Testing Matters Part 1

In the world of building products, performance testing is common.  For product manufacturers, it can be a time-consuming and costly process.  Why would they choose to undertake it?  More importantly, what is the value in such testing to you?
Before we explore these, and related questions, specifically for doors, we need to understand a little more about the testing of building products.  It helps to consider this from the perspective of involved parties.  Various organizations become involved with sometimes overlapping roles and always within an interrelated model:
  • An appropriate organization creates a standard of expected performance.
  • A local, regional, or international authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) accepts the standard and makes it part of their building code
  • Architectural-Engineering firms design projects, and related 3-part project specifications, while referencing both codes and standards.
  • Other organizations create test specifications to ensure compliance to the standard.
  • Independent testing agencies undertake actual product testing per the test specification.
  • Manufacturers submit their products to the testing agency (likely after reviewing the requirements and performing internal testing to some extent).
So, the product is tested to a test specification to be considered for compliance to a given industry standard and/or related building code.  Now, what does this process mean for you? You want products that meet certain criteria.  For example, you might be concerned with how well the product will hold up over the test of time.  In support of mandated or voluntary sustainability initiatives, you may want products that can save energy costs or contribute to credit achievement in green building rating systems.  You certainly want products that provide for the safety and security of your students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Meanwhile, the architectural-engineering community that is assisting you will attempt to translate your desired criteria into a project specification that dictates specific performance characteristics for all products that will be used in the project.  They will always consider the building codes.  As we have seen, these codes will reference certain standards.
Let’s explore appropriate standards and associated test specifications for doors and entrance systems as they relate to some of your desired outcomes.  These standards and subsequent testing primarily apply to exterior doors or entire entrance systems.  Indications of quality or compliance by a given manufacturer should also give you confidence in their interior doors.

Energy Efficiency

The definitive performance standard of energy efficiency for commercial and institutional buildings is known as ASHRAE 90.1.  ASHRAE is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers.  Their 90.1 standard has become an integral part of countless building codes.  A portion of the standard deals with the expected energy performance of doors.
One measure of performance is the thermal efficiency of the door.  In other words, to what extent does the door exhibit heat loss or heat gain.  High levels of heat loss or gain have a direct bearing on the heating or cooling load of the facility.  These systems, as you know, are energy intensive.  Therefore, a door that exhibits a lower level of heat loss or gain is more energy efficient.
A door can experience heat gain in Summer and heat loss in Winter. Low levels of heat gain or heat loss indicate greater energy efficiency.
Heat loss or gain is expressed as a U-factor.  U-factor is the reciprocal of R-value (insulating value).
ASHRAE 90.1 calls for U-factors that don’t exceed specific levels.  The location of your campus matters because the standard establishes U-factors per ASHRAE climate zones.  The standard also makes provision for various types of doors such as flush doors or monumental stile and rail doors.  The latter would use a good deal of glass.
Finally, the standard references the approved test specification for determining U-factor.  This test specification was developed by the National Fenestration Rating Council and is known as NFRC 100.  Therefore, you can look for a published U-factor for doors and verify if the manufacturer used the approved test specification.  If so, the manufacturer should be able to provide copies of its test results.  Even if you don’t wish to deal with these matters directly, your service providers should.

Long-term Reliability

This broad expectation can translate into more specific criteria that relate to door standards. Here, the type of door material is often a factor because various tests are specified depending on the material (hollow metal, wood, fiberglass, aluminum, or composite/hybrid assemblies).
Several organizations establish test specifications in regards to these materials. They consider such factors as the life cycle expectations or endurance, the capability of a material to resist dents, the capability of the material to resist UV fading, and more.
Relevant organizations in this general category include the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials), and the National Wood Window and Door Association (NWWDA), among others.
Due to the variety of possibilities here, it is best to ask for any test results that relate to overall product reliability. Here are a couple of examples:
ANSI A250.4 began as a standard from the Steel Door Institute. Now, as an ANSI standard, it can be applied to any door/frame assembly. The test specification measures the long-term use or endurance of the door assembly in opening/closing cycles. Various criteria describe failures that can occur along the way to a cycle count. This swing test can result in cycle counts of 250,000 (bottom threshold) to over 1,000,000. In fact, some products have achieved cycle counts of several million.
ASTM G154 and G155 are tests designed to measure the fading of materials that occur due to sunlight exposure. G155 is only designed for non-metallic materials so it is appropriate for wood, fiberglass, and FRP (fiber reinforced polymer) doors. Moisture is also introduced in the testing to fully evaluate product weathering.

