Winds of change blow strong for smart architectural revolving doors

Tall buildings in London (including the “Walkie Talkie” building left) have led to stricter rules for protection from winds. Ground-level downdraughts and chills affect many cities in Australia and New Zealand, where hospitality, health and retail buildings also need protection.

Solving the wind tunnel effect in retail, hospitality and health facilities – as well as those affecting all the taller buildings in increasingly crowded cityscapes – is benefitting from a fresh look at an entrance inspiration more than 100 years old – the revolving door. 

Architects internationally have known for a long time about the welcoming tranquility, energy efficiency, safety and sustainability benefits of revolving doors, but some Australasian engineering and architectural specifiers say more of their clients are now starting to appreciate more how this “always open, always closed” concept can benefit their building’s operating efficiency, risk management and protective comfort. 

Particular targets for the latest generations of smart architectural revolving doors are high foot traffic hot spots around buildings and entrances, including those designing inclusively for the one-in-six Australians with disability, including age frailty, and vulnerability to discomforting, destabilising and sometimes injurious gusts. Australia and New Zealand each have particularly windy cities, with Perth being one of the windiest capitals in the world and Wellington being the world’s windiest city by average wind speed. 

“The wind tunnel issue has been exacerbated in all major cities Down Under as urban densities have increased and tall buildings have become the norm here,” says Boon Edam Australia Managing Director Michael Fisher. “Increased awareness of the safety, sustainability and Duty of Care risk management of wind-prone buildings may be happening in part because of increasing awareness of climate change. This is bringing more windstorm and weather events – against which revolving doors give an extra layer of protection, including against cyclones and firestorms and smoke.” 

Toronto hospital, left, has cut its wind tunnel effect by 70 per cent with Boon Edam revolving doors, while in New York, one of the oldest and largest teaching hospitals, Mt Sinai, has also achieved success in reducing wind tunnel issues within its high-volume, three entrance public corridor into the hospital’s main entrance

“Revolving doors are beneficial where there is a wind tunnel effect where surrounding buildings are close together and where taller buildings create wind canyons. Really tall buildings have multiplied across the face of Australia and New Zealand, where there are already more than 20 buildings over 200m and more planned nearly double that height.” 

“Good siting and design can ameliorate the downdraught effect of winds hitting buildings, but more needs to be done at ground level, which is where a lot of the problems occur.” 

“One of our engineering partners in Sydney told us recently about a worker being chased down a CBD street by debris flying in a wind tunnel. She refused to come out of the building where she took refuge until the wind dropped – it became a work safety issue.” 

Global and local issue 

Globally, Mr Fisher notes that stricter rules for tall buildings have been produced by the City of London Corporation as it seeks to protect pedestrians and cyclists from high winds near tall buildings, including those near the 39-storey Walkie Talkie building in the CBD. Under the new guidelines, developers will now be obliged to provide more thorough safety assessments of how proposed buildings and the wind microclimates they create will affect pedestrians and cyclists.  

Also in the UK, Bridgewater Place tower in Leeds had to have the roads closed around it when there were high winds following the death of a pedestrian when a lorry was blown over. Toronto in Canada has suggested bringing in by-laws to ensure planning for skyscrapers takes into account the risk of street winds. 

“Many local building specifiers, engineers and architects are very aware of the issue and say more of their clients are becoming knowledgeable too – but some don’t recognise the increasingly widespread nature of the issue as building heights and building densities increase in Australasia and around the world.” 

Well-designed buildings such as the world’s tallest, Burj Khalifa, (left), have designed-in protection against winds that move faster at higher altitudes. As buildings become taller, they deflect a larger volume of air downward (right). When there is a street between two tall buildings, the wind deflected from both is squeezed into a narrow space creating a venturi effect just life a nozzle being used to increase the speed of a water jet. Revolving doors offer building occupants protection at all levels, including entrances to shops, hotels restaurants – even in single level structures

Boon Edam’s larger revolving door designs – including Duotour and Tournex types, are used in many of the world’s Fortune 500 company buildings, including particularly health, hospitality, retail and corporate HQ landmarks. They are used globally by retailers such as Ikea with benefits including health, exclusion of pollution and natural allergens, comfort and energy efficiency, for example. The world’s tallest building, the 829.8m Burg Khalifa in Dubai uses Boon Edam revolving doors to protect visitors against winds at its high lookouts. 

“Revolving doors create a peaceful and protected environment as soon as you step inside, which is important in retail, hospitality and health environments. All people are immediately safe, sheltered and comfortable, while lobby areas are opened up to valuable wider use – including meeting places, reception spaces, retail spaces and other income-generating activities. So, immediately, an installation can create a capital gain by expanding useable floorspace, a gain that far outweighs the cost of revolving doors, which will have already paid for themselves in this instance.  

