Revolving Doors: An Engineering Marvel for Efficient Design

Revolving doors are an invention of the late nineteenth century with many benefits for modern design. Some of the most important of these benefits include increased heating and air efficiency indoors, better traffic control, and expanded entry and exit spaces.

Revolving doors

According to a writer at the New York Times, they also prevent skyscrapers from becoming “high-rise wind tunnels”. Revolving doors regulate the air pressure difference between the cold air outside and warm air inside that creates wind. This is because there are segments of the doors that are closed at all times preventing air from being sucked in or pulled out.

What are Revolving Doors?

What are Revolving Doors?

Revolving doors are doors built with three to four panels, called wings or leaves, located on a central shaft. This central shaft rotates around a central axis within a circular enclosure. Some revolving doors are manual, allowing people using the door to control the speed that they turn. Others are automatic and dictate the rate of turn.

Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia patented this door design in 1888. The first wooden revolving door was installed in 1899 in Rector’s, a restaurant in Madison Square Gardens, New York City.

Revolving doors have become part of New York City’s building landscape. Many consider this city the revolving door capital of the world. It is here that you can see ornate brass, glass, and wooden revolving doors that set off the ornate lobbies of skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building.

Revolving Doors: Pros and Cons

Revolving doors have amazing benefits because of their clever engineering. Yet, there are some negatives to revolving doors that are important to understand.


  • Large openings – Revolving doors create large openings to go in and out at the same time. The separate panels allow people to utilize the same space without getting in the way of each other.
  • Energy efficiency – The door panels create an air lock to keep the air from leaving or being sucked in when people open and close the door.
  • Sound muffling – There are panels that are closed and open at all times. This muffles the sound from the outside and keeps the indoors quiet.
  • Low maintenance – Revolving doors may have a more expensive initial price, but they are cost-efficient in the long run. They are made from sturdy materials that are long-lasting.
  • Security – Some revolving doors have enhanced security features such as metal and radiation detectors and safety glass that make them safer than traditional doors.
  • Style – Revolving doors have an interesting and unique style that creates an instant focal point for buildings and lobbies.


  • Safety – Revolving doors do not move large amounts of people fast. Therefore, in cases of emergency, most building codes require hinged doors be present too.
  • Inability to move fast – If someone is in a hurry, revolving doors slow them down.
  • Fear – Some people have a fear of small spaces. The panels of revolving doors are not a good solution for these people.
  • Heavy – If the doors are not automatic, they can be heavy for people with small children or carrying things. They can also be difficult for people who are disabled in some way.
  • Larger Opening – Revolving doors require larger spaces to install than traditional hinged doors.

Revolving Doors in Commercial Design

Because of the cost and skill involved in installing them, most architects and designers use revolving doors in commercial spaces.

Security Revolving Doors

Security Revolving Doors

These security revolving doors from dormakaba are ideal for spaces where people may want increased safety measures. These include buildings like hospitals, sports facilities, residential buildings, and corporate highrises. There are control options like card readers, safety glass, biometric scanners, and endpoint locking to prevent users getting stuck.

Chicago Board of Trade Building Revolving Door

Revolving doors

The Chicago Board of Trade Building is a premier example of Art Deco architecture. The building was designed by John A. Holabird and William Wellborn Root Jr. and built from 1929-1930. The revolving door is crafted from thick brass and decorated in natural motifs of corn and wheat.

Warwick Hotel, Rittenhouse Square Revolving Door

Revolving doors

The Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania used Boon Edam to replace a sliding door entrance for their hotel. The sliding door had replaced an original revolving door, but the heating and air system did not work well with the sliding door installation. Boon Edam used a combination sliding door and revolving door cube to eliminate air flow from the inside to the outside.

Revolving Doors for Display

Revolving doors

Revolving doors are also a means of display. These wide revolving doors from dormakaba feature a central display case that is ideal for retail stores. They also create more visual interest for hotels and sports facilities. Available in a diameter of 21 feet, the KTC series from dormakaba is one of the widest options in North America.

Revolving Door for 42 Park Lane, London

Revolving Door for 42 Park Lane, London

This new hotel in London features an Art Deco style with all the modern luxuries. The architect, Thierry Despont, chose to use a revolving door entrance. This plays off the historic style of the hotel while keeping the lobby energy efficient.

Revolving Door Concepts in Home Design

There are not many examples of revolving doors in residential design, but the simple structure works well for some aspects of home design.

Revolving Door Project in Tokyo

Revolving Door Project in Tokyo


Architects, Tomokazu Hayakawa, transformed this outdated 1970s apartment in Tokyo into a modern luxury home. They used a simple manual revolving door as part of a glass enclosure to frame the entrance to the apartment.

Revolving Shower Door

Revolving Shower Door

Jerry Jacobs used a revolving shower door in this contemporary bathroom remodel. It is an ideal way to stop the flow of water from one section to another.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the revolving door meaning in business?

The revolving door in business means the transfer of people from the public or government sector into the private sector of business. Some people object to this practice as it may lead to unhealthy relationships and the granting of privileges that would not exist without the relationship.

How is a revolving door different from a pivot door?

A pivot door and a revolving door both operate on a central axis. The difference between the two doors is that pivot doors are a flat surface and have just two “wings” while revolving doors have 3-4 “wings” that create compartments within the circular enclosure. Pivot doors do not have a circular enclosure.

Are revolving doors safe?

Some people find revolving doors disturbing because they don’t like small spaces or they feel that they are going to get caught in the doors. While this does happen in rare cases, most modern revolving doors are built with safety features like good signs, speed control, and safety sensors to ensure safe usage. Revolving doors can be less safe in emergency situations where it is hard to fit large numbers of people in the doors. This is why most building codes require traditional doors in conjunction with revolving doors.

Are revolving doors practical?

Revolving doors are practical for large buildings like skyscrapers where people are coming and going all the time. They control the flow of people well so that mass numbers of people don’t create a bottleneck at the entrance of the building. They are also practical for energy and draft control in large buildings. Revolving doors are less practical for small buildings and businesses as they are expensive and take up a large opening to install.

Are revolving doors more energy efficient than conventional doors?

Yes, revolving doors are more energy efficient. In a 2006 study conducted by graduate students at MIT, they found that use of a traditional door allowed in 8 times as much air to pass through the building than a revolving door. There was a revolving door in the building, but just 23% of visitors used this door. They concluded that if everyone were to use the revolving door, MIT could save up to $7,500 per year in natural gas.


Revolving doors are a late nineteenth-century invention that has broad modern applications. For large buildings, this door design has the potential to save thousands of dollars in heating the inside of buildings.

They also have multiple security benefits for buildings that are at a heightened security risk. Most revolving doors are limited to commercial use, the design has some interesting applications for residential design.