Case Study: Mahana Condos

A Mission to Build the Brand

Project: Mahana at Kaanapali
Location: Maui, Hawaii
Architect: Fred N. Sutter and Associates
The Project: On the western shores of Maui in the Aloha state of Hawaii, the resort known as Mahana at Kaanapali consists of two hospitality towers, 12 stories each. For short-term stays in this very popular destination, it offers spectacular ocean-front views and luxurious one- and two-bedroom suites.
The Solution: Each of the suites features floor-to-ceiling windows with aluminum framing finished in dark bronze.
They also include open-air entrances consisting of a side stile aluminum door with accompanying framing and sidelite.
Special-Lite SL-15 aluminum monumental doors form all entrances to these suites.
All of the doors and sidelites are finished with a matching dark bronze anodized finish to provide a cohesive appearance.
Glazing is made up of a 1-inch assembly consisting of ¼-inch clear tempered solar reflective glass, a ½-inch dark bronze metal spacer, and a ¼-inch Santa Fe figured tempered glass to give it a broken mirror effect and to create a designer privacy motif.
To meet the need for fire separations throughout the facility while still achieving the intended design appearance, Special-Lite SL-23 FRP doors with stainless steel casing serve as 96 fire doors throughout the property.
Since the FRP is available in a variety of colors, it provided the designers with an ample palette for selections.
In utility settings such as those near waste-collection locations, more robust FRP/aluminum hybrid doors were installed.
The Results: The selection of different types of doors using aluminum, stainless steel, and FRP facing provides a durable solution for different parts of this busy hospitality facility while still meeting the sought-after design and appearance.

Case Study: Mission BBQ

Download the Case Study Here!

A Mission to Build the Brand

In the restaurant market, branding is a critical asset. This is especially true for restaurant chains. Here, building construction is heavily connected to the brand identity, even as local variations are permitted.
For MISSION BBQ (, the brand is reflected in their buildings (such as the corrugated metal awnings), in their people (they like to hire vets), and in their practices (such as standing for the national anthem at noon each day). MISSION BBQ, headquartered in Glen Burnie, Maryland, was founded on September 11, 2011. Their message is one of patriotism, service to those who serve or have served, and close relationships with first responders. And, let’s not forget the barbeque!
Each grand opening for a new location includes patriotic fanfare and VIP events. Their branded military vehicle typically makes it these grand openings and has even served as a backdrop for military weddings. They have even christened a military style boat, named Sea Brisket.
As of this writing, MISSION BBQ was in nearly 70 locations in 15 states, all east of the Mississippi. Each ribbon-cutting ceremony also brings out one or both company founders, Bill Krause and Stephen “Newt” Newton.
Another key player in the ribbon cutting ceremony is the distinctive entrance system. No matter how small or how large the location, the entrance system takes on an appearance of wood and the doors always offer the trademark external pulls constructed of black gas pipe mounted at a characteristic angle with elbow ends. If the elbows and tops of the pipe get a little worn through use, well, that simply contributes to the brand image.
Distinctive doors are the silent members of MISSION BBQ grand openings, such as this one in Gambrills, Maryland.
Photo credit: Barney Gomez, Imagetakers

Behind the branding, of course, are serious doors and hardware designed for heavy traffic—another trademark of MISSION BBQ.

For all but a few of the early MISSION BBQ locations, the doors are actually aluminum monumental or stile and rail doors. Here, the Special-Lite SL-15 has been the go-to product. The doors feature full lites of 1” clear Low-E and tempered glass and a powder coated “Wood Expressions” finish.
The doors are paired with Hager Companies hardware including 4500 series rim exit devices with surface vertical rods (often less bottom rods), Roton continuous hinges, 5100 series closers, as well as strikes, and door protection plates.
Mitch Pipgrass, of Mitchell Sales & Associates (, represents both Hager Companies and Special-Lite in Maryland, Virginia, and the nation’s capital. He brought these two product lines together for MISSION BBQ. “This client, like most others I have worked with, wanted a comprehensive solution to their entrance-related challenges,” Mitch says. He continues: “So I offered them both the functionality and the look they needed. A significant component of that functionality is robustness. They want it to look right, for sure. But they need flawless performance out of the entrance system so they can focus on what really matters—serving their customers.”
Alan Hamm Architects (, of Kensington, Maryland, is the firm of record for MISSION BBQ. Kevin Lorei is a senior architect with the firm. “We’ve dealt with a variety of buildings for this client,” he explains. “Some are new construction from the ground up while others repurpose existing structures.”
A typical MISSION BBQ location offers 3,500 to 4,200 square feet of floor space. Within the space, a 100+-capacity dining room is the centerpiece and is always decorated in patriotic flare. Another component is a full-service kitchen area with open service line. A separate food preparation and catering area is common in most locations. Outdoor patio dining is available in all new construction locations and for renovated sites when space permits. Average construction time across all projects is about 12 weeks.
Wherever space permits, an outdoor dining patio is created with its own branding characteristics.
Photo credit: Special-Lite, Inc.

