Vancouver Banned Doorknobs. Good.

Levers are the way of the future.

Doorknob

Jim Simonson

In Vancouver, the humble doorknob is being phased out. Kind of. Effective in March, new housing will be required to install levers on doors and faucets, instead of the good-ol' round knobs of our forefathers.

Cue: libertarian cries of government overreach and nanny-state-ism and evil G-men in suits entering homes and stealing all of our doorknobs despite our constitutional right to them. Fine. But anyone against the idea might feel differently when they're pushing 80.

The idea behind Vancouver's decision is that, despite being of a more vintage grade than levers, doorknobs kind of suck. Ergonomics studies investigating different types of water-dispersing mechanisms have shown that lever-style faucets are far preferable to their knob counterparts. (Yes, there are studies for everything.) Knobs, you see, involve pronating and supinating your wrist, (stretching it, basically) which is less fun for everyone, but probably won't make you run out and immediately switch to levers. Maybe you like your nice art deco knobs.

Unless, that is, you're elderly. You get older, maybe you get arthritis, and this doorknob-to-lever issue stops being academic. Other studies have shown that the type of handle a door has is important to the elderly, and that lever-style knobs function better. One of the most in-depth studies I could dig up, a look at homes for the elderly in Malaysia, went so far as to study the actual measurements of people in homes for the elderly, and apply that to ergonomic door design. A snippet of the team's findings:

The minimum door height should comply with the stature anthropometry of the 95th percentile male (72.60 cm). The door width should be the elbow span of the 95th percentile male (97.4 cm). A lever-type doorknob should be positioned at the elbow height of the 5th percentile female (81.60 cm).

And with Americans (and Canadians!) living longer, this will only become a bigger issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 67 million adult Americans will have arthritis by 2030. For them to have a more productive life, they'll need doors that are easier to open. You can't throw a fit about the law unless you're also against mandatory wheelchair ramps for businesses.

Plus, the Vancouver law isn't retroactive anyway. If your building has doorknobs, they get grandfathered in.

But for new buildings? Good riddance. We have been pronating and supinating like fools for too long.