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Vancouverís ban on the humble doorknob likely to be a trendsetter
Vancouver Sun ^ | 11/19/2013 | Jeff Lee

Posted on 11/19/2013 4:41:09 PM PST by SeekAndFind

t is a ubiquitous piece of equipment found in virtually every building, a requirement for entry, a necessity for exit.

For some, the humble round doorknob is unremarkable and utilitarian, a simple tool, a means to an end. For others, it is a piece of art, an object of beauty, an architecturally significant adornment on the welcoming portal to a building. For others, it is so synonymous with ordinariness that a “knob” is a pejorative word for being dull or stupid.

In Vancouver, the doorknob is heading into a setting sun. Its future has been date-marked, legislated out of existence in all future construction, a tip to society’s quest for universal design and the easier-to-use lever handle.

And as it goes in Vancouver, so will it go in B.C., Canada, and perhaps even the world.

Vancouver is the only city in Canada with its own building code, so the changes made here are often chased into the B.C. Building Code and Canada’s National Building Code, and then put into practice in cities and towns across Canada. Vancouver’s influence is wide. And as go the codes, so too goes the construction industry.

Remember the regular toilet? Try to find one. Low-flush is all there is to be had. The incandescent light bulb? Sorry, just energy-saving fluorescent or LED now in most stores.

The change has crept up on us silently and without fanfare. Look at any new condo building. Any new office door. Any door to a public washroom that doesn’t have pneumatic hinges and a push-pad. There they are, these silver, black or brass-coloured levers that can spring a door open with even a forearm when hands are filled.

And, as doorknobs go, so too will go those other ubiquitous knobs, the ones that turn on and off water faucets. For they too are being legislatively upgraded to levers more conducive to the arthritic, gnarled or weakened hands we earn with age.

In September, Vancouver council adopted new amendments to its building code, effective next March, that, among other things, will require lever handles on all doors and lever faucets in all new housing construction.

It is not like the doorknob will disappear entirely. Like many inventions, it will hold its own for a long, long time. There are, after all, a few people who still use typewriters instead of computers. Vancouver’s rule is not retroactive to existing homes. But over time, the effect will become magnified as housing is replaced.

Vancouver has already signalled how serious it was about this change. Last year, before the amendments were proposed, city maintenance workers quietly removed most of the Art Deco doorknobs from the public doors in the heritage-listed City Hall, which was built in 1936. Where once the public, politicians and bureaucrats alike grasped ornate brass knobs with a stylized face embossed with “VCH” — for Vancouver City Hall — they now find utilitarian gold-coloured levers.

Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa has described the door handle as “the handshake of a building.” If that is so, the doorknob has made a lot of introductions.

The origin of the doorknob is lost in history. Long before its emergence, people opened, closed and latched doors with wood handles, iron bars, leather thongs, strings, cables, rudimentary latches, anything at hand.

According to Allen Joslyn, the president of the Antique Door Knob Collectors of America, the first true knobs were likely simple pulls on church and palace doors.

“People always ask me what the first doorknob was. I tell them you tell me when the first door was made and I’ll be able to figure out when the first doorknob was made,” he said, in a telephone interview.

In the U.S., the first patent for pressing glass knobs by mechanical means was granted in 1824 to Pittsburgh’s John P. Bakewell for use as furniture pulls. Two years later, Henry Whitney and Enoch Robinson of the New England Glass Company in Cambridge, Mass., patented a variation of the glass pressing machine for making doorknobs.

If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Whitney and Robinson didn’t take it well; in 1831, in what was the first patent infringement suit involving knobs in America, they sued another glass knob maker named Emmett and won $500. That same year another glass maker, Spencer Richards of Cambridge, Mass., patented one of the earliest versions of a single knob design.

Robinson broke away from New England Glass, and in the next half-century built an empire as a knob and lock manufacturer and obtained many patents. He had a passion for round things; in 1856, he built a striking round three-storey wood frame house in Sommerville, Mass. that still stands. From the air, it even resembles a knob.

