automatic doors for buildings


Picture this: You’re at the grocery store and you’ve just finished checking out. The cashier neatly bagged up your groceries and you’re heading toward the exit, four heavy bags in hand. You approach the large glass door and… nothing happens. Wait, why didn’t the door automatically open for you?

Automatic doors are so common that you probably can’t imagine a world where you have to physically open the door at the grocery store. Developed over the last several decades, automatic doors have empowered us to create hands-free entrances and exits.

If you develop, own, or manage multifamily or commercial buildings, you’re probably always looking for new ways to enhance your property. Automatic doors offer improved safety, added convenience, and a seamless, hands-free entry experience to tenants, visitors, and building staff. Read on to learn more about how automatic doors for buildings work and why they matter.

This post covers:


How do automatic doors work?

Automatic doors require a sensor that detects when the door needs to open. When the sensor detects a cue, it then sends a signal to the door operating mechanism. After receiving that signal, the mechanism opens the door.

Three of the most common types of automatic door sensors include:

  1. Pressure sensors
  2. Motion detection and optical sensors
  3. An access control or video intercom system


automatic building doors


1. Pressure sensors

Introduced in the 1960s, pressure sensors use changes in weight or pressure to detect when the door needs to open. Pressure sensors are usually installed as mats or pads on the ground. When a person approaches the door and steps on the mat, the door opens because the pressure sensor detected a change in pressure (the person’s weight).


2. Motion detection and optical sensors

Nowadays, most automatic doors operate with motion-detecting sensors. The majority of motion detectors use either microwave pulses or passive infrared (PIR) sensors to detect movement.

Microwave beam motion detectors send out pulses of microwaves that measure the reflections of moving objects. In contrast, passive infrared sensors measure temperature changes to detect body heat.

Sensors with microwave technology are usually more expensive than infrared sensors because they can cover a larger area. However, they are also at risk of electrical interference.


3. Access control or video intercom system

Automatic doors can also detect when to operate through an access control or video intercom system.

Rather than sensing motion or pressure, the door relies on a signal from an access control system to open. That signal can come from a keycard, a fob, a smartphone, or any other device that has been programmed with the access control system.

Automatic doors controlled by cloud-based access control systems or smart video intercoms are ideal for multifamily buildings and commercial properties that only need to grant entry to authorized people. Most multifamily and commercial buildings need an access control system or video intercom for both fire and safety regulations. In addition, access control systems and smart video intercoms improve the resident experience.

Additionally, when the access control system or video intercom is connected to the cloud, building staff enjoy the added convenience of managing property access permissions remotely from a web browser. As a result, staff members don’t have to physically visit the building to update their system.


How does a sensor make the door open?

Once a sensor has detected that someone needs to enter the building, it then sends a signal to the door opening mechanism. The door opening mechanism is powered by an electric motor, which opens the door according to the type of door you have.

Types of automatic doors include:

  • Sliding doors: Ideal for two-way traffic, automatic sliding doors may be hung from overhead tracks or mounted with tracks and rollers.
  • Swinging doors: Ideal for one-way traffic, automatic swinging doors open either in or out.
  • Folding doors: Ideal for small entrances where space is a concern, automatic folding doors fold up onto themselves to create a passageway.
  • Revolving doors: Ideal for high-traffic areas, automatic revolving doors enable simultaneous exit and entry.

The right door for your building depends on the type of pedestrian traffic at your property and the space available.


building automatic door


Benefits of automatic doors for buildings

We’ve established how automatic doors work, but now let’s understand why that matters. Why should you care about automatic doors, and why are they worth the investment?

Some of the benefits of automatic doors include:

  • Energy savings: Automatic doors can help preserve conditioned air and therefore reduce your building’s heating and cooling costs.
  • Touchless entry: With an automated door, no one has to touch shared surfaces like door handles. This helps prevent the spread of germs.
  • Convenience: People always appreciate the convenience of hands-free building entry, especially when carrying grocery bags, wrangling their kids, or bringing home a new piece of heavy furniture.


How do automatic doors enable touchless entry?

Automatic doors enable touchless entry by allowing people to pass through the entryway without touching the door. Apartment residents appreciate touchless entry because it eliminates the need to touch high-risk surfaces, making your property safer for all.

If you want to implement touchless entry at a multifamily building or a commercial property with restricted access, you’ll need an automatic door and an access control system or video intercom.

ButterflyMX’s video intercom with a mobile app is an ideal solution because it offers smartphone-based access. That means anyone entering the building will only need their personal smartphone — they won’t need to touch an intercom panel, keycard scanner, or fob reader.


make access simple cta

Profile image for Jeff Granger


Jeff Granger

I'm a native Texan and tech guru who is fascinated by technology's impact on the real estate industry.