Why the Doorknob is an Endangered Species

It’s been a year of notoriety for Canada’s cities. The world continues to be obsessed with the antics of Toronto’s Rob Ford: what he put in his pipe, whose posterior he grabbed, whether he dines in or out. And the rotating cast of characters in Montreal’s mayoral chair, one after another being dragged down by corruption charges, makes American Hustle look like community theatre.

In Vancouver, meanwhile, the focus of everyone from Fox News to London’s Daily Mail was doorknobs: not our elected officials, but those antiquated devices we use to get from one room to the next. As of this month, the knob is banned from all future construction projects, the result of building code changes passed by Vancouver city council last September.

The driver is accessibility. According to the City, over 15 percent of Vancouver residents have some sort of disability or mobility restriction, and lever-operated door handles can easily be used with one hand. A traditional doorknob cannot-or often requires more “tight grasping or wrist twisting.”
While the change affects only new construction, Vancouver is the only city in Canada with its own building code, and shifts here are often seen as a harbinger of standards to come in the industry. The death knell for the doorknob (already vanishing from City Hall) is nigh.