Extreme Weather Resistance

And speaking of weathering . . . The general term, windstorms, and more specific terms like hurricane-rated, describe testing scenarios that put doors through the effects of weather extremes.
Here, local building codes and local jurisdictions have created standards and test specifications for products, including doors, that are used within their jurisdictions. Because these standards are so high, a product found compliant here will certainly hold up to the rigors of weather elsewhere.
Two jurisdictions are noteworthy: (a) The Florida Building Code, established by the Florida Building Commission, demands a high level of product performance, especially in what it calls its High Velocity Hurricane Zone (Miami-Dade, Broward, and coastal Palm Beach counties). (b) The Texas Department of Insurance has also established similar standards and its own set of tests. These jurisdictions also influence other building codes.
In hurricane and other windstorm-prone regions, three factors influence the performance of exterior doors:
  • Impact resistance (due to windborne debris)
  • Air pressure changes
  • Water infiltration
Thus, testing of doors for these criteria becomes essential for peace of mind.
Doors undergoing rigorous windstorm testing are subjected to water infiltration, rapid air pressure changes, and projectile impact.
However, there is a note of caution here. Such testing considers specific sizes of doors as well as specific hardware and glazing. Therefore, no blanket statement of compliance can be made for every potential door configuration. And, unless you are using the particular arrangement of door and hardware, the manufacturer cannot legally label the product as compliant to the given standard.

Sound Control

This particular characteristic is equally applicable to exterior and interior doors but will usually be more important for interior doors. You will hear terms such as sound isolation, sound transmission, and acoustical doors used in this context. For sound that is generated on one side of a door, the general goal is to keep sound within that space as much as is reasonably possible and to attenuate it on the other side.
The primary test specification for sound control is known as ASTM E90. It describes how to measure airborne sound transmission loss of building partitions such as walls of all kinds, operable partitions, floor-ceiling assemblies, doors, windows, roofs, panels, and other space-dividing elements.
ASTM E90 is designed as a laboratory test that product manufacturers and testing agencies would use. For field evaluation, such as might be performed by a service provider, ASTM E336 is the appropriate test specification.
The unit of measure is known as Sound Transmission Class (STC). STC is an integer rating of how well the door attenuates airborne sound. The higher the number, the better the sound isolation.
Almost all doors can offer a reasonable STC rating. A good STC rating for a standard door might be in the upper 20s or 30s. When your sound control needs are especially high, you may specify acoustic or sound control doors which are available at higher price points than standard doors. These doors can have STC ratings near 50 or higher.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you have begun to consider some of the performance criteria that might be important for you—in doors or other building products. You will discover that there are, typically, product standards and tests that coincide with your desired criteria. Then, it is a matter of conveying your criteria to service providers and asking them to produce evidence that their proposed products have met some related standard of performance.
In Part 2 of this series, we will examine further criteria related to safety and security. Stay tuned.

PART 3 of 3 – Bullet Resistance (Ballistic) and Blast Resistance & How to Choose a Level of Protection

Bullet Resistant (Ballistic)

