Keeping the Stars Aligned
Consider these best practices to stay on track
- By Bruce Czerwinski
- Nov 01, 2017
Multi-tenant buildings present security challenges not
found in single-user facilities. Tenants may come
and go at different times. The numbers and types of
visitors needing access will vary. Then there are differences
between commercial and residential multitenant
An experienced commercial integrator said one of his biggest
challenges dealing with a multi-tenant security project is balancing
the needs and desires of tenants that often don’t align.
“Professional service tenants who receive many clients and visitors
daily prefer a more open, welcoming and accessible environment,”
said Dario Santana, president of San Diego-based Layer 3
Security Services. “Tenants who rarely receive visitors tend to be
comfortable with more restrictive security in place.”
This forces building management to make tradeoffs. While no approach
will completely satisfy every tenant, Santana said the right
mix of systems and policies will provide a high level of security to
please the majority.
Determining who—and how—tenants and visitors get into the building
is another major challenge. Santana said the solution lies with
the best security practices he uses in virtually any commercial facility.
He recommends keeping main entries locked whenever possible and
then using a combination of an access control system and a video
intercom to let people in.
Tenants use key fobs or individual codes at access readers or keypads
mounted outside the main entry to easily access the building.
Visitors locate a tenant name on the display or posted directory and
enter the corresponding number into the intercom keypad to call a
station in the tenant’s suite. The system lets the tenant see visitors and
have a two-way conversation with them. Once the tenant identifies
them and feels confident to permit them in the building, the tenant
can buzz in the visitor by pushing a button.
Santana said buildings that need to be open during business hours
can use these systems when doors are locked at night, during weekends
and on holidays.
Matthew Arnold, president of Hicksville, New York-based
Academy Mailbox, said he’s used the same access control/video
intercom arrangement in the many security projects his company
has completed for Metropolitan New York multi-family residential
“The gateway product is the video intercom,” he said. “It lets
tenants make informed decisions about who they let into the building
and act as a deterrent to criminals. The unit’s built-in cameras also
can record images which may be useful for later identifying people
who came to the door.”
Arnold said many buildings now create entry vestibules inside the
main public entry. This can help control the problem of tailgating. A
second video intercom inside the locked vestibule gives tenants another
chance to see who’s entering. It’s a minor inconvenience, but
greatly improves security.
Arnold is also an advocate of access control systems with key fobs
as a quick and convenient way to get tenants into the building. And
if fobs are lost, they can be quickly disabled by the integrator or an
on-site manager and a new fob created at minimal cost.
“Electronic locks and fobs are much more secure than any key
and provide greater convenience for little added expense,” he said.
Be Wise on Choices
Ideally, doors should be made of solid-core wood. There’s no need
for expensive anti-ballistic metal portals. But from a security point of
view, neither integrator favored glass doors. Safety film and screens
make glass more difficult to break, but wood doors are most secure.
High-quality locks are also important. Arnold said he usually
chooses electric strike locks with a “fail-safe, fail-secure” standard,
meaning they remain locked on the outside during a power failure.
Surveillance cameras are another important security layer in all
multi-tenant facilities. Combined with the cameras in the video intercoms,
they provide additional evidence of who’s entered the building.
Santana also likes intrusion detection systems as another layer
shared by all commercial building tenants. He installs the burglar
alarm system with separate partitions.
“The building’s common areas could be partition A, suite 1 would
be partition B, suite 2 would be C and so on,” he said. “Everyone in
the building would have the authority to arm/disarm common areas
and their own suites.”
Santana said tenants and building managers gain from the integration
of the various security layers. For example, an intrusion system
alarm should signal the nearest surveillance camera to begin recording.
Both key fobs and video intercoms integrate with door locks
to allow entry for tenants and visitors. Manufacturers using open
standards for their products make this possible. Open standards let
integrators select equipment based on price, performance and quality
by not limiting end users to proprietary product lines. This helps
protect the total investment by allowing components to be replaced
without ripping out an entire system.
Both Santana and Arnold said tenant training is important for
the smooth operation of building security. The systems are easy to
use and just take a few minutes of training.
Make Fewer Errors
Errors are most likely to occur when a tenant allows an unknown
person to enter the facility. One common routine among burglars is
to push multiple apartment extensions on the video intercom keypad,
noting who fails to respond, but wired intercom solutions can
provide additional security. Calls from entries to tenant stations can
only be answered from within the residence, ensuring all visitors have
been properly screened.
Santana said a property manager’s message should be clear; if you
let someone into the building, that person becomes your responsibility.
Also, each building needs to maintain a list of approved security
products to avoid problems as tenants may want to add their own
potentially incompatible security devices to protect individual suites.
Before beginning any new or retrofit job, Arnold completes a risk
assessment of the current security equipment. While creating a project
plan, he asks himself how he would want to be protected if he
lived in the building.
As the industry continues to create new and refine older solutions,
the choices for securing a multi-tenant building
will increase. What may have seemed impossible
only a year or two ago, is now possible thanks to
the power of network-based systems, integration
and open standards.
This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Security Today.