Ban the doorknob? Building code change removes choice for renovations contractors
By Brynna Leslie
In March, Vancouver’s ban on doorknobs in all new residential construction in the city came into effect, with city councillors arguing homes should be designed with accessibility in mind.
For people with disabilities, the change to the city’s building code – which calls for builders to use levers instead of round knobs — is a positive move.
But as Halifax looks to follow Vancouver’s lead on the doorknob ban, some are questioning the validity of petty building code changes that not only remove personal choice, but often add to the cost of renovations.
Although levers have become the more popular choice in recent years, they are also typically more expensive.
“A 2002 report from the Montreal Economic Institute estimated that unnecessary building codes had doubled the cost of new houses in Quebec over the previous 20 years,” writes Jesse Kline in the National Post last fall.
Kline goes onto argue that, while levers are helpful for people with disabilities, the ease with which they open makes them awkward for some families.
“Levers are easier for small children and, as anyone who’s watched Jurassic Park knows, velociraptors to open,” writes Kline. “They also have to match the orientation of the door, and can be hazardous to both children and clothing.”
Anyone who’s ever had a toddler or caught the hem of their shirt on a levered door understands Kline’s argument.
Unlike Vancouver, Halifax doesn’t have the authority to make changes to the building code, which is under provincial jurisdiction. But the city council is looking to influence the change in any case.
I don’t think any of us can argue against making public buildings more accessible. It even makes sense to encourage accessible design in multi-unit residential buildings, due to the fact there is greater turnover within them.
But, as Kline argues, the government is stretching its nanny state arm a bit far when it starts dictating how people design and build the interior of their homes – homes they’re going to live in. He asks how far the government will go toward enforcing accessible design — will building codes eventually mandate walk-in showers and elevators instead of stairs?
What do you think? Are doorknobs a thing of the past? Should we care that they’ll eventually disappear from the market? Would you argue against these types of interfering building code changes on principle?