Balancing campus security with an open environment that fosters flow and movement presents a unique set of challenges that needn’t be complex says John Hardman, Product Marketing Manager at integrated access solutions specialist dormakaba. Here, John looks at solutions that can be implemented across campus sites and student residential facilities to provide ease of access, while maintaining appropriate levels of security.
A university is a modern city in microcosm. It has residential areas; places of work; sports, entertainment, and leisure facilities; administrative offices; libraries and theatres; parks and public spaces; utilities; roads and pedestrian areas. Some individuals are residents 24/7, others travel to and from the estate and some visit for events or to meet friends or colleagues.
It’s hard to imagine a more complex challenge for those responsible for maintaining security while also enabling appropriate levels of access to the disparate groups of people present on campus. And this is further compounded by the significant differences that exist between a university environment and the world outside its confines.
Firstly, a great deal of on-campus traffic takes place indoors as staff and students move between lectures and tutorials. So large numbers of people need free access to and within multiple buildings, but usually only to specific areas or rooms within these buildings.
For example, there will be commercially sensitive laboratory facilities within science blocks, or stores of hazardous materials used by engineering students, where access must be restricted to authorised personnel only. Even if risk levels are relatively low, a music department for instance, every step must be taken to minimise the possibility of opportunist theft of easy-to-sell instruments.
Secondly, unlike a city, a campus is essentially vacant over the summer months, and some buildings may need to be made completely secure. But not all, as some students will need access to prepare for resits, while some universities use the break to open up libraries and other facilities to members of the public, or to run short residential courses. This is also the ideal time for contractors to carry out routine maintenance and repairs.
Thirdly, and most importantly, students are – usually – young people living away from home for the first time and, for first year undergraduates, are likely to be living in the university’s halls of residence or similar multi-housing accommodation. While no statutory duty of care currently exists in the UK, there is certainly a general duty of care at common law, meaning the university must act reasonably to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of these young people.
This means that the security of university accommodation must be taken extremely seriously. Every student arriving in halls of residence these days comes equipped with many hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds’ worth of phones, tablets, notebooks and other high value electronics, all of which hold obvious appeal to thieves. Personal safety is another critical issue. The challenge, as with other areas, is balancing security with the round the clock access need of large groups of people.
For decades, the accepted solution to all these issues has been the lock and key approach but this offers little flexibility and no opportunity for personalised access permissions. By taking a digital approach to security, it’s possible to tailor access permissions to the needs of different groups with ease.
In its simplest form, electronic access control combines swipe cards or fobs with door hardware and locking systems to deliver access rights to different buildings and areas within these buildings. In halls of residence with multi-occupancy units, a student’s electronic access card might allow them entry via all common entrance areas, but limit access to certain floors or corridors and – obviously – just one bedroom. Elsewhere on campus, this approach could be used to restrict entry to laboratories and other secure areas.
While a system based on access cards and electronic locks can be employed as a standalone solution, taking a more integrated, holistic approach to security and access across the entire campus estate opens up opportunities to dynamically control access – and monitor it too.
The challenge of implementing such a solution might sound daunting but the reality is that by working with a single solutions provider like dormakaba, everything is designed to work together and can be integrated into the existing IT infrastructure to provide a complete access control system, which provides control over who has access to the premises and grounds.
The use of an online platform delivers a simple, centralised, and easy to use interface through which, permissions can be set or amended according to need. Access rights can be granted on a short-term basis for maintenance staff, or summer classes; for different times of the day or days of the week; or with the need for additional levels of security (e.g. CCTV intercom).
Permissions can be withdrawn too. If a student has lost their card, it can be deactivated in an instant to prevent misuse and a replacement card issued. Access rights can be switched off at the end of term and reinstated when students return after the break. Individual access rights can be temporarily overridden so, for instance, an entire zone could be locked down in the event of a security incident (or, conversely, opened to one and all for a public event such as a play or concert).
It is also possible to integrate smartphones into the system. As well as being more convenient for many users, not to mention less likely to be left behind in a lecture hall than fobs or cards, mobile phones have the major advantage of having personal value: Few students would willingly hand over their phone to someone else, virtually eliminating the risk of access media being lent to other people.
Smartphones also provide the opportunity to implement additional security measures in high security areas, such as PIN numbers, passcode, or biometric verification (i.e. fingerprint or facial recognition).
In effect, a holistic access control system can be used to create a customised, zoned security system covering the entire campus, one that can be integrated with intruder alarms, CCTV and fire safety systems. Moreover, this type of system can be tailored to meet the needs of the widely disparate groups of people constantly needing to move around the campus: students, academic staff, support teams, maintenance contractors, delivery drivers, external lecturers and even visiting relatives.
Such a system opens up the possibility of live monitoring of high-risk areas – stores of radioactive materials perhaps – and allows security personnel to maintain accurate and up to the minute audit trails of who has accessed which areas, and when. The entire system is always visible and can also be used to provide call-out reports of who is on site or in a particular room or building in the event of an emergency.
Finally, these solutions are inherently future-proof: new features and capabilities can be rolled out immediately, rather than having to wait for the locally installed software to be updated – keeping the system working at optimum efficiency, without comprising security.
One solution provider that suits all
Choosing a single solution provider for different building entry and security requirements provides the reassurance of successful integration of all system components, from mechanical and electrical hardware such as entrance systems, turnstiles, and automatic doors, locking systems, door closers and card readers to the software systems that tie everything together.
At dormakaba, our integrated access and security solutions are designed to work together for maximum system efficiency and are fully compliant with all relevant building and fire safety regulations. What’s more, this end-to-end approach also offers streamlined maintenance for the establishment – with only one service plan and maintenance manufacturer to deal with in the future.
On any project of this nature, the first course of action should be to undertake a security audit. An experienced specialist will undertake a thorough risk assessment of the entire campus and work with the appropriate people to identify the different levels of security required in different areas. Entrance systems and door security hardware requirements will vary across a site, so it is important that the correct decisions be taken early in the project.
Our specification experts can support a project at all stages, from design to delivery, with expert knowledge of building standards and risk assessments, tailored advice for difficult project requirements and bespoke locking solutions to suit specific needs.
To find out more about dormakaba’s service offering and its full range of access control systems visit: www.dormakaba.co.uk.