wake forest university

The Complexity of Managing Access to Spaces on Campus: How Wake Forest University Took Control and Freed Up 15 Staff Hours a Day

A Full Schedule of Academics & Activities
school access control
It’s no secret Wake Forest University has grown substantially in prestige, enrollment, and footprint since its founding in 1834. Nearly 9,000 students now attend the private university known for its high-ranking schools of law, business, medicine, divinity, and the arts and sciences as well as the Demon Deacons’ athletic prowess.

The campus is constantly abuzz with activity. Along with its intensive academic courses, a wide range of extracurricular meetings and conferences fill the schedule. Until recently, booking rooms for them was a bit overwhelming, to say the least. This became acutely apparent when university President Nathan Hatch set a goal in 2016 to maximize the use of WFU’s 18 academic buildings and three million square feet of space to accommodate all the activities.

David Cowan, Wake Forest University Access System Administrator, oversees the university’s scheduling and database management systems. He explains: “Prior to card readers, we only had a handful of classrooms to schedule, so a manual process wasn’t too difficult. After the addition of card readers and the EMS (enterprise scheduling program), requests increased and got a lot more complicated and time-consuming.” Each one required multiple email exchanges to confirm details before the space manager of a department could approve it.  

school securityOn top of that, managers would frequently get conflicting requests from different individuals wanting to book the same space and time. When one of those had missing names or little information, it was difficult to determine which request should get priority. To add to this, last-minute changes and cancellations were also problematic. Accountability suffered. “People didn’t know who was going into what space or how many people were there,” says Cowan.

Somehow, the university needed to make it easy for students and faculty to reserve classrooms and meeting spaces reliably and efficiently, while still ensuring security. Creating a more accountable, self-responsible approach also held out the promise of freeing up staff time to tackle more pressing priorities. But first, they needed to reevaluate how the university’s access control system was being used.

Identifying Challenges
At the time, department administrators were booking more than 100 room reservations a day. With the existing EMS scheduling system, they had to coordinate the distribution of brass keys, which many weren’t used to, or manually enter unlock times for rooms with card readers. That opened the door for error. And then there were all the after-hours calls when scheduling problems arose. It became obvious that a fresh solution was needed to pave the way for a more seamless, automated process.

While exploring options, Wake Forest had to account for some other obstacles, too. Many of the buildings on campus were built decades before. To maintain their historic integrity, they needed a solution that would fit in with the existing infrastructure and only require minimal disruption during installation – a challenge many electronic access control solutions cannot solve. Cost was another factor. The university also wanted technology that could tie into their existing systems.

Finding the Solution
access control  doorAfter some investigation and conversations with partners, Wake Forest determined the best answer was ASSA ABLOY’s Aperio® wireless access control locks integrated with Detrios’ DAX software application. Wireless connectivity to the university’s LenelS2 OnGuard® access control system meant they could install locks easily on doors, even glass and aluminum doors, and with minimal construction impact on historic structures at the school. Together, the ASSA ABLOY/Detrios solution fulfilled all the university’s priorities.

To implement the system, the university issued new HID ID cards to students, faculty, and staff. The cards not only worked with the new Aperio hardware installed on more than 230 doors across campus, they also worked flawlessly with the 350 Wiegand locks the school already had in place, saving time and construction costs.

Results and Impact
Faculty and students now schedule rooms independently by submitting the required information through the university’s online platform. Administrators then quickly and easily review and approve the reservations online. They can also remotely provide room access to the appropriate student or faculty member via their ID card.

Ultimately, the room scheduling process was reduced from 10 minutes to mere seconds per reservation. In five months, it saved administrators 557 hours, or 15 hours per day. That allowed them to tackle important technology projects that had previously taken a back seat to reservation management, including developing an asset management inventory system, transitioning the university’s video management system, and rebuilding their service platform.

school securityDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, the university realized further benefits of the new system, allowing space managers to easily close access to unused rooms when classes switched online. And when storm precautions and shelter-in-place mandates took effect, administrators could remotely manage campus spaces, even halting access to certain rooms entirely to ensure the safety of students and faculty living on campus.

As more students and faculty have started returning to campus, administrators can continue to remotely and meticulously manage room access to ensure adequate time between uses for cleaning. They can also manage how many people have room access with their ID cards so that the number of people in a space at the same time remains low and in compliance with health guidelines.

The automation of the technology also allows administrators to maintain a controlled window of access to spaces, providing an additional layer of security that was not previously possible. For example, with the system’s easy-to-use start/stop function, the integration gives students or faculty access to a room 15 minutes prior to their reservation, and then automatically removes access as soon as the reservation is complete.

James Byrd, Wake Forest University’s Director of Physical Security Technology, explained how department space managers overwhelmingly welcomed the new technology and process. “Once they witnessed the system in action, it raised a lot of eyebrows. People were impressed how much time it saved. It created a much more efficient use of space, improved security, increased accountability, and significantly reduced vandalism.”

So where does Wake Forest University go from here? According to Byrd, “Within the next four to five years, we estimate we’ll be getting hundreds of reservation requests daily. We currently have about 780 card readers mapped in DAX. Additional integrated locks and card readers are inevitable. Class schedule integration within DAX and the system is also in the plan."

Advice for Other Universities/Facilities

  • Wake Forest University’s Director of Physical Security Technology, James Byrd: Connect and collaborate with your partners. Talk about the challenges you are having and ask about their capabilities and what features are in the pipeline. A good partnership challenges and asks each other smart questions.
  • Wake Forest University’s Access System Administrator, David Cowan: Take it slow. Finding and implementing a new solution is complex. Think through how the process will work best for your university staff and students to ensure ease of use and adoption.
  • Detrios’ Principal Engineer, Jason Higley: The best solutions grow with your organization and are focused on solving problems. Sharing your challenges and goals with a partner will help them define and deliver the right solution. At Detrios, we are always looking for feedback, insights, and new features to adopt to move the solution forward with our partners’ needs in mind.
  • ASSA ABLOY’s Integrated Solutions Specialist, Kevin Shaw: Develop a plan with your technology partners at the start of the project to address the types of challenges you could face during deployment to allow your teams to reduce risk and manage change.