The variation of geography and building type can challenge the architect. “Still,” says Kevin Lorei, “we achieve the intended branding through some common elements. Among these are the chosen doors and custom, gas pipe pulls.”

He continues: “Early on, we had been using wood doors but we had challenges with warping and maintenance issues due to the heavy traffic these doors experience. We then discovered the more resilient doors of Special-Lite in an American Cherry wood grain finish that fulfills our initial design intent. They look great and hold up well to the heavy use.”
Speaking of those unique external pulls, Mr. Lorei explains: “From the corrugated metal awnings, to the door color and pulls, and patio construction materials, we sought honest, hard-working materials that reflect the clientele of MISSION BBQ. It a rustic, hands-on image. And the aesthetics of the openings contribute to that image.”
Special-Lite doors on Hager hardware swing wide during opening day festivities in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Photo credit: Barney Gomez, Imagetakers
According to Linda Dotterer, Brand Ambassador for MISSION BBQ, it was the research done by their founders that led to the entire customer experience as well as the decor of their restaurants.
“Before we opened our first restaurant, our founders traveled extensively to barbeque hotspots across the country,” she says. “They sought out the masters of barbeque. Along the way they also noted elements of decor that led to an unpretentious dining experience. In particular, they noted the fusion of metal, wood, and concrete. You see plenty of these elements in our restaurants today.”
“As a chain, Linda continues, “we can’t replicate every feeling of the mom and pop barbeque. But we use these elements to strive for an authentic barbeque experience. You see it in our on-site smoker from Ole Hickory Pits. You see it our metal food trays with food served on butcher block paper. And beyond the gas pipe door pulls, you see that same look in our railings and in our paper towel dispensers!”
Many building products can contribute to the desired brand image of restaurants. Logoed signage may be the most noticeable. However, the entrance system offers numerous ways for the restaurant owner to create the desired customer experience. After all, it can provide choices in material, color, finishes, lites, and hardware to help establish and reinforce the brand.
MISSION BBQ is on a mission to build their brand. For them, the chosen doors are leading the charge.

Image Gallery

SecureLite Product Overview and Installation

In today’s security-minded world, we often find ourselves torn between the need to protect ourselves and the need to feel totally comfortable in our surroundings. These two needs often meet at the entrance or entry door.
Here, there are obvious security measures and door styles which can act as defensive barricades. But we also want to enjoy nature and sunshine with plenty of light. This is where SecureLite comes into play. When paired with security glazing, SecureLite offers a layer of protection while still allowing for spectacular views.
SecureLite has become the go-to product for security glazing and intrusion resistant applications. It offers a ½” or 1” glass bite. This means that it will never permit the glass from being pushed out of the frame or lite kit. It can accommodate glass thicknesses of ¼” to 1”, providing you with choice. And, SecureLite uses a through-bolt design with no visible fasteners, making it ideal for standard lites as well as intrusion resistant lites.
SecureLite is available in standard or optional anodized colors, as well as one of 20 Kynar painted colors. You will always find the finish that compliments the remained of your entrance system or design needs.
We have prepared a short video explaining these and related product features AND providing a field demonstration of an intrusion attempt. You just have to see SecureLite in action. Watch the 2-minute YouTube video here: SecureLite In Action
Installation of SecureLite is straightforward and to make the job even simpler we have created easy-to-follow instructions. You can download the instructions right from our website using this link.
So, when you want the element of protection while still enjoying the light and views of outdoors, choose SecureLite.