Joslyn says the heyday of highly decorative and collectible knobs ran from the 1840s to about 1915, but adds that lots of decorative knobs were made in later years, such as the ones at Vancouver City Hall.

He doesn’t think Vancouver’s building code amendments will kill the doorknob-making industry. There is, after all, a vibrant industry in the manufacture of reproduction knobs for decorative purposes. But he wonders if Vancouver has gone too far.

“I can understand if you have a public building where everybody wants to have free access and that is a problem,” he said. “But to say that when I build my private home and nobody is disabled that I have to put levers on, strikes me as overreach.”

Vancouver’s interest in door handles instead of knobs stems from a little-known but important and developing concept called universal design.

Tim Stainton, a professor and director of the School of Social Work at the University of B.C., says the concept is based around building a society as open as possible to everyone, rather than creating exceptions to fit a few.

“Basically, the idea is that you try to make environments that are as universally usable by any part of the population,” he said. “The old model was adaptation, or adapted design. You took a space and you adapted for use of the person with a disability. What universal design says is let’s turn it around and let’s just build everything so it is as usable by the largest segments of the population as possible.”

Stainton says there are examples of universal design all around us that we may not even recognize as such.

“A really simple version is the cut curbs on every corner. That helps elderly people, people with visual impairments, moms with strollers. It makes a sidewalk that could otherwise be difficult for parts of the population universally accessible,” he said.

A more oblique example is patterned china and thicker cutlery in some restaurants.

“If you are visually impaired, a white plate on a white tablecloth is difficult to see. You may not be able to distinguish where the plate ends and the table starts. In a lot of places you won’t see plain white china any more. They will design a ring around it, or change the edges,” Stainton says.

Fire alarms with flashing lights are another example. “A sonic fire alarm doesn’t do anything for a person who is deaf. So now, all the alarms you see will have a light on them,” he said. “You don’t want to be the only person sitting in a building on fire thinking ‘where did everybody go’.”

And the door lever? Until this story, you probably didn’t pay attention to what you use to open a door, Stainton suggests.

“Most people don’t think twice now about a doorknob in their office. They don’t think ‘Oh, I don’t have a doorknob but I have a lever.’ They don’t think of that lever as anything other than a way to open the door, and that is the logic here.”

Will Johnston, the former Vancouver chief building inspector who wrote the changes in consultation with the building industry, doesn’t see this as the inevitable death of the doorknob because the rules aren’t retroactive. People can also still buy doorknobs and put them back on lever handle-equipped houses.

But he won’t bemoan the loss of the knob.

“We keep talking about the doorknob. Go into Home Depot and look at how many lever door handles there are. There are lots because that is the trend,” he said, adding that with handles you don’t require a tight grasp.

“Technology changes. Things change. We live with that. … When I look at what we are proposing, it is simply good design. It allows for homes to be built that can be used more easily for everybody.”


TOPICS: Canada; Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: canada; doorknob; vancouver

1 posted on 11/19/2013 4:41:09 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind
Isn't it grand to live in an age when a manufacturer can purchase laws mandating the use of his product?
2 posted on 11/19/2013 4:43:50 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Who knew that one day professional wrestling would be less fake than professional journalism?)
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To: SeekAndFind
Remember the regular toilet? Try to find one.

I've got one. They'll have to pry it from my cold, dead, buttocks before I let it go.

I'm keeping my doorknobs, too.

/johnny

3 posted on 11/19/2013 4:45:52 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: SeekAndFind

You know that public servants have way too much free time on their hands when the best they can do is come up with a plan to ban doorknobs.


4 posted on 11/19/2013 4:46:25 PM PST by FlingWingFlyer (Repeal ObamaScam NOW!!!)
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To: SeekAndFind
I used to think Canada was a cool country. Now I think they are a stupid country of people who vote the stupid socialists in.
O Canada, how stupid you've been voting.

Ha, they used to criticize US. Geez.

