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Which way do you swing?

The answer to that question probably hinges on which side of the pond you’re on. That’s because we’re talking about opening doors. You may have noticed that external doors on commercial buildings can open either inwards or outwards – with most opening inwards – and never really paid too much attention to it. In the UK, only emergency doors must open in the direction of escape. However, it’s not that way over in the US…

All external doors on such buildings in America swing outwards – as do internal doors leading to exit routes. The reason seems fairly obvious once you hear it: the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) fire safety regulations dictate that side-hinged doors used to connect rooms to exit routes must swing out in the direction of exit travel. Other circumstances where this is the case on internal doors include where the room is to be occupied by more than 50 people, is a high-hazard area, or where the door is leading from a staircase. It makes sense to make doors as easy to open as possible to open when escaping a building. So why aren’t the decrees in the UK as strict?

There are a number of arguments for installing an inward-swinging door on the outside of a building and they come under a couple of different categories. Firstly, there’s the elements – Blighty can be a blustery old place and having an inward-swinging door prevents the wind from slamming the door and causing damage to the exterior. It allows you to open the door if the winter brings snowdrifts that engulf the building, too. Last but not least, you’ll also avoid unsuspecting visitors getting hit in the face should an outward-swinging door come their way!

While all valid points, we’d say that the US has it right by applying fire exit rules to all external doors, preventing congestion within buildings during a fire or other emergencies, and authorities over here could consider expanding the application of their architectural rules, too. Until then, though, whether it’s an inward- or an outward-swinging door you’re after, get in touch for all your hinge and ironmongery needs.


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