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Hydraulic Doors vs. Counterweight Vertical Doors in Architectural Design

Updated: Feb 5

Two Renlita A-750 Nufold counterweight vertical doors

When it comes to vertical opening door systems, various options have been employed over the years, including cable or strap doors and traditional hydraulic doors. The rise of flexible spaces in commercial buildings, multi-use projects, and high-end homes has become an exciting trend lately. However, recent advancements in engineering and technology have given rise to an innovative solution that combines the functionality of a hydraulic or dead-lift cable or strap door with the ability to design unique and striking folding options. The design options, usability, customization, and finishes of counterweight openings surpass their predecessors in multiple ways. In this blog post, we will delve into the reasons why counterweight vertical doors outshine other alternatives, offering superior design options, functionality, efficiency, and reliability for large vertical openings used as architectural solutions.

1. Adaptability and Customization:

Counterweight vertical doors are highly customizable to suit various sizes and types of openings and are fast becoming the go-to for top-tier architects who are wanting to set their designs apart and create a more open option for their clients. Whether it's a small private backyard getaway or a large commercial facility, these doors can be tailored to meet specific requirements, without being boxed into just one or two folding options. Their flexibility allows for easy integration with different building structures and architectural designs, and custom glass, cladding, mullion designs, and color matching elevates the space without compromising.

2. Efficiency and Smooth Operation:

Counterweight vertical doors are engineered to provide clean and efficient operation. Unlike cable or strap doors, which will suffer from more wear and tear, and hydraulic doors, which can be cumbersome, loud, and slow to open, counterweight doors ensure a smooth and dependable lifting mechanism offset by weights instead of just a dead-lift large motor, and can be manually operated much easier in case of a power failure. Battery backup systems are available as well but many smaller openings may choose to design their new architectural centerpiece as a purely manual option. Hydraulic or cable and strap systems simply cannot accommodate these options. These doors boast a vertical lifting action that reduces the time required to open or close the building.

3. Minimal Maintenance and Longevity:

Traditional hydraulic doors often necessitate regular maintenance, which can be costly and time-consuming. Counterweight vertical doors, on the other hand, are designed to have fewer maintainable parts, resulting in reduced downtime and expense. The design is simple and robust, yet highly adaptable and customizable, leading to increased durability and reduced maintenance requirements, which is especially appealing to those looking for a long-lasting, beautiful solution.

4. Space-Saving Design:

Hydraulic doors, especially the bifold design will occupy a considerable amount of the opening’s original space when fully open, limiting the usable area by at least 3 feet. For instance, a bar top architectural opening that starts as a 5-foot tall system would be rendered virtually useless with over half of the space taken up by the bifold cable, strap, or hydraulic system’s wedge. Counterweight vertical doors can provide a balanced approach which sets them apart as a space-saving alternative, as they stow away with a tighter fold and require less space to accommodate the door's panels. This enables customers to maximize their available space efficiently and create more open space to enjoy.

5. Safety and Reliability:

Counterweight vertical doors prioritize safety above all else. They are designed with advanced safety features, such as redundant braking systems, to prevent accidental door drops in the unlikely case of an issue with the opening. Moreover, the design ensures stability and reliability during extreme weather conditions, making them ideal for openings located in regions prone to hurricanes or strong winds. Safety options typically come as an added expense, such as paying extra for the photo eyes, a safety edge sensor, or inertia brake systems. Believe me, these are not optional. Counterweight systems are turn-key and come with these safety features, plus a patented safety braking system standard.

6. Energy Efficiency:

Compared to hydraulic doors, counterweight vertical doors offer better energy efficiency, both in weather sealing capabilities and in actual power consumption. Hydraulic systems often require two or three-phase power to operate the doors, resulting in higher building costs and energy consumption. In contrast, counterweight doors aren’t lifting the entire door, as gravity works with the opening, not against it. Smaller, 110V 6-8 amp motors are whisper quiet and include automatic panel obstruction sensing technology that high-power “brute-force” systems simply cannot integrate without adding expensive sensors. This eco-friendly and safe approach to opening spaces can lead to reduced energy costs and a smaller environmental footprint and a more elegant design.

When creating flexible spaces for your clients, ensure that you don’t let your designs be limited or your usability affect the ability to enjoy the flexible spaces you’ve worked so hard to create. Industrial hydraulics or loud cable and strap winch-style motors have no place in high-end architecture. Creativity is often encumbered by the limitations of physics, but just know that other solutions out there are just plain better. You wouldn’t draft a multi-million dollar plan by t-square and pencil, why would you slap an industrial door on a high-end client’s beautiful building?

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