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Doorknob Ban Could Show Leverage

Friday, December 6, 2013

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Vancouver, British Columbia, has banished the doorknob, possibly sending it the way of the dodo in the process.

The grab-and-turn, humble round hardware will not be allowed in any new construction, commercial or residential, in the city beginning in March. Its replacement: the lever.

Existing doorknobs are not affected by the building code change, which the city approved in September.

Wikimedia Commons / BlastOButter42

Out: Vancouver has banned doorknobs in new construction as of March.

The change also applies to faucet handles.

Why? Proponents say that twisting a doorknob is difficult for the aged and people with disabilities.

Trending Now?

And the Vancouver Sun suggests that the doorknob's days may be numbered elsewhere. The newspaper notes that Vancouver is the only city in Canada with its own building code—and that that code has proved nationally influential in the past.

Ahead of the mandate, change is already afoot. Vancouver has reportedly removed the Art Deco knobs from its 70-year-old City Hall, replacing them with gold-colored levers, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Door handle
Wikimedia Commons / Kathy Apland

In: Handles are considered easier for aging and disabled people to use.

The doorknob—a device first patented in the U.S. in 1878 by Osbourn Dorsey—is just one potential casualty in the push to serve aging and disabled markets, Bloomberg notes.

Which means that there's gold in designing for that silver-haired population, potentially affecting everything from microwaves to sidewalks to dishes, experts say.

Designing for Aging

In the U.S. alone, the first of the Baby Boomers reached 65 (what used to be known as "retirement age") in 2011. Now, about 8,000 Americans a day will be turning 65 for the next 18 years, according to AARP.

The Arthritis Foundation, meanwhile, calls arthritis the leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting one in five adults and 300,000 children.

The doorknob's demise has been met with mixed reviews in Vancouver, with some homeowners grumbling about nanny states and government micromanagement.

The shift is a big deal to those, like Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, who consider the door handle "the handshake of the building."

But the city's former chief building inspector doesn't agree.

"Technology changes. Things change. We live with that," Will Johnston told the Vancouver Sun. "When I look at what we are proposing, it is simply good design.

"It allows for homes to be built that can be used more easily for everybody."


Tagged categories: Building codes; Commercial Construction; Good Technical Practice; Residential Construction; Trends

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