Why this city banned doorknobs
All new buildings in Vancouver will be required to use door levers now, and there's a pretty good reason for it.
While the news out of Canada may be focused on Toronto at the moment, an even stranger story has come out from the West Coast: Vancouver has banned doorknobs.
The news appeared as a brief item last week in the Vancouver Sun, but had actually been decided some time ago. The city, the only one in Canada that is allowed to set its own building codes, decreed the changes in its Accessible Housing Bylaw in September. As of March 2014, all new buildings built in the city will have to include levers rather than doorknobs.
In case you are unfamiliar, this is a doorknob, and this is a door lever. If you are not in the building trade, chances are the difference between the two probably seems cosmetic. But the concept behind Vancouver's ban is simple, and makes perfect sense: Door levers are easier to open for older people, people with injuries, or people with disabilities.
Vancouver's ban on doorknobs is based around the city's adoption of the concept of universal design, Jeff Lee wrote in The Vancouver Sun this weekend. “The old model was adaptation, or adapted design," Tim Stainton, a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., told Lee. "You took a space and you adapted for use of the person with a disability. What universal design says is let’s turn it around and let’s just build everything so it is as usable by the largest segments of the population as possible.”
Vancouver's ban won't mean the immediate end of doorknobs -- it isn't retroactive, for one thing, so buildings currently featuring doorknobs will keep them, and there's no law on changing knobs to levers in your own home -- but Lee notes that Vancouver tends to influence Canada's building codes.
You should also consider how many examples of universal design have subtly crept into your everyday life; curb cuts, sidewalk ramps, low-floor buses, even things like closed-captioning for television. In fact, the city's proposals go far beyond simple doorknobs, with things like wider doorways, lower light switches, and higher power outlets. Making things accessible for everyone makes sense to almost everyone. The doorknob may be doomed.
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I purchased a walk up apartment in NYC. It is on the 5th floor of a 150 year old building with no elevator and a tiny vestibule at the entrance. During a remodel of the unit the city informed me that I had to remove a wall from the bathroom and leave it exposed to the dining area because the room was not big enough to be used by a person in a wheel chair. This is a private residence at the top of five flights of stairs! I "advised" the city permit office that if a person in a wheel chair ever purchased that unit from me that they could pay to have the wall removed for themselves. Of course they politely told me to "Go <have a nice day> with yourself." I took the wall down, had them sign off on the inspection and then built a new wall after they left. While universal design may be a trend it does not always make sense.
The lever type device is also very easy for small children to operate, accidentally or intentionally.
So while your occupied (bathroom, laundry, making lunch, etc) your toddler can pop the door open and be out in the street without you even realizing it.
How about this novel idea...let the individual owner decide what type of device they want for themselves?
I lived with round door knobs for 43 years. Then, I bought a new house that had door levers in it -- I absolutely HATE door levers!
1) The lever puts unnecessary torque strain on the latch assembly. (Yeah, I'm an engineer.)
2) The lever hits the blinds installed on exterior doors with windows. Door knobs don't hit the blinds.
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