New Product Announcement: LiteSpace

Announcing LiteSpace Interior Aluminum Framing

Over the past year we have test marketed a line of interior aluminum framing for glass walls and office fronts. We refer to this line as “LiteSpace.” It complements and provides an alternative to our Omega line.
LiteSpace is characterized by minimal profiles for high glass content. While Omega installs into rough openings, LiteSpace installs into finished openings. Its aluminum profiles are symmetric and subtle, celebrating the glass they serve and the light that passes through. Further information on this product is available on the LiteSpace product page.
We are now releasing LiteSpace outside of our initial target market. We refer to this introduction as a soft rollout because our intent is to serve a limited radius around our manufacturing headquarters so we can properly support the product during its adoption.
Ideal distributors for this product would be currently in this line of business and promoting a competitive product line. They will have on-staff project managers and sales representatives. They will have their own glass and glazing installer on staff or have a contracted relationship with such. All requests for LiteSpace distribution must be approved by Roger Stempky, Special-Lite VP of Sales & Marketing.

Announcing Special-Lite’s New President and COO

Special-Lite, Inc. announces a once-in-a-generation change of company leadership. Effective September 4, 2018, Kurk M. Wilks assumes the title and role of company President and Chief Operating Officer. Former President and COO, Kevin J. Hanley, moves to a consulting role at this time and will retire at the end of 2018 though he will remain on the Board of Directors.
Mr. Wilks comes to Special-Lite with an extensive B2B background, primarily in the automotive arena. Most recently he served as Vice President and Managing Director OE Americas for the MANN-HUMMEL Group. Here, he led the company to tremendous growth across North and South America in the Original Equipment business unit.
To Special-Lite, Kurk brings familiar values including a focus on people and a focus on growth. He has a passion for quality and a commitment to safety. He is charged with building on the foundation of Special-Lite acquisitions, expanded product offerings, and significant market penetration.
According to Henry Upjohn II, Special-Lite Chairman and CEO, “In his most recent position at MANN-HUMMEL, Kurk directly oversaw the work of over 1,000 associates and was responsible for approximately $500 million of revenue. His passion for growth, along with his values, comparable to our own, made Kurk an easy choice among the candidates we considered. I am confident that adding his talents to our own will enable Special-Lite to achieve significant new heights.”
Mr. Wilks resides in Portage, Michigan, is married and has two children.

CEU Course: “Performance and Durability in Retail and Hospitality Design”

New Educational Resource Available: “Performance and Durability in Retail and Hospitality Design” CEU Course

Special-Lite sponsored this new course, made available through Architectural Record magazine. The course appears in article form in the August 2018 issue and is also available through the online Architectural Record Continuing Education Center. Those seeking credential credits may do so by reviewing the written or online version and then taking the online quiz. You can view the course here.
We also offer two approved AIA/CES courses (1 learning unit credit each) to help professionals maintain their credentials. These are available in lunch-n-learn or other live venues. FRP 101 offers a description of flush doors for commercial and institutional entrances. FRP 401 gets into the science behind FRP doors. Further information is available via

Building the Special in Special-Lite

With a name like “Special-Lite,” we have a certain reputation to uphold.  So, we took stock of what’s special about Special-Lite and came up with a long list of items.  Not surprising, many product-related features appeared on the list as did many process-related components.  
Still, we knew there was a critical element missing—the wonderful people of Special-Lite.  
With a new marketing team in place, we could take a fresh look at our advertising and messages to the world.  And, while a focus on products is needed, we could no longer ignore the people of Special-Lite.
Thus, a new campaign was hatched.  We would talk to people in various departments of the company to discover how they “build the special in Special-Lite.”  In other words, how do their individual contributions help to create world-class products and services. Then, we would talk to people outside of the company to discover how they “see the special in Special-Lite.”  
The results have been revelatory.  For instance, one of our fire door specialists imagines that each door he builds is protecting his daughter in school.  And the campaign appears to be connecting with the various building markets we serve.
You can explore some of the print and digital ads as well as a few related videos below.  And we’re just getting started. So, stay tuned.


SecureLite Now Available with Muntins

SecureLite has become the go-to product for security glazing and intrusion-resistant applications. This lite kit offers a secure ½” or 1” glass bite, is flexible in terms of glass thicknesses (¼” to 1”), and is appealing visually with no visible fasteners despite its strong through-bolt assembly.
New for SecureLite is the presence of integrated muntins as an option. Now, you can have the security the product offers along with a look that can complement other project openings or that gives the designer some appearance options. These surface-mounted muntins are constructed of extruded aluminum and are applied to both sides of the frame. Once the finishing caps are installed on the frames, the muntins offer a flush and cohesive appearance.
Like the remainder of the SecureLite frame, the muntins may be factory anodized in one of 6 colors, painted in one of 20 Kynar colors, or custom finished to your specifications.
More information is available on the SecureLite product page of the website.

How to Refinish Wood Grain Fiberglass Doors

Why Refinish a Wood Grain FRP Door?