5 posted on 11/19/2013 4:47:24 PM PST by cloudmountain
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
It's a scam as old as governments.

/johnny

6 posted on 11/19/2013 4:48:41 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: JRandomFreeper

RE: They’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead, buttocks before I let it go.

I gather you still use incandescent lightbulbs...


7 posted on 11/19/2013 4:49:57 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

What kind of micro-managing tyranny is it that would outlaw doorknobs?


8 posted on 11/19/2013 4:51:45 PM PST by GeronL (Extra Large Cheesy Over-Stuffed Hobbit)
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To: SeekAndFind

Yes, it’s really necessary to have the government and some government hack making all our decisions for us because God knows we’re too dumb. Actually perhaps they are right, after all we elected the morons.


9 posted on 11/19/2013 4:52:08 PM PST by McGavin999
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To: SeekAndFind

Vancouver to out law dildos.
Too knob like say lawmakers.


10 posted on 11/19/2013 5:04:02 PM PST by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Suppose they will ban KNOCKERS also.

re Young Frankenstein....


11 posted on 11/19/2013 5:04:18 PM PST by xrmusn (6/98 --Too bad Abortion and birth control advocates didn't have parents who agreed with them.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Actually, I prefer the LEDs. But that's my choice. If I wanted to use a burning wombat for lighting... I would use a burning wombat.

/johnny

12 posted on 11/19/2013 5:05:41 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: JRandomFreeper
Remember the regular toilet? Try to find one.

When I built out last home in 2006, I went up to Windsor, ON and bought three Kohler Wellworths. I declared them at the border and everything. So, they are made in the US, shipped to Canada, anbd legally sold to an American in Canada. It would be illegal for me to buy the same toilet from the Kohler people in the U.S. What a world.
13 posted on 11/19/2013 5:07:30 PM PST by Dr. Sivana (There's no salvation in politics.)
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To: SeekAndFind

How on earth does one child-proof those things? They obviously want children to die. Wicked, very wicked.


14 posted on 11/19/2013 5:09:05 PM PST by JustSurrounded (And for Christmas this year we get amnesty for the locust people.)
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To: JRandomFreeper
“I've got one. They'll have to pry it from my cold, dead, buttocks before I let it go.”

Me too, FRiend. I left it intact after every renovation. The throne might be older than I am.

The seat is a bit small for some modern folks but I keep it around so kids can see what a real flush looked like.

15 posted on 11/19/2013 5:14:22 PM PST by varyouga
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To: JustSurrounded
Almost every uninvited bear home visit has been traced to these door levers.
16 posted on 11/19/2013 5:32:18 PM PST by kitchen (Even the walls have ears.)
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To: SeekAndFind

“We should remove all doors, too. They are barriers to the love and light all people need.”

“Doors keep us from freezing to death.”

“Hater.”


17 posted on 11/19/2013 5:33:14 PM PST by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: FlingWingFlyer

“You know that public servants have way too much free time on their hands when the best they can do is come up with a plan to ban doorknobs.”

Obviously, there are way too many of them.


18 posted on 11/19/2013 5:33:43 PM PST by The Antiyuppie ("When small men cast long shadows, then it is very late in the day.")
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To: SeekAndFind

Doorknobs?? They want to ban doorknobs?? GEEZ!! What next??


19 posted on 11/19/2013 5:33:53 PM PST by Polyxene (Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.)
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To: varyouga
A real flush should shake the house and drop the air pressure in the bathroom for a second.

/johnny

20 posted on 11/19/2013 5:37:45 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Polyxene
What next?

Urinals. They're an artifact of patriarchal oppression.

I'm told that peeing in the sink is also right out!

21 posted on 11/19/2013 5:37:54 PM PST by Billthedrill
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To: Billthedrill
A gentleman removes the dishes from the sink... first.

/johnny

22 posted on 11/19/2013 5:38:30 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: SeekAndFind

Anyone get clothing pockets caught on those handles while walking out a door? It happens to me sometimes. It’s quite a surprise, especially when I hear a rip. I’m not even sure how it happens.

