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Doors – Power Assist and Low Energy

Janis Kent, Architect, CASp © January, 2014


Pedestrian doors and gates come in many varieties whether – sliding, swinging, or folding and whether manual at one side of the spectrum to fully Power Operated at the other side. In between, we have Power Assist and Low Energy doors. It is these latter two types which have generated confusion and which we will look at including the signage requirements.

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards as well as the California Building Code require additional compliance with standards set by the (Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association) BHMA A156-19 for either the 1997 or the 2002 version for Power Assist and Low Energy Power Operated Doors. As far as signage, all Power Assist and Low Energy Doors have their signs mounted at 50” ±12” from the floor to the centerline of the sign and visible from both sides of the door with a letter height of ⅝” minimum.

Basically, a Power Assist door is operated by either pushing or pulling the door. A separate mechanism can be activated that puts the door in the power-assist mode, is also allowed. All of the following instances have signs with white lettering on a blue background placed on both sides of the door.

    • If there is a separate wall switch to operate the door, it has a sign stating ‘Easy Open Door – Activate Switch Then Open Door’.
    • If the door is operated by door motion instead, the sign says ‘Easy Open Door – Push [Pull] To Activate.
    • If remote or sensor mechanisms are used then the sign says ‘Easy Open Doors – Power Assisted’.

A Low Energy door has two varieties – one, a Power Open door, which basically has a powered mechanism that opens the door only when the mechanism is activated and is closed by other means; and the second, a Power Operated door that is automatically opened and closed from a powered actuating signal.

  • For all Low Energy doors, the doors are marked with a sign stating ‘Automatic Caution Door’ in a 6” circle with black lettering of ⅝” height minimum on a yellow background – the word Caution is in inverse with yellow lettering on a black stripe.
  • If there is a separate wall switch the door sign additionally says ‘Activate Switch To Operate’.
  • If the doors are operated by pushing/pulling instead then the additional sign states Push [Pull] To Operate’.
  • In the latter two cases these additional signs have white lettering on a blue background.

If the door is a fully Powered Operated door there are other criteria to follow including guide rails and differing signage requirements which need to meet the 1999 version of BHMA A156-10 standards. Similar to other doors, there are additional criteria if the door is a passageway door or within a means of egress system. So be sure to review all material when specifying.

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.