The multiple benefits of access control

Access control systems not only offer great security solutions individually, but when integrated with other systems can also be extremely cost effective. Generally, access control systems are well regarded in organisations of varying types, and are considered essential for businesses to effectively protect their people and assets. These systems tend to be comprised of three key parts: the physical barrier, such as doors and turnstiles, the identification device, such as swipe cards and readers or PIN pads, and the door controller and subsequent software. Access control systems themselves can be energy efficient, such as making use of low voltage turnstiles.

“Access control systems provide reliable and cost effective solutions to the problem of security whilst still offering flexibility of entry and exit to authorised personnel and visitors,” explains Mike Sussman, chairman of the BSIA’s Access Control section, adding that “the technology also works well when integrated with other systems such as physical security equipment and CCTV, to provide that extra layer of protection.”

Integrating with BEMS
While integrating access control systems with other types of security systems can help ensure extensive protection, integrating them with Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) can help ensure energy efficiency and ultimately lower utility bills. Access control systems provide a wealth of information about a building, such as building or area occupancy data which highlights the parts of a building that are being used and when, and can also draw attention to areas that are not being utilised to their full potential. This can then lead key decision makers to determine which utilities need to be maximised, and which need to be minimised, such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) or lighting requirements. However, when integrated with a BEMS, these kinds of decisions can be made automatically with the intelligent combination of both systems.

BEMS were originally focused on monitoring a buildings internal environment, but today it is becoming more common for them to be integrated with the fire and security systems already in place – and this includes access control. A BEMS can control up to 80 per cent of a building’s energy usage, so integrating this with an access control system can optimise the system in order to suit the variability of usage and occupation, thus creating a more stream lined energy usage.

Working together

The data that access control systems gather informs the BEMS about the nature and function of those occupying a particular heating zone. By being aware of the roles that people are performing within this zone therefore allows the BEMS to make adjustments and lower the amount of fuel that is being consumed. The information gathered is then applied by the BEMS to heat-loss algorithms that help make the decision as to the minimum amount of heat required within a certain area. Ultimately, this can reduce the amount of energy consumed and eliminate the problem of unnecessary waste.

As previously mentioned, in many buildings where access is needed 24 hours a day, not all of the areas will be occupied, and heating the entire facility is a waste of both energy and money. The integrated system intelligently makes use of past data and assesses which areas of the building have been accessed, at what times they have been accessed and whether this is a routine or not. It then uses this information in order to activate the heating system in time for the occupation of visitors and can subsequently reduce or completely turn off the heating during times of inactivity.

To put this in perspective, consider a building made up of offices and several meeting rooms, with each of the rooms being monitored by access control systems. If a meeting room is only used once a week at a particular time, the BEMS will be able to heat the room accordingly in time with this specification. The BEMS will also be aware that the offices are in use from perhaps 8am-6pm Monday to Friday and make the correct energy allowances for these rooms as well. Therefore, the meeting room is not being heated for all the hours that it is not in use, avoiding unnecessary waste and higher energy bills.

Integration helps
The aim for many establishments can be the need to create an open, stimulating and comfortable environment for occupants, while still maintaining effective security measures in order to protect people and assets from the threats of theft, vandalism or even physical attacks. Creating this balance can, however, be a challenge. BSIA members, Kaba Ltd, were approached by Redbridge College in order to tackle this specific challenge. Their issue was the sliding doors in place at the establishment, which would give way to a rush of cold into the reception area and other areas of the building each time the doors were opened. Imaginably in a school, and many other establishments, the comings and goings of visitors can be extremely frequent and maintaining a comfortable temperature can prove difficult. For the college, this was also becoming costly and impractical.

Kaba installed a fully automatic revolving door with bilateral automatic pass doors. These automatic pass doors were installed either side of the revolving doors in order to provide seamless access for people with reduced mobility and for the transportation of goods through the reception area. This solution proved to be energy efficient due to the thermal separation design incorporated into the façade of a building. This created thermal insulation for the college without rocketing energy bills, whilst also allowing efficient access to the building and emergency escape routes via the automatic pass doors. 

As mentioned earlier, access control systems in themselves can be extremely sustainable due to the advances in technology. In terms of lighting, access control systems are able to offer energy savings whilst still maintaining reliability and performance. This is achieved by switch mode power supplies, which utilise low energy light sources rather than a more traditional linear power supply. These kinds of supplies offer sizeable savings in terms of energy consumption by incorporating a switching regulator in order to be as efficient as possible in the conversion of electrical power.

BSIA member, TDSi, tested both kinds of supplies in order to determine which one was more efficient. Their calculations showed that the switch mode power supplies could save users an average of £50 per controller per year in energy costs, a welcome saving in times of economic uncertainty. To create an even more efficient solution, the integration of all the different system components is necessary.

A BSIA member worked with the UK Government Communications Headquarters during its relocation to new premises. The new site had been under development for a number of years under the government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and would involve a large-scale integrated electronic security project on a site greater than that of the former Wembley stadium. The security solution was a fully featured, cost effective access control and security management system, providing the required network capabilities for an installation of this size. The system was a scaleable enterprise system, capable of coping with unlimited cardholders and configurations. The system included a variety of components including: instantaneous CCTV coverage; door alarms and ‘event to action’ alarms which utilise on-screen mapping; centrally controlled software providing a user-friendly interface and the implementation of lost, stolen or unauthorised cards made immediately identifiable. By integrating a number of security functions in this way, public sector organisations are able to streamline their operations and save money by reducing the number of suppliers that they deal with.

Choosing your systems
It can be quite difficult to decide what kinds of security solutions best fit the needs of a building and its occupants. Security consultants can help with this issue, particularly when trying to source a solution that integrates multiple systems and functionalities. Security consultants offer expert impartial advice and can help avoid rogue suppliers, which consequently can help save time and money. Working independently, security consultancies act as a guide to the many products and services on the market and provide unbiased recommendations based on an assessment of the individual requirements of their clients. Acting as an extension to your workforce, security consultants bring expertise and experience to assist businesses within the public sector. Their support is provided only when their services are needed, meaning that there’s no need for a long-term financial commitment. Conversely, while it may appear cheaper initially, sourcing security without independent advice can cost significantly more in the long-term, a factor worth considering when planning any future investment.

Generally, many organisations experience variable occupation within their buildings and can operate across larger more diverse areas. The intelligent integration of access control systems with other kinds of systems can help drive down energy costs and streamline operations to be as safe and securely managed as possible.

Further information
BSIA members offer a variety of quality access control products and are inspected to the highest standards. To find out more about access control please click here

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