Standardizing power-operated doors


Representation of revolving doors. Photo © Shutterstock
Representation of revolving doors.
Photo © Shutterstock

While this standard concerns manual revolving doors for pedestrian use, the power-operated types (i.e. doors rotating automatically when approached by pedestrians and some small vehicular use) are the primary focus. The included criteria are provisions to reduce the chance of user injury and entrapment.

Covered doors include automatic, revolving doors with a core. These doors contain a large diameter and have about three to four wings attached to a central core. The nominal diameter for the enclosure size is a maximum of 7 m (24 ft). However, two-wing, automatic, revolving doors have a nominal enclosure maximum diameter of 5 m (18 ft).

Other doors in this standard involve access-controlled, revolving doors. The wings on these doors are surrounded by an enclosure with the application for control by a knowing act and trained traffic. However, slow-speed operation and activation alongside wind sensors are inapplicable. Further, these doors are able to act on unauthorized entry as a control mat or sensor is permitted to stop or stop and reverse a door. If reversing, there shall be a delay of two seconds minimum and the reversing speed shall be one half of the standard speed.

The ultimate allowable speed is indicated in the full standard for each type of door depending on the diameter. For example, a 3-m (10-ft) diameter revolving door with a central shaft is limited to 5.7 revolutions per minute at standard speed.

Written examples of signage for power-operated revolving doors include the following:

  • automatic door;
  • activate to slow;
  • push to slow;
  • press to slow; and
  • emergency stop.

Additional topics covered in this standard include:

  • access-controlled revolving doors with one-way passage;
  • glazing;
  • clearances;
  • breakout forces;
  • kinetic energy;
  • obstruction force;
  • manual revolving doors;
  • slow-speed operation;
  • wing sensors;
  • end wall and bottom rail guard sensors;
  • door out of position;
  • emergency stop switches;
  • activating devices; and
  • entry point sensors.

Yet, revolving doors for industrial or trained traffic are not covered, and this standard does not attempt to assess any existing factors with respect to custom installations.


Similar to ANSI/BHMA A156.19, A156.38 predominantly differs in that it covers sliding doors as opposed to swinging types. As with the other standard, this one is for pedestrian and some small vehicular use, and the trigger of all doors described in this standard calls for a knowing act. Further, similar to A156.19, requirements include tests for durability using the 300,000 cycle test and mandates for specific signage specifications dependent on varying factors. Intentions for this standard are based on the desire to promote safety when using low-energy, power-operated sliding doors.

Low-energy, power-operated sliding doors comply with this standard if doors open at a maximum speed of 300 mm (12 in.) per second, close at a maximum speed of 152 mm (6 in.) per second, and remain open for a minimum of five seconds before beginning its closing cycle.

Low-energy, power-operated folding doors shall adhere to a total opening time to 90 degrees in a minimum of four-and-half seconds and will remain open for no less than five seconds before initiating its closing cycle. Unless provided with a finger guard, these doors require a specific clearance. The opening at the hinge side of the folding door can be less than 6 mm (1/4 in.) or a minimum of 19-mm (3/4-in.) wide with the door in any position.

This standard does not assess any existing factors with respect to custom design installations. Doors requiring higher speeds, forces, shorter time delays, and activating sensing devices are not covered in A156.38 and, as appropriate, shall comply with ANSI/BHMA A156.10.


When combined, these four standards encapsulate the safety means and implications for varying power-operated doors. While similar in content topics, the nuances of each standard provide building professionals the means to ensure the function of each of these doors is properly met with testing suitable for its cause.

Michael Tierney has served as the product standards co-ordinator for the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) for 20 years, where he co-ordinates the development and revision of BHMA’s performance standards. He is a principal member on technical committees for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Code Council (ICC) A117.1 Committee for Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. He also chairs the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) TAG 162 for Doors and Hardware. Tierney can be reached at

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