Safe, Secure and Sanitary
Allmar is Canada’s largest team of architectural door, hardware, and construction specialty experts, operating in 12 cities from B.C. to Ontario.
Since 1957, Allmar has served the commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential markets of the architectural openings industry with high quality products and services. With on-staff experts to ensure contractors and architects meet fire and life safety codes and security requirements for their construction projects, Allmar offers the latest in architectural hardware, keyless access and egress control solutions, automatic operators, hollow metal doors and frames, sliding doors, wood doors, security solutions, washroom accessories, toilet partitions, lockers, overhead doors, and many more products.
While the world as we know it has changed, Allmar has continued to succeed by not only shifting with the times, but by working to make the world a better place. From its early days, it has evolved from a feed and grocery store selling lumber and hardware in the 1930s to its roots as a wholesaler of building materials and hardware in the 1950s, to its prominence today in the construction industry, where Allmar has continued its tradition of focusing on the customer and evolving with customer needs.
Based in Manitoba, Allmar is a privately owned, third-generation company with approximately 80 percent of its business in commercial grade doors, frames and hardware, and a specialization in hollow metal doors and frames, security solutions, automatic door openers, lock down technology for schools and buildings, security cameras for doors, miscellaneous building specialties and washroom accessories.
The company started with humble beginnings like most companies do, says National Sales Manager Mark Sorrenti, but has evolved with the times by continuing to offer solutions meeting the needs of the touchless society we now find ourselves living in due to the onset of COVID-19.
“In about 75 percent of typical applications people have to actually touch something or activate something which is called a ‘knowing act.’ What we’re doing is eliminating what they’re touching through technology that allows us to just wave a hand in front of it, activating the door to open.”
Keeping public spaces sanitary and germ-free is becoming standard protocol during the ongoing pandemic, which is where Allmar’s touch-free products are essential.
A large part of Allmar’s business is its miscellaneous building specialties which includes products such as wall protection, toilet partitions for public washrooms, lockers, hand dryers, faucets and soap dispensers. Some of the manufacturers of these products have touch-free products and products with HEPA filters to remove bacteria and viruses. Wave technology allows you to wave your hand under a dryer, faucet or soap dispenser to activate operation. Recently, wave switches for door operators have gotten extra attention. Automatic door operators have been in use for years, providing solutions to enter or exit a building and meet barrier-free codes, but now, the ability to add switches so you can wave your hand to have the door open has added merit.
Many of these products are especially valuable to people in this COVID-19 environment,” says Marketing Specialist Elise Mayberry, adding that different types of finishes such as antimicrobial or copper are essential in the battle to reduce lingering germs that can be passed from person to person through touch. “Some of these product lines had traction over the years in different environments,” she says, “but the application has really grown for people to see more value across the board.”
Antimicrobial products have been available for about 15 years, specifically in places such as labs, food processing plants and hospitals, and the up-charge to add it to commercial and public places is marginal, says Sorrenti.
“It’s not expensive at all, and it’s so necessary. We want to minimize the spread of germs and viruses,” he says. “We don’t need to touch things in public restrooms. The equipment is available so you don’t have to touch the doors, the sinks, or the toilets. It’s just a matter of educating people.”
Allmar suggests that any architectural hardware that can be physically touched receive an antimicrobial coating.
“It’s just a finish process, no different than making something polished brass or another colour,” says Sorrenti. “If germs or viruses actually make contact with it, the life expectancy is drastically reduced, so an anti-microbial coating not only has sanitary benefits, it helps preserve the life of your hardware.”
Necessity is the mother of invention, he adds. “We have a couple of different manufacturers who make door pulls. To open a door, you grab the pull and open it. But now there are new innovations that are hands-free. There are now pulls mounted at the bottom of the door to open with your feet, and ones higher off the door you can open with your forearm so you’re not touching it with your hands.”
Those products can also be coated in that antimicrobial coating and finish so there’s a reduced chance of getting sick, a vital concern not only during COVID, but also during flu season, and for the immunocompromised in general.
Allmar works to supply the total package of products to the building industry, as well as offering many services including consulting, specification writing, project management, fire door inspection, supply, installation and service maintenance, explains Mayberry. Consulting on access control and security solutions has become especially important these days. Contractors, architects, building owners, and institutions are especially interested in the ability to manage and track who’s moving in and out of building, and how many people are in a space.
Access Control was once about cards and card readers, adds Sorrenti, but it be as can be something as simple as a key, or digital keypad.
“Through Access Control and touch-free solutions, we’re able to put a mobile credential on somebody’s smartphone. They present their phone to the reader, it says their name, the time, and that they’re allowed to enter a space,” he explains. “Not only has it allowed entrance into the building, it now tells the system I’m in the building. In COVID situations where they maximize the amount of people within a space and are only allowed 25 people in the space, if the 26th person shows up, they won’t get access even if they have permission to do so, because the maximum capacity has been reached.”
