The Crucial Role of Architectural Ironmongery in Building Design

Architectural ironmongery might seem like a minor detail in the grand scheme of building design, but it is highly significant. With safety, security, accessibility and aesthetics to consider, specification can be complex and multifaceted. In this article, we speak with Tom Planck, Managing Director of leading architectural ironmongery firm John Planck, about the key factors to consider during hardware specification.


Architectural ironmongery is an important consideration in all types of buildings. Whether residential commercial or industrial, it plays a crucial role in not only ensuring spaces can be accessed but also in shaping the safety, security, accessibility and interior design of a building. From hinges and locks to handles and knobs, every piece of door and window hardware is an essential component of building design and requires detailed consideration.

It sounds obvious, but when approaching hardware specification, the most important place to start is by getting to grips with what the client actually wants and needs. Quite often this ends up being two very different things which, if overlooked, can result in a specification that doesn’t meet expectations.

Consider the type of project; is it a new build or a refurbishment? If it is a refurb, to what extent is the refurbishment being carried out? Is it a total knock-down-and-start-again project, or are existing doors being re-used? What is the intended use of the space? Are there any specific access requirements outside of normal parameters? How generous is the budget? Spending time analysing and evaluating the project at the outset will help you achieve a well-tailored hardware specification that aligns perfectly with project requirements.

As with most building design elements, when it comes to product specification there is no set formula for hardware. The overarching brief, interior design and budget will vary from project to project, dictating requirements.

There are a number of other factors that must always be considered. The first is functionality. Hardware should enable windows and doors to be operated easily; allowing smooth access between rooms or to outside spaces. Here, elements such as ergonomics, usage frequency, ease of use and durability all come into play and will impact the final specification. For example, doors around entrance or exit areas will require more durable and heavier-duty products to withstand constant use, whilst those in spaces with less traffic can be more forgiving.

Door hardware also plays a crucial role in fire safety and emergency escape and functionality should be well considered in this regard. Relevant to the door leaf size and weights, heavy-duty hinges and self-closing devices are crucial for ensuring the doors are hung and swing as efficiently as possible, also ensuring they close properly where appropriate to ensure fire compartmentalisation. Intumescent door seal strips around the door and frame perimeter expand under heat to help prevent the spread of fire through them, whilst panic exit devices will help to ensure swift evacuation in the case of an emergency. Conversely, hardware that is incorrectly specified or installed can have the opposite effect, impeding fire resistance performance and preventing safe exit.

The second factor to consider is accessibility; hardware should ensure that buildings are accessible for all users and meet requirements set out under Building Regulations, BS:8300 and the Equality Act. The height and placement of hardware is also key here, alongside the product itself.

Security is another important factor. Whether it’s for an individual’s home, a commercial office or a retail store, preventing unauthorised access and potential theft or other security issues is a must. The level of security required will vary dependent on a range of circumstances such as the building’s occupancy type, location and contents it holds but security locks and access control systems should all be considered.

Looking beyond practicalities, aesthetics plays a huge role in the specification journey. Just like any other design element, hardware is an integral part of interior design and can be used to enhance the overall style. Whether it’s sleek and modern or classic and traditional, there are literally hundreds of styles to choose from with different finishes and specialised coatings to consider.

Once practical and aesthetic requirements have been addressed, attention must then settle on the types of products needed for the differing doors and situations, remembering the ‘essential’ items required including hinges, door closing devices, locks or latches, panic exit devices and intumescent door seals.

Finally, ‘dressing’ the door to suit the location and operation of the door, such as fire signage, hooks, door stops, protection plates and bolts.

With so many factors to consider and decisions to be made, hardware specification can be complex and extremely time consuming. Whatever hardware is chosen, it’s of utmost importance to ensure that the products specified meet with any relevant British Standards and classifications. We’d always advise on working and collaborating with an experienced and registered architectural ironmonger (RegAI), who will be able to handle the process for you and ensure that the correct specification is achieved.

They will also be able to provide support on wider issues, such as sustainable sourcing, ensuring that hardware is chosen with environmental responsibility in mind and supporting carbon reduction to contribute to the overall success and longevity of the project.

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