DOORWAYS TO PROGRESS
With the recent opening of its Phase V expansion, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando became the second-largest convention center in the United States. The $748 million expansion project was designed and constructed in just 42 months and doubled the space of the existing facility, which now includes 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space, two 92,000-sq.-ft. general assembly areas and several other venues and facilities.
The OCCC first opened in 1984. Its latest expansion was the largest and most ambitious, adding 3 million sq. ft. to the facility. Despite last year’s hurricane problems, which caused a temporary leveling of the demand, future bookings continue to be brisk. Since opening, the venue has booked more than 730 future conventions, banquets and shows through the end of 2028.
Securing the entrances and hundreds of doors in such a large facility while also accommodating the large crowds it attracts requires door hardware and access control components that are both unobtrusive and effective.
In a facility this large, with such large crowds and varied uses, doors and their hardware are challenged to provide security, protect life safety and accommodate accessibility for those with disabilities. Over the years, various types of hardware have been used in the succeeding phases of construction, but the convention center has made an effort to standardize them in order to simplify maintenance, reduce costs and achieve greater consistency. This has led to greater unification in the most recent expansion, as well as to retrofitting existing doors with the latest hardware when possible.
According to G. Frank Woods, assistant facility maintenance supervisor at OCCC, the move to standardize door hardware components took shape about 1995 or 1996 when the third and fourth phases were completed. “We retrofitted the rest of the building, phases 1, 2 and 2A, with the same hardware,” he says.
Although access control and door hardware tend to be repeated wherever a similar configuration occurs throughout the facility, there are many different answers to providing access while maintaining security. In a facility this large, it adds up to a lot of doors. Woods estimates that there are more than 1,000 door leaves equipped with exit devices in the latest addition alone.
The Orange County Convention Center uses the LCN Senior Swing power door operators as part of its building’s emergency egress system. “They’re typical motorized ADA doors, but they are set to open automatically and provide quick egress when the fire alarm system is activated,” Woods says.
He notes that they assist with smoke evacuation. While a mechanical key system is used for everyday door security, after-hours access is controlled electronically. “The whole perimeter and interior of the building are controlled with motion-sensor cameras and a proximity card system,” he says.
Meeting rooms are equipped with LCN Sentronic door closers that are connected to the building’s fire alarm system and that release if the alarm is activated, which allows the doors to close as required by fire/life safety codes.
In addition, meeting room doors are equipped on both the concourse and service corridor sides with Von Duprin 98EL exit devices that have electric latch retraction. This allows the rooms to be controlled by card access, especially when the room must be secured for a client to protect its contents during trade shows or conferences.
Main entrance doors include at least one LCN power operator to comply with ADA guidelines and to provide access for people with disabilities. These are electrified and equipped with card readers to allow after-hours access for authorized individuals.
Between exhibit hall areas, large wall areas can be retracted electrically. However, when they are in place, the multiple pedestrian doors within the walls are equipped with rim-type exit devices to provide the safe fire egress paths required by codes. Each door also is equipped with a position sensor to prevent the wall from being retracted if one of the doors is unlatched or open.
The convention center played a role as an emergency center when the area was hit by last year’s major hurricanes. “We had one hall set up with the Sheriff’s boats, helicopters and emergency equipment. They brought in 15 tractor-trailer loads of water and distributed it throughout the county,” Woods says. “We had horses from Orange County and the City of Orlando police department. FEMA was here too, and we set up a shelter where people could stay for two or three days until they could get back into their homes or find another place to stay.”
Although unplanned and unwanted, the emergency showed the adaptability of the large facility to yet another circumstance.