Every door, even the resilient doors of Special-Lite, need some periodic care to ensure both functional and appearance standards are met. You know that repainting a hollow metal door and refinishing a wood door require different processes. Most of the Special-Lite FRP doors are similar to the metal door in that, if the finish is looking too worn, a simple repainting will spruce it up.
But wood grain FRP doors, such as our SL-18 and SL-19 models, are yet another matter and their refinishing is similar to that of a wood door. (Although, if you wish, you can simply paint these as well.)

When is Refinishing Needed?

When is refinishing needed? It can vary greatly based on climate and UV exposure. But we generally recommend refinishing every 7 to 10 years for these wood grain FRP doors.
No need to guess about the process or the materials you’ll need, however. We have created easy-to-understand instructions for the process. And, we have put together a short video for the same purpose.
In short order, you’ll be a wood grain refinishing pro.

Download PDF instructions:


Testing Matters Part 2: Safety and Security

We’ve examined a few of the product-related criteria that you have in mind for your facilities. In particular, we have looked at the role of properly tested products that can lead to your desired outcomes. We are using doors as examples of products that can be rigorously tested.
While some of your desired outcomes, such as energy efficiency, are quite meaningful, no outcome seems as relevant today as safety and security. In part 2 of this series we will explore the testing of doors as such testing relates to safety and security of occupants.
Let’s approach your desire for safe and secure facilities through the eyes of two potential threats.


Doors play a role in both protecting from and mitigating the effects of fire. All doors can serve as some barrier to the effects of fire and smoke. However, particular types of doors, known as fire doors (also fire-rated doors and fire protection doors), are required by local and regional building codes in particular applications.
These building codes will typically reference NFPA 80. This is the standard for fire doors and windows as developed by the National Fire Protection Association ( This organization, founded in 1896, is devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. They do so through consensus codes and standards including NFPA 80.
What are the relevant factors for testing of fire doors? Important characteristics are revealed in the common tests applied to such doors. Relevant test specifications include:
  • NFPA 252, Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Door Assemblies
  • ASTM E84, Standard Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials
  • UL10C, Standard for Positive Pressure Fire Tests of Door Assemblies
Just after the UL10C test, the fire side of the door pair is exposed. Despite the duration (3 hours) and the temperature (1000°F), the door stopped the spread of fire to the other side because it remained sealed in the opening.
ASTM E84 determines how the door material itself will respond to fire. Specifically, this test measures smoke development and flame spread. Doors are then rated as Class A, B, or C, depending on the amount of smoke developed and the extent of the flame spread.
NFPA 252 and UL 10C are noteworthy because they determine the capability of a door assembly to remain sealed in the opening for a given duration of time, preventing the spread of fire.
Time is always the relevant factor for fire-rated doors. Common time ratings include 20, 30, 45, 60, and 90 minutes. There is a correspondence here to the code-related requirements for egress-related walls. Such egress pathways may carry, for example, a 2-hour fire rating. Meanwhile, the associated fire door may be rated for only 90 minutes. Why?
Fire doors must remain clear of obstruction, whether they are in regular use or used only in emergencies. Meanwhile, corresponding walls may be surrounded by combustibles (furniture, files, fixtures, and more). Thus, they must endure longer fire containment times than the door.
Labeling of fire-rated doors will always state the time for which the door is rated. Such labeling may be issued by UL. However, another fire-rated label is made available by a company called Intertek which issues the popular Warnock Hersey mark (
Such labels are typically on the hinge stile or edge of the door. In addition to such discrete labeling, fire doors are always identified as such in signage and will typically include instructions such as “Keep Closed.”
Fire door hardware is also tested and identified as such by small labels.
Once installed, fire doors should be inspected annually for continued compliance to code. While such inspection has been a mandated by standards such as NFPA 80, it has been weakly enforced to date. Newer regulations are tightening these requirements, especially in some vertical markets such as healthcare facilities and by some state agencies.
Inspections should be carried out by credentialed professionals. DHI, an industry association for door and hardware professionals, provides training and a credential known as FDAI (Fire + Egress Door Assembly Inspector) for this purpose.


As the common points of both ingress and egress for buildings, doors also represent the common attack point for an intrusion. Educational institutions today are on the front lines of the war against those who would inflict harm. Hostile acts against students, faculty, and staff include, but are not limited to, active shooter scenarios. Intrusion can also include theft-motivated break-ins and more conventional threats such as physical violence and harassment.
The important criteria for doors is the capability to resist intrusion. Sometimes this comes down to the stark reality of time, in minutes, that the door can hold off the intruder before first responders arrive.
Let’s discuss aspects of the door that contribute to its resistance level.

