Revolving doors – the ubiquitous entrance to a skyscraper – consist of 3 or 4 doors hung in a cylindrical frame with and indoor and outdoor opening. It allows smooth entry or exit for more than one person at a time. One of the less common choices for a commercial entry door is the revolving door, which is typically glass, and is associated in many people’s minds with specialized locations such as airports, train stations, malls and public buildings.

But where did the commercial revolving door come from? And why do we see it in so many public settings?

Revolving Doors are Proof Chivalry is Dead

The revolving door was invented by Theophilus van Kannel and patented in 1888. Well, maybe – technically Germany patented a version 7 years before. What spurred Kannel’s invention? Being kind of a jerk. Theo wasn’t a fan of holding doors open for anyone – especially women. The mommy issues ran deep in this one.

Okay, while that story might be urban legend, it seems way more realistic than the reason he did give. Originally named “Storm-Door Structure,” Kannel claimed the revolving door was meant to windproof storefronts and entrances to public buildings.

However, Kannel was known to detest arguing with other men about who should go through a door first, and supposedly specifically detested acting chivalrous towards women in more than just door-related situations. There’s a whole thing about history with his mother and social phobias and stuff – the typical history of most male inventors (no offense, guys).

Interestingly, his invention reversed chivalrous door etiquette: instead of holding the door open for a woman and following her through, it was considered gentlemanly to lead the way through the revolving door.

Anyway, revolving doors actually solve a lot of problems that commercial sliding and pedestrian doors pose, which is why they quickly took over big buildings in cities like NYC and Chicago. And today, they’re just as common for those same reasons.

Revolving Doors can Drastically Improve Climate Control

Many types of doors can help you control transfer of heat from inside to outside or vice versa, thus helping maintain internal temperature and save on heating and air conditioning expenses. Revolving doors are very effective in this area, as they essentially create an airlock between the interior of a building and the environment outside.

They can be especially useful in this way in a building that has an elevator. When both an exterior door and the elevator doors are open in a building the elevator acts as a kind of chimney, sucking in air from the outside; a revolving door prevents this. And the more a revolving door gets used, the better job it does at reducing in-and-out airflow. Scientific studies have actually shown that as traffic through a revolving door goes up, air leakage goes down.

Revolving Door Systems Handle High Traffic in a Small Space

Revolving doors allow large numbers of people to move through them easily and quickly, with traffic going both ways at the same time. They block street noise and odors, and are quiet in operation. They also make entering a building easy for people with their hands full.

A revolving door can also show its value in an emergency situation. If people need to be evacuated quickly, some revolving doors can be set to stay open; the wings of the door collapse parallel to each other, creating two passageways out of the building.

Another reason you see so many historic public buildings like courthouses using revolving doors is the matter of the space for a door opening. Older buildings don’t have room for double commercial glass entry doors. And as older buildings are retrofitted and renovated, not everyone wants the face of the building to undergo such a big change as exterior double doors would require. Since revolving doors are more contained, they’re more easily applied to these kind of applications, allowing the building to move forward in time and accommodate more traffic without compromising its original façade.

Revolving Doors Make a Public-Facing Impression

Of course, one of the important things a business’s main entry door needs to do is make the right impression on visitors. Revolving glass doors lend a high-end look to a storefront entrance and send the message that you’ve got a lot of traffic to handle! But depending upon what kind of business you have, the impression made by a glass revolving door – which probably tends to be associated in the minds of many people with large, prestigious institutions – may or may not be what you’re looking for.

Revolving Doors are Secure, Durable & Low-Maintenance

The benefits to revolving doors don’t stop there. Among the many other reasons to install revolving doors at your business, they also offer:
Increased security

Revolving doors have speed, resistance and folding settings. Set a speed for easy high-traffic operation or slow a speed to hamper intruders, giving security time to meet them at the door before they breach the area. As well, in emergencies, all the hung doors fold together, creating two openings for easy evacuation.


This type of street-facing door is made of commercial-grade hardware, reinforced glass, and, most often, aluminum framing. This makes them shatterproof, wind and impact-resistant, and lightweight for less wear-and-tear on the moving parts.


Besides lubrication and cleaning every so often, which should be a regular part of facilities management anyway, the heavy-duty weather stripping on these doors should only need replaced every 1 to 2 years. Also, the commercial hardware and moving parts on the door are fairly easy to switch out when needed – just a quick service call from your local exterior door installers.

Cautions to Consider in Installing Revolving Doors

As with anything, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with revolving doors. They need regular cleaning and lubrication; so much traffic causes lower door parts and weather stripping to get gunked up. Revolving doors also present 4x the risk of spreading germs through hand contact than a commercial sliding or push door. However, you can counter this with professional door hardware that is antimicrobial.

Lastly, remember that if your business entryway has glass revolving doors, you will still need to provide ADA- compliant entrances to your building. That means ramps and automatic doors with enough clearance to make it easy for differently-abled people to get in and out of your building. If you’re worried about the energy loss of these types of doors, pair your ADA-compliant doors with air curtains – they’ll do wonders for energy-efficiency at those entrances.

As with any change in fenestration on a business or public building, there are many city codes to contend with before you even get to preferred materials, insulation and design. Consult with a local professional in commercial doors and windows; they’ll make the process easy and ensure all your bases are covered.