They curve the ends toward the door, but not enough.


23 posted on 11/19/2013 5:41:19 PM PST by Right Wing Assault (What happened to my tagline??)
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To: SeekAndFind

Suddenly, a door knob collection makes sense to me.


24 posted on 11/19/2013 5:42:25 PM PST by Gator113 ( Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Mike Lee speak for me, most everyone else is just noise.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Actually, most US building codes have required levers instead of doorknobs for many years. I’m surprised this is just coming to Vancouver, if indeed the story is accurate that it is only now happening.


25 posted on 11/19/2013 5:53:11 PM PST by colorado tanker
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To: kitchen
Almost every uninvited bear home visit has been traced to these door levers.

Bears are not the only ones. All three of my labradors know how to open the front door. Of course, they may be helping keep the bears out...

26 posted on 11/19/2013 6:10:29 PM PST by CurlyDave
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To: SeekAndFind

I assume Vancouver is starting enforcement in the stripper bars. Of course, those flipper handles will probably be even more uncomfortable in some ways...


27 posted on 11/19/2013 6:19:56 PM PST by RichInOC (No! BAD Rich! (What'd I say?))
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To: colorado tanker

Are you talking commercial construction or residential? I was unaware this was in residential code here.....and that is what is being proposed in Canada.


28 posted on 11/19/2013 6:23:50 PM PST by lacrew (Mr. Soetoro, we regret to inform you that your race card is over the credit limit.)
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To: SeekAndFind

The main reason doorknobs are often not seen in new commercial construction in the U.S. is because of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) which require that when a door must be accessible the door hardware “shall have a shape that is easy to grasp with one hand and does not require tight grasping, tight pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate.”

I imagine Canada has similar building accessibility codes.


29 posted on 11/19/2013 6:52:23 PM PST by lastchance ("Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis" St. Augustine)
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To: lacrew

You can be sure there are people who would love to see accessibility codes apply to residential construction. Certain portions already apply to certain multifamily dwellings and newly built single family dwellings have to include one bathroom with an accessible door.

It makes sense to make residential dwellings adaptable but that should be owner preference not by government fiat. I see no reason to require that SFR must comply with ADA.


30 posted on 11/19/2013 6:57:46 PM PST by lastchance ("Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis" St. Augustine)
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To: SeekAndFind

Short-timers in the Army in Germany use to say, I’m going to the land of round doorknobs.


31 posted on 11/20/2013 6:11:46 AM PST by meridenite
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To: JRandomFreeper

A real flush should shake the house and drop the air pressure in the bathroom for a second.
= = = = = = = = = = =
Wasn’t it ‘Al Bundy’s’ FERGUSON FLUSH that had the water in the Chicago Fountain dipping?


32 posted on 11/20/2013 4:52:38 PM PST by xrmusn (6/98 --Too bad Abortion and birth control advocates didn't have parents who agreed with them.)
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To: xrmusn
I don't know. I'm not a TV watcher.

I do know that the first time my grandson saw my toilet flush he whispered: "Turbo boost, wow". ;)

/johnny

33 posted on 11/20/2013 5:20:53 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: CurlyDave; kitchen

Our daughter brought an almost new-born kitten home. When he reached about 8 months, he learned to jump up and open our interior lever-handle doors. At first, we couldn’t imagine the ruckus in the back of the house, then Merlin came wandering about and we learned he had set himself free. It’s quite a sight to watch, this one-year old cat leaping up on the levers to go where he wants. It’s nice having an independent, free-thinking, conservative cat in the house. But I do suspect he’d go along with the ban on doorknobs.


34 posted on 11/22/2013 6:33:27 AM PST by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: lacrew

It’s both residential and commercial. My understanding is the switch has something to do with the adoption of the International building and fire codes.


35 posted on 11/22/2013 3:11:00 PM PST by colorado tanker
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