Smart access control systems are becoming increasingly common in many types of domestic and commercial properties, from apartment complexes and multi-family units to office buildings and industrial parks. Savvy architects, homebuilders, and construction professionals know that building in sophisticated and flexible access control systems as part of the construction planning phase saves time and money — and translates into a better integrated, trouble-free system.
We’ve looked at the key stages of building construction where smart access control systems can help developers and owners increase security and lower risk.
Stage 1 – Initial Construction
During the initial construction phase of a building project, access to the building itself is relatively uncontrolled. Entry points are usually open, with doors and windows not being fitted until later in the process. That means that the key perimeter of control for the developer is the site boundary. Construction sites are fenced off to prevent unauthorized entry and theft — however, with numerous different companies and contractors requiring access to the site at different times, it can be a challenge to manage access without spending budget on 24-hour manned security.
Implementing a smart access control system at this early stage of the project allows site managers much more granular control over who can enter the site, at what times, and in which zones they are authorized to be. Contractor or worker access passes can be supplied via smartphone app or smart keycard, allowing them to be activated and deactivated at relevant times of the day or at different phases of the project. All movement can be logged and reviewed from a central online portal dashboard to spot any anomalies.
Stage 2 – Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing
Once the building exterior is complete, the next phase is the installation of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems including the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, electrical, and plumbing systems. At this point, the exterior doors to the building are generally in place, so access control moves from the perimeter of the site to the building itself — however, many of the same challenges remain in terms of the number of different personnel requiring access.
In addition, this phase of construction involves large amounts of valuable — yet easily transportable — materials being left on site unsupervised. The large-scale theft of items such as copper wire, lumber, drywall, insulation, tools, generators, and other equipment is a real risk for site managers.
Smart access control systems can reduce this risk significantly by ensuring that the site manager is able to assign zonal access on a case-by-case basis to named contractors only, reducing the risk of thieves entering anonymously. And by using either an app-based or encrypted smart keycard system, there’s no danger that access methods can be copied or cloned — and then shared with criminal third parties.
Stage 3 – Finishing and Furnishing
The next phase of development is the fit-out of individual units — apartments in multi-family units or offices in commercial premises. At this point, access control can move to the level of the individual unit, as by now, exterior and interior doors should be in place and functioning. Traditionally though, site managers would have to make a choice between leaving all interior doors unlocked so finishing contractors such as cabinet, appliance, and flooring installers, painters, decorators, or furniture staging personnel could access the areas they need or facing the task of managing hundreds of separate keys/keycards and figuring out which contractor needs which on a given day.
With a smart access control system in place, the site manager’s job is made much easier. Using a central, web-based dashboard, they can set up zones of several apartments or offices each; for example, Zone A is all first-floor apartments, Zone B is the second floor, etc. They can then assign contractor passes to groups according to their role – Group 1 for painters, Group 2 for plasterers, and so on.
It’s simple to bulk assign and revoke access permissions as needed – for example, in week 1, plasterers can access Zone A; in week 2, they lose access to zone A and gain access to Zone B. Meanwhile, the painters’ group gains access to Zone A to continue the work. This reduces the number of people with access to any given area — only granting access to those individuals who are scheduled to work there.
Stage 4 – Viewing and Letting/Selling
With the apartments or offices complete, the next group of professionals to require access are the real estate agents who will be selling or letting the properties and the prospective tenants or buyers who wish to view them. Traditionally it’s been necessary for an agent to accompany visitors around a property for each viewing — which is a considerable investment in time, especially as there are always a few cancellations or no-shows.
With a smart access control system in place, the process of letting or selling units is far more straightforward — as agents can organize unsupervised visits by supplying visitors with a time-limited access pass via a smartphone app. This offers much greater flexibility in terms of the available slots to visit the property, as they are not limited by the agents’ own schedule, and allows prospective tenants to access multiple units in one visit if required.
Smart access control systems provide site managers with excellent security throughout the construction process, mitigating specific risks at each stage and making access more constrained but also more convenient for contractors and visitors alike.
Implementing a smart access control system early in the project also allows the system to grow and develop with the building — so that once the units are ready for sale or rent, the system is already in place for the new tenants to use when they move in. With today’s generation of buyers and renters viewing smart access as a “must-have” item, this is also an important consideration for developers.