It is sad to think that we live in a time where we need to design entrance solutions for keeping our families and property safe, but we must continually innovate to overcome the threats that present themselves in daily life. Bullet resistant doors or ballistic doors and complete ballistic-rated entrance systems are an important part of this innovation. (We previously discussed in Part 1 the reason we don’t use the term “bulletproof door” when referring to these products.) What makes a product bullet resistant? There are several ratings that could describe the level of bullet resistance in a product. The most common are:
  1.           UL 752
  2.           National Institute of Justice (NIJ) 0108.01
  3.           State Department SD-STD-02.01
  4.           ASTM F-1233
  5.           HP White Laboratories HPW-TP 0500.02
  6.           European Standard DIN EN 1063
  7.           British Standards Institution BS 5051
  8.           Councils of Standards Australia/New Zealand AS/NZ 2343
A certified test lab performs these tests in a controlled environment. The range of weapons varies from handguns to rifles, and the ratings are quite different depending on the standard to which you are testing. For example, you may hear someone refer to “Level 3”, which has a different meaning depending on which testing standard you are talking about. Level 3, UL 752, calls for a .44 magnum handgun. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level 3 calls for the use of a 7.62mm (.308 Winchester) rifle. So, as you can see, there is a difference. I have worked on several projects developing bullet resistant doors using a fiberglass pultrusion process. When deciding on a bullet resistant opening solution I strongly recommend exploring the pultruded ballistic door options that are available. Believe it or not, steel is not always the answer to solving these complex entrance problems. When used properly, fiberglass has excellent ballistic propertieswithout the concern of deterioration due to rust or corrosion.  

Blast Resistant

In some cases, such as in government installations, there is a blast requirement for most if not all exterior entrance systems. There are a couple of different approaches to achieve a blast rating for a blast-rated door specification.
  1. Arena Testing- This is obviously the most fun. As you can imagine by the name, this testing occurs outside in a controlled area, by setting off explosives to achieve the desired load and duration. The entrance system is instrumented to record the forces felt during the explosion. The advantage of using an arena test is that you’re not limited to certain dimensions on the product you’re testing. The downside with this method is that it is more difficult to obtain a specific pressure and duration due to the variation in explosive behavior.
  2. Shock Tube- The shock tube is an instrument used to replicate and direct blast waves at a sensor or a model to simulate actual explosions and their effects, usually on a smaller scale. The advantage of using the shock tube is that you can repeat the test more accurately than arena testing. The disadvantage is that the size of the shock tube restricts the size of the specimen.
An Entrance Ready for Shock Tube Blast Test
Shock Tube

How do I know what level of protection I needed for an entrance?

To be successful when ordering these types of systems, I strongly recommend that you take the time to understand the science behind the products that will protect you and your customers. Understanding the requirements of your state or local jurisdictions and having all the information ensures that you and your customer have on-time deliveries and products that meet the requirements for the project. For example, the load results for HVHZ approved systems are calculated in pounds per square foot. With ballistic systems, you need to understand the caliber of bullet that your entrance must withstand in an attack. This information will dictate the level of protection required. For blast-rated protection, you will need to know the blast load the product (in this case, a blast-rated door) needs to withstand, calculated pounds per square inch (psi), as well as the impulse calculated in pounds per square inch and milliseconds (psi-ms). For intrusion resistance, you need to know the amount of time that you want to hold a perpetrator at bay and if you want laminated glass or polycarbonate glazing.

More From this Series:

Part 1 of 3: Proof vs. Resistant and Intrusion/Forced Entry Resistance Part 2 of 3: Hurricane and Storm Resistance

Related Articles:

Doors + Hardware Magazine | May 2017 | Proof vs. Resistant: The Truth is in the Test What is Fiberglass Pultrusion? A Win for School Security: Ballistic Door Wins New Product Award

PART 1 of 3 – Proof vs. Resistant & Forced Entry (Intrusion) Resistance

There is a growing need to create entrances in our schools, businesses, and government facilities that are blast, bullet, intrusion, and storm resistant. It is sad to think that we live in a time where we need to design entrance solutions for keeping our families and property safe, but we must continually innovate to overcome the threats that present themselves in daily life. Within this growing segment of the industry, we find a new set of labels, terminology, and testing standards. At times these can get quite confusing and misleading. However, they do not need to be if you have a good understanding of a few key terms.

