Keeping An Open Environment Secure
New student center at Columbia College Chicago uses open turnstiles to improve overall security
- By Tracie Thomas
- June 17, 2020
Columbia College Chicago is focused on embracing security
while still maintaining an open environment for students,
staff and visitors. With its manual revolving door and barrier free
optical turnstiles, the university is doing just that.
The new Student Center at Columbia College Chicago,
opened its doors in the fall of 2019. This 114,000 square foot building
others five spectacular stories of spaces for students including music
and film-screening rooms, dining options, a fitness center, a reflection
room for meditation and prayer, and event spaces for meetings,
performances and receptions.
Initiative to Improve
According to Andy Dutil, director of the Columbia College Chicago
Student Center, the school has taken the initiative to improve overall
security, with the intention of keeping an open feel to the campus. To
help meet that objective at the new center, the architects, Gensler,
designed the building with Speedlane Open turnstiles and a front
entry, TQM manual revolving door from Boon Edam.
The university has a closed campus that requires students and staff
to have a Columbia ID to enter any campus building. Visitors must
have a valid appointment. The main entrance at the Student Center is
the TQM revolving door that leads to a public foyer that includes a
coThee shop and lounge. Since the turnstiles are just past the security
desk at the boundary of this area, they serve as a visual and physical
indicator of where the public area terminates.
An Open Philosophy That Uses Open Turnstiles
Many universities in the Americas have started deploying optical turnstiles
to increase the security on campus for recreation centers, student
housing, libraries, cafeterias and more. Typically these turnstiles
include some sort of barrier to control physical entry and rely on staff
behind a nearby desk to monitor or help people to get through. Columbia
College Chicago, however, decided that barriers were not a fit with
their philosophy of creating a more inviting and open environment.
The Speedlane Open turnstiles are notable because they do not
have any closing barriers inside their lanes, but rather detection sensors
that trigger an alarm only when someone goes through the lane
without an ID or, when someone tailgates a valid user.
Columbia College Chicago invested in having professional guards
watch as people pass through the lanes to ensure that everyone is
scanning their IDs and that the IDs are valid, in which case the turnstile
shows a green light. In a situation where a red light shows and
the turnstile alarms, the guard will intercept the person to check their
credentials and help troubleshoot the ID card.
“The decision was really about what creates the least barrier to those
entering and exiting the building,” Dutil said. “We don’t really want our
students to feel like they are overly policed or that our buildings are not
accessible to them. So the design of the Open turnstiles provided the
best solution in terms of controlling access without being obtrusive.”
Before the Student Center was built, students entering any campus
building would just show their ID to the security officer as they
walked past. The administration realized that while this does provide
some level of security, it wasn’t foolproof – particularly when a lot of
people are entering at the same time for a class. The College’s head of
security made the suggestion to install a system that would allow for
swift passage of authorized people while maintaining accountability
around who enters and exits the building.
Turnover Requires Recurring Training for Students
As anticipated, there was a brief learning curve for the students using
the new system. The Center relied on the guards to help train on the
correct way to approach and enter a turnstile. They also know that
with a quarter of the students turning over each year, this will be a
regular procedure in the fall and spring.
“This was the first system like this on our campus,” Dutil said. “And the
first few days that the new Center was open were also the first few days of
school. There were a lot of people new to the campus who required a bit
of coaching from guards and our student staThin terms of where to place
your card, and to not walk through before you place your card.”
Dutil confirms that the access systems placed at Boon Edam turnstiles
were outperforming those placed at swing doors across the
campus for convenience and adoption.
“Across the campus, there is a card reader at every swing door
entrance of a building where you present your card and a light turns
red or green,” he said. “But often times the card reader is missed, or
depending on the placement of the lights and placement of the guard, it can be kind of hit or miss with students walking right by it.”
On the other hand, the Open turnstiles are very visible and something
right in front of people entering the building, Dutil said.
“Because it’s very noticeable and not easily overlooked, the students
have learned pretty quickly to get their ID out and use it to
avoid triggering an alarm,” Dutil said. “In fact, this was meant to be a
test run for the campus to ensure it would be viable and worthwhile
for other buildings as well.”
A Solution for Older, Smaller Spaces
The College’s location in downtown Chicago introduced limitations
that many suburban universities don’t have to contend with – space.
Many of the campus buildings are decades old high rises and adding
new elements such as turnstiles could get tricky. They would need to be
small to fit into small spaces and still handle the necessary throughput.
The Student Center, with its use of the Open turnstiles, is a viability
test of a concept that is being considered in the future for other
“A lot of what we’re trying to do is retrofit old buildings to fit modern
needs. And so it’s not something that would be feasible in every
building, but anywhere where it is feasible, I believe that is being
considered going forward,” Dutil said.
Dutil said the turnstiles have delivered additional benefits beyond
basic campus security.
“One of the nice things about a system like this is that we can count
visitors to the Student Center because we get the data of everybody
that scans in. So on a busy day for us it’s about 2500 people throughout
the day,” he said. “That can range depending on what’s going on
and what time of year it is. On weekends we’re very slow, since there
are no classes – maybe 900 to 1,200.”
Dutil added: “We are a rental venue as well, so we have times where
the building is open to non-Columbia College Chicago people for
events or other functions. There’s a really convenient touch panel
right at the security desk called the BoonTouch, where the officer can
turn off the turnstiles during those times and then attendees can
move through freely without any alarms going off at all.”
Facing Down Harsh Weather To Meet Student Needs
Another unavoidable aspect of living, working and studying in Chicago
is harsh weather. Because of this, most buildings in the Windy
City utilize revolving doors for their ability to hold a constant seal
against the side walls no matter how many people go through them.
This feature prevents air infiltration and the loss of conditioned air, as
well stack pressure in high rise buildings. Building managers also
seek to avoid a wind tunnel effect, which is caused when a swing door
opens and there is an updraft inside the building.
The architects at Gensler selected a 7-foot, 6-inch diameter TQM
revolving door for the Student Center. The manual revolving door gets
heavy use during school hours or for public events, but regardless of the
traffic, there is no wind or drafts entering into the building, making the
coffee area inviting and relaxing even in the dead of winter. And even when
students push it hard, the speed control prevents unsafe rotation speeds.
“Revolving doors are always preferred at a building like this that
gets a lot of traffic going in and out. We have cold, drafty weather that
blows right into our main space at that first floor entry. The revolving
door helps to keep the building warm and saves energy and utility
costs as well,” Dutil said.
The entrance area at the Student Center is set up and even considering
the hiccups of training the new students, Dutil is satis
it meets the needs of the students and they appreciate the effort to
keep them safe.
“Students feel safe and comfortable entering the building at night,” he
said. “Our building has a lot of nooks and crannies, and someone can
end up alone in a space. And so I think knowing that the only people that
are in that building are the ones that are supposed to be there is helpful.
Overall, our students appreciate the effort to try to keep them safer.”
This article originally appeared in the May June 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.