Somebody would then have to physically leave the building, presenting their phone to a reader before the next person could enter. Allmar can also take that technology to the degree where a person presents their credentials by walking through an “optical turnstile” that monitors body temperature as well, to further guarantee health and safety.
How much personal information does this technology require?
“The only information required is a person’s name and possibly a photo,” says Sorrenti. “It’s not linked to a system and it’s not tied into credit cards.”
In a business environment, he says, these mobile credentials or access cards have basically just replaced the time clock.” This technology is only one aspect of what Allmar can provide – the team’s ability to design customized security systems and integrate many different Smart tools and technologies distinguishes them from their competition, along with their ability to provide solutions from design through to maintenance. “We provide consulting and design, supplying the product, installing the product, maintenance, as well as 24/7 service,” explains Sorrenti.
“We can integrate many different systems into one. We can add card access or Access Control to doors. We can put cameras in buildings. We can offer telephone entry so people from upstairs can let people in from downstairs.”
This also allows access for parcel deliveries, while eliminating the need for face-to-face exposure. “The whole idea is to make it not only easier for people, but create a cleaner environment, too,” says Sorrenti.
Looking beyond the pandemic, Allmar sees the long-range value of these solutions, with particular benefits for mixed-use and multifamily projects as well as many retrofit opportunities for its end user customer base. School boards, hospitals, and building owners will continue to benefit from touch-free specialty products and security solutions and see value in investing in ways to keep people safe and keep their building code compliant. To this end, Allmar also specializes in building code knowledge and education.
“We know the building codes inside out and backwards,” says Sorrenti. “We know what can and can’t go on a door to maintain the building code. If a client says, ‘I’d like to do this,’ we can tell them right away if they’re violating the building code and setting themselves up for liability. It’s a big part of what we do and it’s so very important.”
Allmar is a long-time corporate member of the Door and Hardware Institute (DHI) with Sorrenti its Co-Director of Education in Canada. Its mandate is education, with a credentialing program recognized by the architectural community. The school runs four week-long programs a year, two in the U.S. and two in Canada, plus local chapters at education events. Allmar sends as many employees as possible to every program.
“Allmar has long been a promoter and participant with DHI, enabling staff to not only continually train with the codes, but receive in-depth technical product training, both with the Door and Hardware Institute as well as with our vendor partners, alongside internal company training. While virtual and regional work causes us to change, we have really embraced the opportunity to stay connected to our staff and our vendors now more than ever,” explains Mayberry, who adds that maintaining the company-staff relationships has never been more important than during this challenging time of social distancing and uncertainty. But Allmar has risen to the occasion admirably. While virtual work has grounded much company-wide travel for people like Sorrenti who is Ottawa-based, like others in the company, he has risen to the occasion, getting the most out of virtual meetings with staff across the country on Microsoft Teams and hosting weekly Friday sales training with vendor partners, bringing together hundreds of Allmar participants over dozens of sessions.
During the initial onset of COVID-19, Sorrenti says, Allmar was cautious like many other companies, but ultimately, the company actually hired people during the pandemic.
“It’s a very loyal company,” he says. “I’m blown away by how loyal the company is to its employees and vice versa. Because we believe in the people, the people believe in the company. If somebody wants education we send them for education. It’s a family first company because it’s a family-run business.” Often as companies start to grow, the family feeling is lost, but not at Allmar, he adds.
Allmar is also proud of its loyal customer base, even as it competes with companies who sell similar product.
“Through our well-trained staff, strong long-term customer relationships, and ability to respond to new opportunities, we continue to distinguish ourselves,” says Mayberry.
A lot of people underestimate how complicated the door frame and hardware business is, says Sorrenti, as construction is always changing along with building codes. Allmar has been working with the architectural committee for many years writing specifications and scheduling work, educating them on building codes and related issues. Although Allmar continues to change and grow, it never alters its dedication to helping others and strengthening opportunities to meet unique customer needs.
“The minute the pandemic hit, our vendors jumped on their design boards and started making things to help,” says Sorrenti. “I’m proud of the industry. I’m proud of our company.”
That pride extends to the company’s longevity, and its commitment to change, and listening to new ideas. Being flexible and adjusting to changing times has been Allmar’s trademark as it looks to the future with excitement, even as it balances staying connected and the human element of working with many in the construction community.
This human component is front and center when it comes to large projects and the many stakeholders involved. This is another arena where Allmar shines and demonstrates its love of construction projects, working with architects and contractors to fulfill codes and meet the building owner’s needs, working on interesting and beautiful projects like Arbutus Village, Cardero, Red Deer College, King Blue or Mitchell Hall. Whether a project is large or small, the team at Allmar has a long track record of success with a steady focus on their customers’ regular and evolving needs.