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Are Saultites losing grip on knobs? by: Bob Mihell

Wednesday, December 04, 2013   by: Bob Mihell
The door knob is about to become as obsolete in one major Canadian city as the rotary dial telephone, the penny, and the incandescent light bulb. 

Vancouver, B.C., the only city in Canada with its own building code, according to a recent CBC “Current Review” broadcast, is planning to abolish the door knob in all new building construction within its boundary, including residential dwellings.
[Readers can listen to the broadcast at Look for “Door Knobs are Dead in Vancouver” from Nov. 25 under the Episode sub-heading]

Although the idea of relegating the door knob to the museum of obsolete objects might provoke a guffaw for some readers around west coast culture, there is an underlying serious side that has sparked Vancouver’s decision. 
Howard Gerry, an associate professor at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, for one, has applauded Vancouver’s decision to replace the door knob with lever handles in new construction. 

Gerry, an expert on the theory of universal design, told the CBC Vancouver’s building code amendment would make door entry more user friendly and accessible to a broader range of people of all ages, and with different physical capabilities.
He noted too that the city does not plan to impose the change retroactively to require changes to existing door knobs.

Although Sault Ste. Marie generally is required to follow the Ontario Building Code, a brief survey by Soo Today revealed that there is a growing trend locally to choose lever handles over door knobs, particularly for buildings that cater to a more diverse or aging population. 

Mario Paluzzi, director of communications for the new Sault Area Hospital, said, “There was a conscious design decision that was made going into the build of the new hospital to use door levers for the same reasons the folks in Vancouver are going that route. It’s just a lot easier for people to push a lever down than to turn a door handle.”

Paluzzi said that although he had not done a count, he has been told that almost all doors in the new SAH have levers as opposed to traditional knobs.

“There were very legitimate reasons why we had the foresight to think of things like that,” he said. “It’s not always easy for some people to turn a door knob, so if installing levers makes their lives a bit easier that’s terrific.”

Helina McGrath, executive director care services, for the non profit Ontario Finnish Resthome Association, who have about 110 residents in supportive housing apartments, agreed absolutely with Paluzzi.
“It became apparent to us as the population ages in Sault Ste. Marie, we have a very dire need for seniors to be placed in housing that is appropriate for safety reasons, and to manage and support them as long as possible,” she stressed. “It was evident some residents were unable to handle any other door entries than the ones that were user friendly, easily manageable and not too stiff.”
She said the Finnish Resthome has replaced door knobs with levers that are very user friendly for entry and interior doors in its assisted housing units with the support of the Local Health Integration Network.
“The bottom line is we want seniors to be able to remain at home, either in independent living or assisted housing as long as possible,” McGrath said.
She said with plans to build new senior housing, the organization recognizes it is “vital” to keep the needs of its clients in the forefront when they plan new buildings. “We want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” she emphasized.
Beside user friendly door levers, she said other features such as wider doorways, hallways, bathroom grab bars, and user friendly elevators are important planning features that help seniors remain independent longer.
Ken Oliver, an architectural technologist and director of operations for EPOH, Inc., the Sault architectural and engineering firm that designed the new hospital, said that user friendly lever handles were incorporated into the design of the SAH wherever possible.
He pointed out, in fact, there has been a trend for some time now to substitute door levers for the traditional door knobs in institutional buildings and high rise apartments. “It has become standard practice,” Oliver said.

He said also there is a growing trend for people buying custom residential homes to move toward levers instead of door knobs for exterior and interior doors.
He said manufacturers today often market both door knobs and levers to consumers and contractors in a variety of styles.
He said that the Province and municipalities can provide additional requirements within their jurisdiction, and it has become standard practice for levers to be used for certain applications.
Meanwhile Ray Albidone, sales manager for Sal-Dan Construction, who build custom homes in the Sault, said that when it comes to residential choices, levers have become more popular because they are considered trendier right now. “Some people like them because they are different,” he said.
He pointed out, however, that the more easily opened levers can pose a safety risk for young children, for example, on doorways leading to stairs.

Albidone also made the point that while it makes sense for government to regulate the type of door handles in public buildings, like hospitals, to ensure accessibility for all people, he believed private home owners should have the right to make their own choices in their residences.
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good4now 12/4/2013 1:32:04 PM Report

Levers Should Also Unlock:
Many years ago, when we had young children, I replaced my door knobs, on exterior doors, with levers (inside) that would also unlock the door.
My concern was that in the event of a fire my youngsters would only have to "claw" at the door handle & pull down in order to escape. Fortunately, this usage never was critical.

Some children are more want than others to venture outside and this feature would permit a child to escape into a raging blizzard in the middle of the night, with likely fatal consequences. My faithful Belgium Shepard used to lay against the door, between his nightly rounds, and this was never a concern for me.
JohnG 12/4/2013 1:49:54 PM Report

Not really a good idea. My son's dog can open a lever style door knob and does to let herself out.
This type of door handle presently cannot be child proofed, whereas rotary knobs can. It should be applied where needed, not as a regulation.
mallet 12/4/2013 1:50:59 PM Report


As in most things in life there is always a down side and an upside to vitually everything. What is good for one section of the public will not be so for others, the circumstances you allude to are classic examples. I think it should be left to the customer regarding knobs and levers and not mandated by any building code...
watchingfrom afar 12/4/2013 2:03:43 PM Report

Just what we need...more knobs in the Soo with nothing to do...
JediMindTrick 12/4/2013 2:10:24 PM Report

Old news.
euroman 12/4/2013 3:10:31 PM Report

"Can it surprise us, then, when the state consumes nearly half of our incomes and seeks to micromanage our existences, that we lose our temper when arguing about who gets to run it?" - Lorne Gunter
D0BBER 12/4/2013 4:12:49 PM Report

The audacity of regulators to think that it is/could be within their power to mandate this type of change, there is no safety standard stating that regular knobs are unsafe .. just that there may be a shift in preference toward the leaver style opener.

Go on make note of the shifting preference and quit being foolish with tax dollars !! Allow homeowners to make decisions based on their own wants and needs, dont enact law thereby forcing them to abide by what you deem proper based on opinion alone.
jojoe71 12/4/2013 6:46:36 PM Report

from a convenience point the lever is more user friendly for people who don't have full dexterity to turn a knob and it is much easier for them to open a door.
joebeard 12/4/2013 8:37:47 PM Report

As a Brit, this headline has made my evening.
guestwho 12/5/2013 8:25:53 AM Report

totally agree with you ,I guess we`re becoming so stupid that we need someone to tell us what kind of a door knob we need!!!What a bunch of KNOBS.
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Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of Keep discussions civil and on topic. Refrain from obscenity and don't post anything that your grandmother would be ashamed to read. Those who do not abide by these guidelines will have their membership revoked without notice. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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