Revolving doors make hospitality settings more comfortable, which means more indoor space can be utilised to its full potential. The capital gain from this additional space far outweighs the initial cost of the door, which also has aesthetic benefits to the building.

“Then there are the ongoing power savings – we have observed companies pumping air warmed to 40 deg Celsius into their buildings to keep them warm and healthy – only to see the overall temperature stubbornly stay below half that temperature as all that expensive air is pumped out the front door. The same thing happens in reverse on hot days – you only have to walk down the street in Australia, New Zealand or Papua New Guinea to feel expensive cold air being pumped out and wasted.”  


HVAC benefits of Revolving Doors 

Prevention of HVAC losses through inefficient doors is integral to sustainability and the efficiency of green buildings, because HVAC costs are often the single biggest major costs of operating a large building,” says Mr Fisher. The Australian Department of Environment and Energy has estimated that HVAC represents 39 per cent of the typical energy consumption breakdown of an office building, well ahead of the 25 per cent for lighting and 22 per cent for equipment and 4 per cent for lifts. 

“Further, revolving doors are important in buildings that have an elevator. Let’s suppose we have an open door at street level. There is an air path from outside, through the open door, through the elevator doors, up the elevator shaft, and out the vents into the machine room, and out of the building. Revolving doors act as a draft block, preventing this chimney effect of sucking air in at high speeds and ejecting it through vents in the roof.” 

Boon Edam revolving doors can also be optionally fitted with air curtain technology, pictured above, which creates a barrier of air over the door to create a stronger separation between inside and outside air, which in turn helps to further exclude physical and hygiene threats

And while the main reasons for using revolving doors are energy efficiencies in heating and cooling and preventing strong drafts entering buildings, there are other advantages: 

  • Revolving doors effectively help to exclude natural health hazards and man-made pollutants as well as smoke and debris driven by the wind. Car and bus fumes are locked out and street noise is excluded.
  • Revolving doors allow large numbers of people to pass in and out easily and quickly. These doors permit people to be going in and out of the door at the same time in an orderly, safe and controlled manner – which is important in Covid times and for ongoing access control 
  • Revolving doors can be configured to easily accommodate strollers and wheeled luggage bags, including Boon Edam designs used in airports, traffic terminals, tourist hot spots and major retail centres globally.
  • Where a combination of revolving doors and sliding doors provide the best option for a particular installation, Boon Edam and European sliding door specialist Gilgen, have combined in a partnership in Australia that will bring building specifiers here wider choice and more service from the one source of top European functionality and styles. 

“We don’t pretend that revolving doors are the complete answer throughout all buildings – so, it makes sense to be able to get a complete solution from one source.”  


Gilgen Partnership 

The partnership will deliver architects, builders, façade consultants, fabricators, facility managers and specifiers enhanced access to the global ranges of complementary door systems, so they can obtain from one co-ordinated source revolving doors, security entrances and automatic and sliding doors where required. 

The partnership between 149-year-old Boon Edam and Gilgen – which recently celebrated 60 years of international sales and more than 20 years in Australia – mirrors a similar partnership between the two brands in Europe. 

“Boon Edam and Gilgen offer complementary comprehensive ranges of touchless entry solutions, designed to make entry simpler, more user-friendly, and more hygienic,” says Mr Fisher. 

“This is particularly important in financial and data centres, for example, and public facilities such as hospitality, health and age care where it will be more important than ever to regulate threats at the front door and ensure that virus protection and visitor spacing measures are observed.” 

“The combined range of entry solutions is also eminently suited to clubs, pubs, hotels and hospitality venues seeking hygienic, touchless entrances that also allow for better climate control and reduced strain on HVAC systems.” 

Boon Edam’s Circleslide, pictured above, is ideally suited to health and aged care applications that want the elegant aesthetic of a revolving door, but without the revolving door wings, so that there is more space for those with mobility issues to move through the door

Both Gilgen and Boon Edam are introducing to Australia new designs for general and specialist markets, such as Boon Edam’s new Circleslide design, for example, with curved automatic sliding doors that elegantly cater to the access needs of people with a disability, or those that require mobility aids. 

“Architects using revolving doors and European design appreciate the fact that they can render a building more aesthetically impressive and pleasing by the size of the doors and the aesthetic scale they create,” says Mr Fisher.  

Because modern versions of the revolving door suit the extremes of the Australasian climate so well, Boon Edam established a full Boon Edam Australia branch to service demanded for a comprehensive range of revolving door types complemented by the security entrances with which they can be integrated for comprehensive solutions to smoothly regulated traffic flow. 

Boon Edam revolving doors and Gilgen automatic doors can each be tailored to suit individual requirements, including all-glass revolving doors (pictured above) and other aesthetic customisation. They can also feature security upgrades such as burglar resistance and bullet resistance.