fitout

Fit for a fitout – wireless access control in office spaces

Sep 18, 2019
  • Article by Jason Smith

When fitting or retrofitting access control solutions in workspaces and offices, architects need to consider their end users’ time restraints, need for flexibility and ease of use and, of course, purse strings.

In May of this year, the website Allwork.space published an article entitled ‘Co-Working is the New Normal, and these Stats Prove It’. It proceeded to back up this assertion with such facts as:

  • There are currently over 35,000 flexible workspaces in the world.
  • The global market value of these spaces is estimated at US$26 billion.
  • In 2018 the number of co-working spaces rose 36 percent everywhere but the US, where they rose 16 percent.
  • Co-working in the APAC region has twice the share of office stock compared to Europe and North America.
  • The number of co-working spaces in Australia grew 297 percent between 2013 and 2017.

Of course this doesn’t mean that everyone is sharing their spaces of business with strangers, but even for those that aren’t it’s still true that something like 85 percent of newly formed businesses have 20 employees or fewer.

Both of these things – the rise of co-working and the prevalence of small agile businesses – have a huge influence on office design and fitouts. And there is no more important aspect of the fitout than the access control and door furniture. If you’re sharing a space with multiple other entities, how do you ensure that those people who need access to premises are able to do so easily, while also being able to ensure that anyone who doesn’t have authorised access is unable to enter the premises? For optimal security, audit control is a must – so that businesses and organisations are able to monitor such things as exactly who is gaining access at any time, the purpose for their attendance and the length of time they remain on-site. Indeed, in many small working spaces audit control is mandatory from a legal aspect – particularly in shared spaces like doctors’ surgeries or lawyers’ offices.

Couple with this with the overwhelming percentage of companies with small staff sizes and other factors come into play – not the least of which is cost, but there’s also design, the ability to organise access quickly, ease of use and scalability.

For architects and interior designers responsible for office fitouts and retrofits, there are a number of considerations to take into account when specifying access control solutions. And the first thing to ensure is that you always use products that are AS1428 compliant.

Ease and speed of use

For small businesses, which are unlikely to have IT support in the traditional sense, a primary driver is simplicity. Old panel or access control methodology where all the cables are run back to a central location means you also need someone with the expertise to maintain and look after the on-premises server.

With battery-powered devices, it’s possible to replace the standard door furniture by replacing it with new products (or installing it in a new build) that have the audit control features available through a variety of solutions. It could be software installed on-site, or via an app that the business owner can use to control access permissions. There are also off-site or cloud-based permissions, meaning there’s the flexibility to be extremely scalable. As a business grows or changes, the most appropriate software for the task can be used or adapted.

The simplicity of such products goes right down to the very hardware. Keys are simply removed and replaced with a digital alternative. With the cylinder, for example, it’s a two-second task to remove an original mechanical cylinder and replace it with the version that can then be operated by the aforementioned app, cloud-based or on-premises software.

With such flexible and easily installed solutions, people can move between offices or workspaces at any time and have their access control updated and facilitated. Access rights can be given and taken away easily without the need for significant IT infrastructure.

When the actual access control reader is built into the door handle itself, there’s only one component to fit or retrofit, which also streamlines both installation and operation. A battery-operated device means that even the maintenance is simple and straightforward. With the best products featuring audible and visual cues, it’s easy to know when the battery needs replacing and the actual task is again a two-second job that a child could perform. And if the software is cloud-based, information will be sent to a phone or browser simply announcing that ‘it’s time to replace the batteries’.

Cost-effective

For start-ups, small businesses and many others, one of the biggest drivers in any company is the element of cost. Consider this: for traditional door furniture you’re looking at a cost of around $3000 to retrofit an access control door, once you take into account running the cables, the power, the strike, the reader itself and, of course, all the labour required. For a new build the outlay could be from $1500 to $2000.

Compare that with a wireless access control solution that will set you back in the region of $500 to $600 for a product that will provide exactly the same type of security and audit control in terms of card encryption, but for a fraction of the cost.

Also, it’s important that architects and other stakeholders consider just who the end user will be. There are solutions in the security industry currently that are incredibly highly complicated in order to meet with particular government requirements. But you may be specifying for a florist or a local bakery. Talk about taking a sledgehammer to crush a walnut. This should be where scalable solutions make the specifying easy. They’re so easy to start small and modestly and adapt as the client grows.

Looking good

Of course no one would ever suggest that architects or designers are shallow folk, swayed by sleek good looks, but it has to be said that wireless access control products are also ahead of the pack in the aesthetics department. And in the end, you’re designers. It’s your job to make sure your clients find their surroundings attractive and appealing. If you can specify solutions for them that are cost-effective, incredibly easy to use and look wonderful too… well, then why wouldn’t you?

dormakaba is an Architectural Review adviser

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