Managing Campus Doors

Managing Campus Doors

With tens or hundreds of thousands of doors across campus, the ability to manage them efficiently and effectively is critical

Looking ahead to 2022, there are many things we are happy to say goodbye to. However, as with everything in life, there is always so much to learn from every experience – good or bad. Colleges and universities, in particular, have had many challenges to contend with over the past two years. With the majority of students having returned to campus this fall, schools have resumed focus on their goals and objectives as it relates to optimizing the student experience and creating positive learning outcomes.

Now that students have eagerly returned to campus, colleges and universities are actively working to modernize their facilities with a focus on both renovations and new construction. This is an important factor in supporting rebounding enrollment numbers and providing learning opportunities to support critical societal needs, such as the tremendous demand for nursing and other medical professionals.

The Survey Says
A Tradeline survey of 115 colleges and universities, and the architectural and engineering firms that serve them shows they are focused on renovation, modernization, and major new construction of everything from life sciences facilities to theaters. Their plans for the 2021-2022 school year reflect:

  • 58% (fifty-eight percent) have one or two major projects in the planning or pre-planning stages
  • 36% (thirty-six percent) have several major new projects in the planning or pre-planning stages
  • Only 6% (six percent) report that there is little to no project planning on campus

With these new construction and renovation projects, the top priorities for security decision makers on campus fall into two main categories – the proliferation of electronic access control to more doors on campus and the standardization of platforms. Advances in electronic access control over the past several years have led to a shift in thinking where hardwired solutions that (due to their cost and complexity) were typically reserved for perimeter and other very high-security openings are no longer the only option.

Wi-Fi and real-time wireless solutions have now been available for some time and proven technologies that allow access control to be installed on more doors throughout campus – enabling audit, scheduling and even contact tracing capabilities.

In addition, security decision makers focus on platform standardization – moving from multiple systems into one, in order to manage things more effectively and efficiently not only at the main campus but at branch campuses as well. Other essential systems on campus, such as HVAC, are managed through a single platform that makes it easy to control across the multiple buildings and facilities throughout campus.

As new buildings are brought online, doors and the related system components, however, are often not managed through a single system, either because various departments selected a different platform for the doors that they manage, or because different platforms were selected.

When you consider the sheer volume of doors (potentially tens or hundreds of thousands of doors across one or more campuses), you can imagine the added complexity that comes with multiple access management platforms and work order management systems.

Together, these two priorities indicate that campuses are beginning to look at the many doors on campus very differently. We now recognize the importance of a door opening in many areas:

  • Creating a safe and secure learning environment
  • Enabling seamless movement throughout a campus
  • Improving efficiencies in day-to-day operations
  • Contributing to the health and wellness of students, faculty, and staff
  • Optimizing the sustainability and environmental impact of a campus

Capturing the Value of the Door
By recognizing the value and the many benefits that properly designed door openings can offer, college and university decision makers are now looking at door openings as assets. As such, it is important to monitor and manage them in a more precise way, throughout the entire lifecycle of a building. From design and construction to ongoing management, this includes:

  • Documenting existing doors and hardware for facility management and maintenance
  • Using smart tagging to provide easy access to data about each door
  • Creating virtual design guides to ensure consistent standards in all new construction and renovation projects

This approach benefits the campus from both a financial perspective and a security perspective. In one real-world example, a major university had identified 25 different types of access control openings they wanted throughout nearly 500 campus buildings. The shared specifications with the architectural and design/construction teams, as well as the distributors for the project. However, substitutions were made during the bidding/supply process, and the installed door openings did not meet their expectations.

As a result, the school had to use additional funds from their expense budget to bring the doors up to spec. If they had a better process for documenting exactly what they wanted at each door, the additional time and expense of correcting the doors could have been avoided. The use of project punch lists to manage what is specified, bid and supplied, can be a useful tool to ensure quality control throughout a project. Getting as-supplied documentation before handing a project over to facilities management is also crucial for efficiency and cost control.

Another important financial consideration is when something is treated as an asset on a balance sheet, capital funding can be used to maintain it. You can then keep up with technology upgrades proactively, rather than relying on deferred maintenance funding only when it becomes available. In this example, the fixes were incurred as an operational expense. This type of unplanned expense could have a devastating impact on a budget. Proper cost allocation and documentation can and should be leveraged to ensure quality control, reduce costs and manage budgets.

From a security standpoint, it is equally as important to be able to catalog and communicate exactly what is on each door and how it should operate. This ensures that you have the right level of security throughout campus and have visibility into every detail of your doors.

Smart tagging at each door allows you to pull up detailed information about the product on each opening, including part numbers, warranties, and the ability to order replacement parts, all right at the door. This drastically simplifies maintenance, ensuring that doors are operating properly at all times.
There are also many other factors to consider.

For example, the ability to access this level of detail is also necessary for the key system, a common vulnerability in facility security. When you issue a new key, it is paramount that you know exactly what level of access you are providing to that user. Thankfully, there are solutions available that make it easy to manage every aspect of a key system. Fire door inspections are another critical step in ensuring the safety of your facilities. They are required annually for compliance with building codes such as the NFPA 80 Standard for Fire Doors and NFPA 101 Life Safety Code requirements, and are vital when it comes to managing your fire, smoke and egress doors.

Resource Management
The management of door openings throughout the building lifecycle also helps address another issue many campuses are facing – labor shortages. With many institutional locksmiths retiring, other roles tasked with this function but may not have the complete knowledge they need. Detailed standards/design guides and smart tagging can help alleviate some of these issues. It can also help streamline maintenance for systems integrators.

However, creating comprehensive documentation and standards guides can also be a strain on resources. The ability to capture information from thousands of doors in a timely manner is not always possible or the most efficient option, depending on the resources available at a particular school. Manufacturers like ASSA ABLOY offer professional services with trained field resources who are door hardware experts and can complete this task easily, setting you up for future success.

A Potential Missed Opportunity
Despite the huge role they play in the safety and security of a building, doors are often overlooked. This is very similar to the path that we saw with sustainability. Facilities looked to every other aspect of building construction – from lighting and HVAC systems to insulation and windows – before realizing the significant impact doors, door hardware and electronic access control can have on energy efficiency and sustainability. The sheer volume of doors on a college campus makes them a tremendous opportunity for building efficiency and quality control into your new construction and renovation processes.

When deciding what the next priority is for your campus, we encourage you to take a hard look at your door openings. With the many demands asked from a safety and security standpoint, doors should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. You may want to focus your initial efforts on ADA openings, fire doors, access control openings, and other highly used openings, but ultimately, you will want complete visibility into all of your openings.

While it may be easy to see how a door is an asset in many ways, by shifting your view of them from an expense to an asset, you will realize a multitude of benefits that will help improve the efficiency and security of your campus.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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