Gaining Access Into Commercial Buildings

Midsize commercial buildings are being built every day, many of which only have basic fire systems. However, end users seeking greater security for their building, assets and people are turning to card-based access control systems. As a result, end users are approving budgets that allow security systems to be installed. In some cases, end users are spending more money than anticipated.

Because the companies being confronted with this scenario may be new to the commercial building sector, the situation is creating some great opportunities for dealers to educate and form longtime relationships with these new customers. Upselling and upgrading systems are just two opportunities that security system installers can realize.

Let’s explore a hypothetical business opportunity. Say you are awarded a bid for a card access system in a midsize commercial building (three floors maximum), with the potential of including ID badging. How do you begin and where do you start the installation?

Observe Everything in and Around the Building

Aside from an end user’s budget, the building and client’s assessment means everything in determining the type of card access that suits the end user and the building.

When first visiting the site, many dealers assess the client’s concerns before looking at the building’s exterior, such as the parking lot, landscaping and other immediate surroundings. Doing this is still important even if the end user first dealt with a security consulting company.

Various common sense questions need to be asked. The goal is to find out what the working culture is like and how the client intends to use the system. In most cases, end users don’t want the system to interfere with what employees are normally used to doing throughout the day. Many companies are also concerned with internal theft of laptops or other valuable supplies and equipment.

Traffic into the building is also part of the corporate culture. The building’s main entrance is probably the most important location to assess since the system should not ruin the building’s aesthetics. Also important is analyzing how to work with a security guard—if there is one—and other tenants.

Determining the number of exterior and interior doors to be worked on is the next thing dealers should ask about. The number of doors also determines the type of access technology that can or should be installed.

Determine Doors and Areas to Protect, Technology to Deploy

When dealing with card access systems, the variations and possibilities are endless. If anything, the system should at least protect the building’s main entrance, a company’s main reception area and its main computer room. Other options can be any other door on the first floor that is used by employees of both companies, the elevator (if there is one and if it drops people off inside a company’s business), and any corridor area that leads to high-security rooms or offices.

With the door hardware needed for the installation, many dealers subcontract this work out to locksmiths. They have all the specialty tools to do the doors, know-how to snake the channel and knowledge of the codes.

Currently, in most cases, dealers use proximity technology for these installations. Dealers say other types of card technology, like magnetic stripe or Wiegand cards, are still being used, but not as much as proximity.

Whether the installation will consist of four readers and 100 cards or 10 readers and 150 cards, the type and quantity of equipment to be used will be determined during the designing phase.

Designing Phase Requires a Team Effort

The designing process requires a team effort and the development of a rapport between the dealer and the end user. This is a critical stage because you want to provide the best system within the customer’s budget as well as allow for the system’s potential growth.

When analyzing the building during this phase, the project manager and engineer pay attention to the lock hardware (should you use a regular lock, electric strike or magnetic lock on doors), the wiring routes and the overall structure of the building. The salesperson concentrates on how many pieces of equipment will be required, and makes sure the project stays within the customer’s budget.

Start the Installation at the Heart of the System

This type of project usually requires two installers. One installer runs the cable and other devices at the door level, while the other mounts the control panel equipment.

The location of the equipment should be the first consideration for the installers heading up the project. Next to consider is where to run the wire infrastructure. Once this is done, the installers can mount all the devices and the control unit. The installers can then connect the devices to the wires but should not wire the control unit at this point, says Uffindell.

The placement of the card readers is important; putting them too close to metal may cause reader interference. There’s also the ADA compliance issue.

As far as the wiring is concerned, most dealers will run the wires as if the installation were for a fire alarm system. Card access manufacturers may suggest a particular wire for their readers, but their suggestion is not a requirement during the installation.

In the age of the PC, dealers say a software-based system is the way to go. Any changes regarding employees or their personal information can easily be changed in the system by whomever will operate the system.

Determine Your Allies in Subcontract Work

As with the issue of contracting the door hardware work out to a locksmith, if it is deemed necessary to put card access in an elevator, the elevator company in charge should handle the wiring inside and outside the shaft. They may already have the proper wiring; if not, the installers should provide it to them.

If working on a project during the building’s construction, installers can also seek out the building’s electrician, but that is ultimately a judgment call on the dealer’s behalf.

Quality Work Leads to Long-Term Projects

Whether the end user spends $20,000 or $40,000 on a card access system, dealers should always convey the message that the system can be upgraded or enhanced with CCTV, perimeter security or even an intercom system. Most dealers discuss this with the end user during the assessment period at the very beginning.

In starting out with projects this size, dealers should choose a manufacturer that will provide a high quality product along with reliable technical support. Dealers should also partner with other dealers who have the knowledge, experience and training in this market.

ID Badging, Access Easily Go Hand in Hand

In midsize commercial buildings, end users usually cite a greater vulnerability from internal theft or crime than external problems.  A card access system can help the end user monitor or control these challenges.  Adding ID badging can make the system a bottom-line cost saver for the end user, something a dealer’s salesperson can pitch to the client during the assessment process.

As with card access systems, there are many variations of ID badging systems available, as far as technology and price.

First, determine with the end user exactly how the ID badging system will be used.  Will all visitors have their photo taken or receive a reusable visitor’s badge? What are the risks that the end user’s type of business might have? From there, suggest what is available based on the client’s budget.

Even as a standalone card access system, no matter which product line dealers may use, an ID badging option is available. As discussed earlier, the badging system can interface with the company’s human resources database, which can also determine the access levels of each employee.

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