Building Regulations requires that door controls fitted to fire doors must close the door from any angle, overcoming the resistance created by other components fitted to the door such as latches, hinges and intumescent seals.


At the same time, doors must still be sufficiently easy to open to allow day-to-day access to the building for all occupants and evacuation in an emergency. The Equality Act 2010 requires that the physical features of a building (including fixtures, fittings and materials) must not restrict access to people with disabilities. This means door closers must be specified that do not require an excessive force to open. As such Approved Document M states that “…a door set must produce an opening force of below 30N between 0° and 30° degrees and below 22.5N between 30° and 60° degrees.”


The opening forces are stated in relation to the door ‘set’ and so where specified items of door hardware are substituted it may lead to non-compliance with the regulations and the need for costly remedial work to be carried out after the building is handed over.


Furthermore, when it comes to fire doors it is considered best practice to ensure that only third party tested and certificated doors are specified. All hardware including closers, hinges, locks, seals, and panic hardware as well as any hold-open or free-swing devices fitted to third party tested fire doors must also carry the certification for the certification of the door to be maintained. For example, if subcontractors or installers deviate from the approved specification and fit non-CERTIFIRE approved hardware to a CERTIFIRE fire door, the certification of the door as a whole could be invalidated.


Beyond installation

A further factor to consider is longer-term compliance with the original specification. As such, if door hardware needs to be replaced as part of regular serving and maintenance, it is important to ensure that the new part meets the requirements of the original specification as well as all current legislation.


Finally, selecting high quality components will not only provide longevity but may also help ensure the doors continue to meet regulations even if standards are updated – avoiding the need to replace the product. For example, more than 20 years ago dormakaba supplied door closers to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital and the original products not only continue to function correctly on the original doors but also comply with all current Building Regulations and Product Standards. The components did not need to be updated despite numerous changes to legislation – including the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and maximum opening forces introduced with Approved Document M following the 2010 Equality Act.


Maintaining a specification

There are several ways of helping to ensure that specifications are followed. For example, engaging with a trusted supplier early in the process will allow the correct solution to be identified and for detailed information to be included in the specification – making it more robust. This then allows product performance to be benchmarked for comparison. This is vital where a contract is awarded following a competitive tender process, as this will ensure that the selected organisiation’s proposal still meets the requirements of the design. Furthermore, this can be supported throughout the build by implementing scheduled inspections of the work in progress to help identify any issues early in the process.


While alterations to the door hardware specification may seem inconsequential or even beneficial in terms of managing any budgetary constraints, the unintentional impact on lifecycle costs and compliance with regulations can be significant.


Architectural ironmongers have a responsibility to ensure where recommendations are made to change the approved specification that the end result still meets all relevant legislation and the needs of users. Even where a specification is upgraded it is important to check that the performance meets all of the original criteria.


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