The state of current affairs includes better access control

Focus on Campus

The state of current affairs includes better access control

As part of a continuing effort to improve security for its students, Adams State University is upgrading its access control system with new electronic locks that are easy to reconfigure as requirements change.Located in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, 220 miles south of Denver, Adams State was founded in 1923 as a state teachers’ college and has since grown into a liberal arts institution that encompasses 54 buildings on its 90 acre campus. Offering bachelor’s degrees in 16 majors with 28 minors and emphasizing 8 master’s degree programs, enrollment includes approximately 2,500 students on campus and more than 10,000 in extended studies.

A bill signed into law in May 2012 granted it full university status.

As part of a continuing effort to improve security for its students, Adams State University is upgrading its access control system with new electronic locks that are easy to reconfigure as requirements change. The majority of the current upgrades are focused on campus residence buildings, but the program also includes some academic facilities, such as those with laboratories that offer 24-hour access.

A Growing University

For the past several years, most of the residence buildings have been secured with computer-managed Schlage CL Campus Locks, which are offline locks with user access rights stored in the user’s magnetic strip credentials. Because they are battery powered, they require no wiring and are easy to install in existing buildings. Audit trails and other data from the offline locks are downloaded to a handheld device and then uploaded into the system.

Campus growth, however, led a search for an access control system that could manage an expanding volume of data and adapt more readily to future needs. At the same time, new technology became available that offered the ability to change lock configurations easily and upgrade quickly to accommodate evolving trends in credentials.

To meet their requirements, Adams State University selected Schlage AD-250 locks, which perform the same function as the CL locks. While both have the user access rights stored on the user’s card, the modular design of the AD-Series locks makes it easy to change configurations or upgrade credentials, networking options or software without replacing the locks, since they are designed to be changed by simply replacing a module.

Upgrades in Process

Mostly AD-Series locks are being installed in new buildings and retrofitted as existing residence halls are renovated.

“We were renovating two wings at Coronado Hall a few years ago,” said Locksmith Don Connell. “We didn’t find out about the AD locks until we had completed the first wing, but we put them into the second wing renovation.”

Other upgrades have followed. Connell believes the flexibility of handling future requirements makes the investment in the new locks worthwhile. “Technology moves quickly,” Connell said. “The minute you buy a laptop and walk out the door, it starts to be obsolete, so we’ll get our money’s worth if we can keep up as technology changes.”

He also pointed out that the cost of replacing entire locks goes beyond the cost of the hardware itself and includes factors such as labor. By simply changing a module, costs are reduced.

Installation of the new locks continues to be work in progress. Exterior doors on all residence halls already have been equipped, along with interior doors on several of the 12 residence facilities. Connell said that eventually all electronically-controlled openings will be upgraded.

An added benefit of the new locks, Connell mentioned, is that they are easier to repair.

“We had someone shove a movie ticket into a reader,” he noted. “Before, I would have had to take the whole lock off. With the AD lock, all I did was remove a couple of screws and replace the reader, test it and it was good to go.”

Although most of the new locks are being installed in existing and new residence buildings, they also are being incorporated into other areas. Two buildings that were converted include first-floor areas with a computer laboratory that is available around the clock; however, access to the rest of the building had to be restricted at certain times.

“We have Von Duprin AD993 exit trim on the exterior doors and stairwell doors,” Connell said. “They are dogged down to allow access during the day but accessible only with an authorized student card at other times. This allows students to gain access to the building for the lab but not the second or third floors.”

Recently, AD-Series locks were also added to McDaniel Hall, while a card reader on the hall’s elevator provides similar control of allowing limited access.

Mechanical keys are used primarily for overrides on electronic locks where needed, but Connell restricts their usage to maintain security. Connell is the only one with the master key, and the housing office for each building has an override key for that building.

According to Connell, the university is considering upgrading the existing, standalone, offline locks to a wireless system within the next few years. This will avoid the need to hardwire existing buildings while providing online control and feedback.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.

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