Creating the right level of accessibility and an efficient flow through a building for staff and children is now a key priority for those working in the education sector; however, this must be balanced with the need to provide a safe learning environment. Architects and contractors must consider the need to install access control solutions to meet this requirement in today’s modern learning environment, argues David Hodgkiss, National Sales Manager of ASSA ABLOY Access Control, a UK division of ASSA ABLOY, a provider of door opening solutions.

Security: A growing concern

Security within the education sector is a growing concern. A Freedom of Information request by the BBC revealed that of the 30,394 crimes reported in 2014, theft, burglary or robbery was the most common offence, with 13,003 incidents taking place. Meanwhile, a survey led by the Association of Teachers & Lecturers discovered that over a quarter of education staff said they had faced aggression from a student’s parents or carers.

Learners have the right to a safe environment in which to be educated, while staff should be able to work without fear of being threatened or harassed. While it can be difficult to acknowledge, the fact is that schools, colleges and universities must now take precautions to protect staff and children from these types of incidents.

Securing gates and access points around the site, plus ensuring any visitors register when entering, are just two basic but effective methods of creating a safe learning environment for staff and children. But what are the latest available solutions for those seeking a more sophisticated and intelligent approach to access control, which not only protects but also enhances the learning environment?

Enhancing existing security systems

In addition to assuring the safety and security of students and staff, the education sector is also looking for solutions that help cut energy costs, reduce maintenance and can be easily integrated with existing security measures.

ASSA ABLOY access control solutions deployed at University of East Anglia
UEA required a system that offered assured electronic locks, built to serve the unique demands of student accommodation while ensuring the occupants safety and security

Common problems with traditional security systems include lost or stolen keys. It can be inconvenient, time-consuming and expensive to change these locks, and the re-issuing of keys can be considerable. There is also the risk of stolen keys being copied, which compromises security even further.

It is also not uncommon for larger education sites, such as secondary schools and universities, to leave doors unlocked for long periods of time because of the inconvenience and hassle of opening and securing the room every time it’s entered. This, however, increases the possibility of opportunistic theft and malicious damage.

Aperio® real time control

To meet this need, ASSA ABLOY introduced Aperio®, an innovative, battery-operated wireless locking technology. This enables mechanical locks to be wirelessly linked to a new or existing access control system, without any need to modify the door. Meeting BS EN 179 and BS EN 1125 standards, Aperio® offers real time control, and doors can be scheduled to unlock in line with room booking systems or classes. Once a class has finished, doors automatically lock, leaving the room secured.

The system’s ability to update who is able to access a room online and in real-time is hugely advantageous to education sites, who might need to respond fast to ensure security measures are implemented quickly.

Its escape and return configuration is ideal for the education sector, allowing a door to remain unlocked for a certain amount of time after the door has been opened from the inside. Should an incident take place outside a classroom, staff and students can quickly return to the safety of this classroom.

Aperio® in action

It is estimated that a third of the UK’s university population becomes a victim of crime, predominantly either theft or burglary. Owners of expensive laptops and bikes are popular targets, particularly during fresher’s week, with approximately 20 per cent of theft incidents occurring in the first six weeks of the academic year.

ASSA ABLOY Aperio product range
Crome Court’s doors are fitted with Aperio® E100 online escutcheons, with installation training provided on campus by ASSA ABLOY

With this in mind, the University of East Anglia (UEA) required a trusted access control solution for its new student accommodation.

Established in 1963, the university is internationally renowned, having been rated as one of the best universities for student experience in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2016, based in a campus that provides top quality academic, social and cultural facilities to more than 15,000 students. The university sought a locking system for its newest on-site residence, Crome Court, comprising of 231 en-suite rooms rented to post-graduate students. The building was specifically designed by UEA to help reduce its environmental impact, and it was important to the university that the selected access control solution would contribute to this objective.

UEA required a system that offered assured electronic locks, built to serve the unique demands of student accommodation while ensuring the occupants safety and security. A stylish and affordable component design was important, which also fitted the environmentally advanced profile of the new accommodation.

Student residence smart cards

Gallagher, ASSA ABLOY Access Control’s OEM’s partner, helped specify the best security solution for the university. Jason Boyce, Sales Manager at Gallagher, said: “We decided to offer Aperio® to UEA because of its outstanding reputation.” Crome Court’s doors are fitted with Aperio® E100 online escutcheons, with installation training provided on campus by ASSA ABLOY. Students open doors with smart cards instead of keys, with the battery-operated Aperio® locks emitting significantly fewer CO2 emissions than wired locks.

UEA staff can also control doors from a web-based interface or mobile phone. “Unlike other systems, Aperio® provides audit trails online, allowing for real-time monitoring,” adds Jason. “The fact that Gallagher and Aperio® devices can operate with the same data on the card has allowed for tighter integration, which saves the customer money.”

Reliable and flexible access control

Flexibility is another key benefit to the system, with Aperio® offering the capability for additional doors to be integrated into UEA’s Gallagher system whenever required.

Christine Beveridge, Head of Campus Services at UEA, said: “ASSA ABLOY Access Control have extensive experience within the education sector. We are pleased to be piloting the scheme in our student accommodation and hope to roll out Aperio® across all residential estate.”

An intelligent access control solution is one of the most effective means of balancing this need for the right level of accessibility with creating a secure learning environment. UEA is just one of the sites that has benefited from a sophisticated access control solution, with many more looking set to follow its example. When designing modern buildings and facilities for the education sector, the need to implement a reliable access control solution looks set to become a top priority.

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