Access control overhaul: Less keys, more interoperability

The equation for success at Saddleback College’s new sciences building.

Saddleback College, a 700,000-square-foot campus located across 200 acres in South Orange County, California, hosts a student body of 25,000 each term. Open since 1968, the college has more than 500,000 alumni who have received degrees in over 300 different disciplines.

Another number the college has become aware of recently is 1,300 – the number of door openings campus-wide.“We have just over 1,300 openings and not two of them are alike it seems,“ says James Rogers, Senior Director of Facilities and Maintenance Operations at Saddleback Community College. “Wood, glass, hollow metal, side panels, glass inlays, stadium gates, storage doors – you name it, we have it.

”The reason the facilities and college police teams at Saddleback know this number is because the college will soon install access control devices on nearly every opening on campus. “Every single one of them except for the restrooms,” Rogers says.

The catalyst for the upgrades are simple: ensure the emergency response process on campus is as streamlined, effective and efficient as possible; and upgrade from a brass key system that had become cumbersome and increasingly less secure.

Going above and beyond in access control
The first challenge to address at Saddleback was to reign in the number of brass keys being handed out each term to faculty and staff. Hilton estimates the college has been attempting to manage around 1,000 keys at any given time due to all the unique openings on campus.

“In an institution of this size, with standard key locks it just becomes very hard to keep track of all of those keys,” says Hilton. “Over a period of decades, it became impossible to manage every key.

”Further, when implementing an access control solution that would change from physical keys to a credential on an ID card, the school wantedto ensure that it could manage the credentials from a centralized system. That way, access could be set and revoked on a semester-by-semester or even a daily basis.

And perhaps most critically, the college wanted to significantly upgrade its safety and emergency process in the event of an active shooter or forced entry scenario.

“The ability to quickly secure the school is really the primary reason for this,” stresses Hilton. “So, when we look at replacing keys with card credentials, and we look at the physical locks, and how it all works with our video surveillance system, it all comes down to the ability to know what is going on across campus and lock down buildings appropriately.”

New access control solutions
To begin the transition to a safer, more secure campus, Saddleback installed 163 Corbin Russwin PoE (Power over Ethernet) locks and exit devices in its new science buildings.

The solution specifically utilizes the Access 700 PIP1 intelligent lockset, which offers online access control and can utilize magstripe, PIN code, and HID Global’s multiCLASS SE technologies for customized access control options.

The college was previously using brass keys for facilities access, but has moved to proximity cards with the new installation. Once Saddleback has upgraded the entire campus, the multiCLASS SE readers will allow for the campus to move toward smartcard and Bluetooth credentials as part of the college’s long-term planning.

Also implemented in the solution are EK1 Retrofit Kits, which add the access control capabilities of ASSA ABLOY’s leading IP-enabled solutions to existing exit devices. This also makes it easy to upgrade building security without the hassle and expense of replacing the entire exit device.

Tying the system together is software from IMRON, which allows for total access control by the Saddleback’s security team.

“By moving to proximity cards and managing those three buildings with new access control devices, it brings our need for brass keys in that area down to just three,” says Rogers. “That was incredibly nice to issue just three keys because we knew that we had already improved access control.”

Less brass keys means more accountability for users, explains Rogers. Permissions can be set by administration, cards can be disabled immediately, and video integration allows cameras to automatically zoom in on situations where an access control point identifies an irregularity or problem.

Further, the facility now has more individual control as it allows faculty and staff to control access as they see fit. For example, a lab door can be opened with a card, then either left unlocked or relocked while the staff member is inside.

The system can be locked down from a central location by campus security, and buttons inside classrooms allow faculty to trigger an emergency alert on their own. The system also results in time savings for staff as it requires less key management, and with the use of the integrated technology, less need for human surveillance in some scenarios.

“From a policing perspective, this really frees us up to focus on other areas of the campus,” says Patrick Higa, Chief of Police at Saddleback Community College. “We’re taking advantage of the technology to do some of that work and its allowing for more time on our staff to prioritize other areas of safety and access.”

Future build out
The system has been so effective in the science buildings the school now has plans for three-year build out to an additional 1,500 locks.

“The simplicity of the solution that ASSA ABLOY offered us, and the way it has worked so far, makes us ready to move forward with making this campus 99% controlled by their access control solutions,” says Rogers. “We went with the sciences buildings first because it was newer construction. But we now have a plan to retrofit the remainder of the campus, and that is very exciting.

”The goal for Saddleback is to standardize all of their unique openings with interoperable access control. And with ASSA ABLOY offering a broad number of brands and solutions that work together, the school has developed a plan around minimizing systems and physical keys.

“We talk about how every opening is unique,” says Hilton. “But as far as the system is concerned, in a few years, every opening can be secured appropriately in exactly the same way.”