Proof vs. Resistant

Have you ever heard someone say that an object was Something Proof and in reality, it should have been Something Resistant? According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of proof is: “Able to withstand something damaging; resistant.” Ok, that makes sense… until you look up the definition of resistant in the same dictionary. That definition goes something like this: “Opposed to something; wanting to prevent something from happening.” So, proof or resistant, tomato or tomato? They should mean the same thing, not exactly. The “proof” is in the pudding. Yes, bulletproof sounds more impressive than bullet resistant. Using the term bulletproof is an absolute statement and not an entirely factual statement. At the end of the day, if someone or something wants in, the laws of physics will work against you. If something is big enough, powerful enough, hard enough, wet enough, fast enough– you get the picture– it’s coming in. For this reason, I would rather see the term “resistant” used in all descriptions having anything to do with bullet, blast, intrusion or storm rated entrance systems.

What is Intrusion Resistance?

If you are looking for solutions that would slow down a perpetrator from gaining access to your building, one of the options is to add intrusion resistant glazing to your entrance. The definition of intrusion is; “the act or an instance of intruding; an unwelcome visit.” Intrusion resistant products are also commonly called attack resistant or forced entry resistant.

Intrusion Resistance Testing

There are several test standards used depending on the approval. The most common are ASTM and UL (Underwriters Laboratories), and the U.S. State Department forced entry test. Also, some state correction facilities utilize their own set of standards. Some companies are trying to “update” the current standards that would better represent current conditions. Depending on the data that you look at, the national average for the police to respond to a 911 call is between 6 and 10 minutes. The goal of an intrusion resistant entrance system is to delay intruders from gaining access until the cavalry arrives. These systems may or may not be bullet resistant but remember the object here is to delay the intruder from gaining access to the facility not to stop a bullet.

Intrusion Resistant Glass and Glazing

There are two innovative variations of intrusion resistant glazing that can be utilized for this requirement. One option is a patent pending product that slows down intruders up to twelve minutes before gaining access. The laminated glass comes in 5/16″ and 1″ insulated. This glass is a bit more expensive but provides all the benefits of a glass vision lite that an end user may prefer. The second option is a clear polycarbonate that has a scratch resistant coating. I strongly suggest packing a lunch if you are trying to break through this material. You can literally go after it with a sledgehammer and not break it! This polycarbonate is an inexpensive solution for intrusion resistance.

A Complete Forced-Entry Resistant System

It is important to note that the glazing material is only one aspect of an intrusion resistant system. The doors and vision lite kits used to hold this glazing material are just as important. They must all work as a system to counteract the threat. When selecting intrusion resistant products, it is important that you choose intrusion-resistant doors, frames, glazing, and vision lite kits. Manufacturers typically reinforce vision lite kits with more fasteners and material to allow the system to withstand a threat. I know what you’re thinking: More fasteners? No one is going to buy that! Well, just because there are more fasteners doesn’t mean you have to see them! Some companies have developed ingenious ways of disguising their intrusion resistant glazing kits so to the average person it does not look reinforced.

Stay Tuned

Read the rest of this blog series to find out why it’s important to direct attention to testing standards when explaining the levels of protection or comparing products!

More from this Series:

Part 2 of 3: Hurricane and Storm Resistance Part 3 of 3: Bullet Resistance, Blast Resistance, and How to Choose a Level of Protection

A Win for School Security: Ballistic Door Wins New Product Award


About the Award

College Planning & Management announced the winners of their 2016 New Product of the Year Awards in Mid-December. They state,
“The New Product Award program honors the outstanding product development achievements of manufacturers and suppliers whose products or services are considered to be particularly noteworthy in their ability to enhance the learning environment. An independent panel of judges from the industry selected 15 Platinum and 26 Gold winners in the second year of this contest. Twenty-nine additional products were awarded an Honorable Mention.”
We are excited to announce that Special-Lite’s AF-100BRwon the Platinum New Product award in the category of Doors for educational door and frame safety. We are so passionate about school safety and school security, and we continue to develop new products to meet these needs. You can read more about the award and other winning products here.

About our Ballistic Door & Frame

The AF-100BR3 Door is the first ballistic door manufactured using fiberglass pultrusion technology. This process produces a smooth-faced, corrosion and bullet resistant fiberglass door. This door is incredibly strong and is also fully sealed for easy cleaning. Special-Lite developed this bullet resistant door to support the need for increased security at educational, government and military facilities. You can read the details on our ballistic products here.