Getting a handle on aluminium doors

Will Jones of Senior Architectural Systems looks at how aluminium doors can open up new opportunities to create homes that offer the highest standards of style, security and sustainability.

The term ‘patio door’ is often used to refer to a wide range of differing door types, but the most appropriate style to choose will depend on the budget and space available.

Commonly known as French doors, these simple and elegant double or single doors, opening in or out, are perfect for smaller properties that require quick and easy access to the garden. Although a popular choice for traditional homes, the new generation of aluminium doors are well suited to contemporary properties. The slim frame offered by aluminium can also improve the flow of light, despite the smaller dimensions of this style.

Perhaps the most popular choice is the bi-folding or folding sliding door. The advantage of this style is that it enables a whole wall of glass to be completely opened up to create a dramatic focal point and a seamless link with the outside space. Aluminium doors also offer the additional benefits of being strong enough to support large expanses of glazing within a slim frame, maximising the sense of light and space.

Whereas bi-folds are well-suited to houses, particularly those with large gardens or patio areas that can accommodate the ‘fold back’ of this style, sliding doors are the ideal choice for smaller properties or high-rise apartments with balconies. Sliding doors can also make an exciting feature in new build properties as they can be designed as ‘pocket doors’ so that they slide into the wall cavity and provide an even wider and visually
cleaner opening.

With the ability to create the full range of standard RAL colours or specific colours for a more bespoke solution, powder coated aluminium frames can also make a real design statement and boost the ‘kerb appeal’ of a development.

Environmental benefits

All buildings lose heat through windows and doors, but the amount of energy that is lost can vary significantly depending on the type of system used. Here, aluminium systems can really have the edge. Specifying doors with double or even triple glazing is an obvious starting point, but choosing a system that contains a thermal barrier is where the real energy savings can be made. One of the major benefits of aluminium doors is the enhanced thermal performance and low U-values that they offer. Traditionally the material of choice for thermal barriers has been the low thermal conductor polyamide, but new product innovations have been developed to offer even greater energy efficiency. As well as helping to create an interior environment that is both comfortable and more affordable to heat, the specification of aluminium can have wider benefits, specifically to a scheme’s overall carbon footprint. By reducing carbon calculations through the specification of low U-value doors, the project team potentially have the flexibility to make savings in the overall build cost by reducing the need for other, often more expensive, sustainable features, such as photovoltaic roof panels or under floor insulation. Aluminium can also be recycled endlessly, making it the ideal choice for projects where sustainable construction targets are paramount.

Safe and sound

As well as its aesthetic and thermal appeal, aluminium significantly outperforms other types of framing material in terms of its durability. Hard wearing and robust, aluminium systems can help to reduce cyclical maintenance costs, and with many products offering guarantees of 30+ years, can make a positive contribution to managing the overall lifecycle costs of the building. It is also best practice to choose a manufacturer that can provide the aluminium doors alongside any windows or curtain walling that may be used on the scheme. This not only ensures that the glazing package performs together as well as possible, but also streamlines the supply chain by keeping all guarantees and warranties with the one supplier.

The intrinsic strength of aluminium frame doors also offers increased security, and the very best products are those that are fully compliant with the latest standards, such as PAS 24.

Unlocking the potential of aluminium

Whether a new-build house, high-rise apartment scheme or refurbishment project, patio doors can be used to create aspirational homes that embrace the popular trend of open-plan living, while ensuring that the traditional requirements of quality, security and efficiency are successfully met.

The range of styles and configurations of aluminium doors available are giving housebuilders and developers the flexibility they need to be able to design homes that not only look good, but that also provide long-term benefits for residents. As one of the most popular choices of building material for the commercial sector, aluminium is now proving its mettle in the residential market.

Will Jones is architectural advisor at Senior Architectural Systems