The famous Missing Tile Syndrome by Dennis Prager highlights human’s propensity to notice (and focus on) a single “missing” tile in a beautiful tiled ceiling, rather than appreciate the true beauty of the overall mosaic. Mr. Prager applies this notion to many things in our lives that act as a barrier to true happiness.
Coincidentally, this observation rings true in buildings across the globe. Whether it be an office, hotel, condo, senior living, or civic project – it is easy to miss the marvel and beauty of the building interiors if ONE element doesn’t fit. This is why the best architects and design teams pore, consider, and deliberate over every detail to create a consistent story for the project.
Yet walk into any stairwell of a building and you’d think you were entering the Dungeon of Design led by the Archenemy of Enlightened Architecture! Clearly, the same design wand wasn’t applied to the stairwell portion of the building.
Of course, it makes very good financial sense – why spend design dollars on mostly “invisible” areas that are meant primarily as functional exits in emergencies? Rather redirect those dollars toward creating showstopping interiors elsewhere, right?
For the most part, you’d be right. The question that arises is “What about the stairwell doors?” Are those a part of the “Stairwell Budget” (No Design)” or “Interiors Budget” (High Design)?” Complicating this question is the fire rating requirements, which can range from 60 minutes to 90 minutes for stairwell doors.
Unfortunately using a hollow metal door or hollow metal frame that is fire-rated sticks out like a sore thumb in a lobby, hallway, or user-end of that doorway. It’s the proverbial “missing tile” in the architectural design. All that design effort and dollars marred by 21 – 24 square feet of sheet metal.
Fortunately, developers, architects, and designers now have viable options for affordable fire-rated wood doors and frames. These include major door manufacturers such as Jeld-Wen, Masonite, and VT Industries to customizable and affordable door-frame manufacturers like Grandoor Frames.
Today, stairwell doors and frames shouldn’t have to be an eyesore, but rather act as a complementing, integrated component of design. It’s high time to make these doors and frames go from merely stair-wells to stare-worthy.