Glass and Glazing

Traditionally, this aspect of the door has been most vulnerable to intrusion. Today, various types of glazing material create greater resistance to breakage. For example, special laminated glass and polycarbonates have the visual properties of standard, tempered glass but can deter intrusion attempts better. While more costly, these non-standard glazings can withstand considerable attack.
Some test standards apply only to glass or glass-like glazing. Other tests for the door can also be applied to the glass. Two test standards illustrate the extreme security testing for glazing and for entire doors. These are ballistic tests known as UL 752 and NIJ 018.01. (NIJ is the National Institute of Justice.) Doors and glazing are given a corresponding Level rating based on their resistance to compromise from gunshots. Related tests use projectiles such as bricks. Manufacturers often perform their own tests with such instruments as pry bars, sledgehammers, and baseball bats.
During UL 752 or NIJ 018.01 testing, doors and glazing are subjected to several gunshots of varying caliber.
Other projectiles are often used to test glazing.

Lite Kits

A lite kit refers to the framing, glazing material, and hardware required to put glass in a door. The design of the lite kit also contributes to resistance to intrusion. Standard glazing in doors provides for a frame with ¼” “bite” or grip of the glass. Special intrusion-resistant lite kits provide for ½” bite or larger. The bite is important because the glazing material can flex. In the event that the intruder can’t break the glazing sufficiently, he may simply try to push it in, separating the glazing from the frame.
Special-Lite in-house intrusion testing.

Door & Hardware

The UL 752 and NIJ 018.01 tests mentioned above for glazing have equal applicability to the door assembly. Here, the doors performing the best under test, are constructed with ballistic rated cores, making them bullet resistant to certain levels. Such doors are heavier and more costly than conventional doors but provide a high level of intrusion resistance, even from blasts.
Another test standard important for institutional doors is ASTM F476 for security of swinging doors. All components of the door, including hardware, are typically tested. This test is conducted as a series of impacts from a weighted pendulum to various parts of the door and hardware. The heavy pendulum has variable levels of force settings. ASTM F476 specifies a corresponding Grade for the door assembly with Grade 40 representing the highest grade.

“Lock Don’t Block”

The best of intrusion resistance in doors is of little value if the door is not locked when under threat. Here, we may be tempted to provide even further lock-down measures to the door. But some awareness is in order.
Fire marshals and FDAI consultants will be quick to point out the building codes that require free egress when necessary, such as when a fire breaks out. In light of recent school tragedies, some states are considering amending the codes to permit door barricade devices.
The 2018 International Building Code contains sensitive wording for educational institutions including that they can “be provided with locking arrangements designed to keep intruders from entering the room. . .” Even so, the code requires that the door be capable of being unlocked from the outside with a key or other approved means and that modifications not be made to existing hardware.
Despite that, numerous door barricade devices have emerged in recent months.
DHI, the industry association mentioned earlier, has a foundation known as the Door Security + Safety Foundation. Further, the foundation has launched an initiative known as “lock don’t block” (, primarily targeting K-12 schools. Some of their observations can equally apply to the university campus.
The key mantra of the initiative is to “secure your classroom without compromising life safety.” They note that people could be locked in when they need to get out. In fact, recent tragedies have shown us that, in the majority of cases, the threatening intruder is already inside—inside the building and, perhaps, inside a given room. The intruders who carried out school shootings at Virginia Tech, the West Nickel Mines School, and Platte Canyon High School each fashioned a door barricade from existing material in the space.
Barricade devices also require knowledge. Where is the device stored? How is it installed? How is it released? Such knowledge is likely the domain of a chosen few. If the intruder has this knowledge, unauthorized engagement could occur.
Also, consider that threats such as bullying, harassment, or physical violence are much more common than active shooter scenarios. Someone posing these threats would have even greater power to do so if they are barricaded within a given space.
And, because they serve as barricades, these devices can actually prevent or delay access from emergency and first responders.
Finally, note that doors, door hardware, and door glazing undergo extensive product testing, by manufacturers and by third party testing agencies. Yet, no test standards have been developed to address door barricade devices.


We don’t need to limit our discussion to doors to realize the importance of testing building products. Your service providers or on-campus facility professionals should consider it their responsibility to understand the testing requirements of the building products you choose. Doing so will help to ensure that you achieve your desired outcomes, from energy efficiency to the safety and security of your campus.