Beautiful and secure

“Hardware is becoming a fashion statement,” says world-class architect and designer Brian Gluckstein, whose Gluckstein Design Planning Inc. is based in Toronto, Canada. “That is a big trend right now, from modestly priced products to very exotic products.”

For example, when Gluckstein’s firm is involved in the design of a luxury condominium for a client, security is critical. But so is design integrity. “It is just a fact of life today,” Gluckstein says of security. “That is what people are paying for. One of the reasons they are attracted to some of these luxury buildings is the idea of security – but in a discreet way. They don’t want their homes to look like fortresses.”

Those same principles apply to hospitals and other health care facilities, schools, corporate offices, and also to mixed-use buildings where security is complicated by the variety of needs and users.

All in one
“Technology and design are not mutually exclusive,” says Sandy Matheny, product marketing manager for designer hardware in the Americas Architectural Hardware Group at ASSA ABLOY. “You really don’t have to make a choice between innovation and technology or design. You really can have it all – and why shouldn’t you?”

The key element, Matheny says, is to introduce good design without sacrificing the functional quality of the entry and exit devices. They have to be secure and robust enough to withstand intense use, especially in public places. They have to conform to buildings codes. Yet they still must embrace the emphasis on style demanded by architects and interior designers.

”I think that makes us a little different from other companies out there that may focus exclusively on design and not on the innovative technology of the product,” says Matheny. ”ASSA ABLOY is a life safety and security company first, but we have been very diligent and cognizant of the design requirements of our products.”

Fitting designs
Perhaps surprisingly, because Europeans have often been on the cutting edge of design innovations, designers in the Americas are apparently leading the crusade. The emphasis is on sleek designs which minimize external profiles and maximize the ergonomic feel of the hardware.

”I definitely think there are no limitations in terms of what we can do when it comes to the aesthetic element,” says Gluckstein. “Security doesn’t even become an obstacle for us anymore. So, when we are designing our spaces, it is no longer a question of: ‘How are we going to deal with this element?’ Many companies are designing elements for us so we don’t have to design around them. There is nothing cumbersome as far as security goes. It just becomes a matter of fact.”

Matheny and her colleagues are collaborating with Marcio Mussi, a Brazilian industrial designer from LaFonte in Sao Paulo. In addition, ASSA ABLOY is in constant contact with architects and designers who provide outside input and advice. ”Our architectural representatives and door security solutions specialists interact with members of the design community on a daily basis,” Matheny says. ”We need to know what is important to design professionals and we need to have products that meet their design requirements and their end user functional requirements.”

Breaking with tradition
The design innovations in security have led to some exciting new products. At ASSA ABLOY, three U.S. sister companies in the Architectural Hardware Group – Corbin Russwin, Sargent and Yale – now offer integrated decorative hardware collections that embrace mortise locksets, tubular locks, exit devices and a variety of access control solutions. Of particular interest are sleek new devices that break from traditional access control architecture by integrating multiple elements – proximity card reader, monitoring switches and lockset – into a single, visually appealing lock trim. To provide even higher levels of security, personal handheld wireless biometric readers, which act as the ‘key’ to an opening, are also offered. The Architectural Hardware Group’s designer collections include 28 decorative door levers, each with a choice of 13 different finishes including stainless steel.

In hospitals and health care facilities, a good design is not only pleasing for staff and patients; it is more profitable for the health care company. These facilities need high security, especially in laboratories and pharmaceutical storage areas. ”But, at the same time, they need doors and hardware that can aesthetically contribute to the healing environment they have created,” Matheny says. “In pediatrics, for example, they need environments that are not scary to kids. In oncology, the hospital wants these places to be soothing. Labor and delivery floors are happy places that are becoming more and more residential. In the health care industry, this is not happening by accident. There is a tremendous amount of empirical data showing that beautiful design makes a difference in the quality of care, and also in the financial performance of a hospital or health care institution.”

Decorative and durable
Other trends in the security industry include the Signature RFID lines launched for the hospitality industry by VingCard. Already the leader in electronic access for hotel clients, VingCard has been working with Italian handle crafter Valli & Valli and now has expanded its color choices from the standard black RFID reader to four optional colors – green, blue, red and orange. Having a choice of color adds versatility to the lock design and enables the door hardware to blend in better with the hotel environment. 

In door technology, Graham Wood Doors has developed a line of designer options with a variety of wood veneers that push them to the high end. ”They really look like fine furniture,” says Matheny. ”They’re decorative, very durable, and also environmentally sensitive.”

At Ceco and Curries, which manufactures steel doors and frames, there is an industrial use door called the StormPro 361 which can withstand a class five tornado, based on pressure and impact tests. Yet it also comes in different finishes and 1,900 colors. ”It is tough,” says Matheny, ”but we also know it has to look good.”   

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