Securing the Building
Common security concerns require unified approach
- By Dana Pruiett
- Jun 01, 2019
Multi-tenant buildings come in a variety of shapes and
sizes, from a few to dozens of stories tall. Tenants may
include residents, professional service providers, commercial
businesses, government agencies or retail shops.
Some buildings have a mix of tenant types.
No matter their differences, multi-tenant buildings share many
common security needs requiring a unified approach of layered systems.
One of the first requirements is determining who can enter
the building and how. Owners, managers and tenants may disagree.
Some want a more open-entry policy while others prefer the added
security that comes from 24/7 locked doors.
Either way, there will be times—perhaps nights and holidays—when
doors must be locked. During these times employees and/or residents
may still need entry. An access control system using card readers,
keypads or fobs can handle the job.
Access systems are more secure and convenient than mechanical
locks. Keys can be easily lost, stolen or copied. The services of
a locksmith to rekey locks every time a key is missing can become prohibitive. Removing and replacing a lost or
stolen access card, code or fob is faster and
The main tenant entry may be located
off an underground garage or parking tower.
That makes it logical to install readers or
keypads at doors or elevators leading into the
building. The same access system can be used
at entries to interior tenant suites.
Then there are visitors to accommodate.
Many buildings choose to limit them to one
specific entry that’s kept locked. An outside
building directory with keypad allows visitors
to contact an individual tenant. The installation
of a video intercom station at the
entry and another in each suite enables tenants
to determine who is allowed in after seeing
and communicating with the visitor.
Keeping the directory up-to-date becomes
critical in larger buildings where tenants
move in and out on a regular basis. Look
for an intercom that gives management or a
security integrator the ability to quickly and
remotely update directories using the building
Intercoms should only be answered from
inside the tenant’s space, ensuring all visitors
are properly screened onsite. A closed, wired
system eliminates the chances of being hacked
and the expense of monthly telephone service
to contact offices from the entry.
Entry vestibules inside the main public
entry are becoming more popular. These can
help control the problem of tailgating—people
rushing into the building along with an
approved visitor. A second video intercom
inside the locked vestibule gives tenants another
chance to see everyone who’s entering.
Some building owners prefer a lobby desk
staffed by a security officer or receptionist
who greets visitors before contacting tenants
via an audio intercom for approval to enter.
Video intercoms are also ideal for building
entries reserved for deliveries and service
personnel. Again, tenants determine
who can enter the building. Some intercoms’
built-in cameras can record images for later
identification of visitors.
Surveillance cameras are an important security
layer for multi-tenant facilities. Combined
with the cameras embedded in the video intercoms,
they provide additional evidence of
entrance activity. Cameras also are valuable
for monitoring and recording events in lobbies,
elevator banks and parking garages.
Intrusion detection systems are another
valuable security layer. Systems can be partitioned
to allow each tenant to arm/disarm
systems in their own suites. Sensors should
be placed on all common exterior doors and
any reasonably accessible windows.
High-quality door locks are vital. Today’s
best practices call for electric strike locks
with a “fail-safe, fail-secure” standard, meaning
they remain locked on the outside during
a power failure but still allow tenants to exit.
Building owners/managers and tenants
benefit from unified systems. For example,
an intrusion system alarm can signal the
nearest surveillance camera to begin recording.
Key pads, readers and video intercoms
integrate with locks to open doors.
This type of integration is possible by using
systems from manufacturers supporting
open standards. Open standards let products
be selected on price and performance. There’s
no reason to be limited to devices from a single
product line. Open standards also protect
a security investment by allowing failed or
outdated components to be replaced without
having to rip out an entire system.
Once security protocols are set, it’s important
for building owners and managers to
put them into writing. Tenants need to know
that when they let someone into the building,
they are responsible for that person’s actions.
Also, each building needs to maintain
a list of approved security products to avoid
problems when tenants attempt to add potentially
incompatible devices to their suites.
In addition, emergencies, such as an active
shooter or a fire, can quickly become disastrous
in a highly populated multi-tenant
building. Designate a contact person from
each tenant space to assist during an emergency.
Have an emergency plan that is reviewed
and updated annually, then conduct
drills to ensure all tenants understand what is
expected of them in different situations.
A multi-tenant building with various unrelated
businesses or residents sharing one
facility will continue to create security challenges
for property managers, integrators
and tenants. However, the proper layers of
equipment and strong entry procedures can
create security equal to that of a single-tenant
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Security Today.