Securing the Building

In order to address building security issues, the architect and interior designer must look at how people use the building. Most building security problems can be resolved with a combination of common sense and a little technology. Let's look at some common office building situations and their solutions.

Ideally, the lobby for an office (Fig. 37-1) should be visible from the reception desk. When the reception area doesn't have a view into the lobby, an intruder might be able to enter the building and, by gaining access to the stairwells off the lobby, move up or down to other floors. By adding glass to the stairwell exit doors, we can let people in the lobby see if someone is inside the stairwell. A continuously activated alarm system will allow cardholders free entry to the office, but will ring should anyone try to force the office door or prop it open. Another layer of security is added when a door with a card reader is installed at the corridor leading to the elevator.

If the doors to restrooms are out of sight of a receptionist and unlocked, an intruder could hide inside a restroom. Card readers (Fig. 37-2) or push-button combination locks on the restroom prevent entry by unauthorized visitors, while avoiding the need for employees to get a restroom key at the reception desk.

Where the office lobby has a thick glass wall with a view into the reception area, the receptionist can see vis itors while maintaining a secure barrier. The glass wall also provides a surface for attaching the metal strip required for a magnetic lock. For extra security when the reception desk is unoccupied, a detector can be added that registers the frequency of breaking glass and sends a signal to an alarm system. A camera can be installed in front of or behind the receptionist to identify interlopers after they've entered.

Elevators equipped with a card-reader system ensure that only authorized persons have access to a given floor. Although the system can be refined to limit an individual's access to certain times of the day or week, it is most practical for use after-hours, when fewer people need to gain entry.

Controlling access at a loading dock during the day and after-hours while providing egress to comply with safety regulations involves several strategies. There must always be a manned door that allows entry from the dock to the service elevators. This door must be lock-able to restrict access from the street after business hours, with an alternative entry and egress point provided for authorized visitors. An intercom and camera can be positioned here for after-hours communications with a security guard at a desk. Ideally, a mailroom should be created off the ground or lower floor to reduce traffic through the lobby and other office areas. A

camera positioned at the street helps ensure that only authorized visitors will be admitted.

Burglary and vandalism cost owners of homes and commercial buildings many millions of dollars each year. Every effort put into making security improvements will be repaid many times in increased protection against loss and damage, and greater safety and

Figure 37-2 ID card reader.

peace of mind. As a bonus, adding security measures may reduce owner's insurance premiums.

On many projects, your client will probably rely on security experts for advice. However, as the interior designer, you should be aware of the methods that may be used to detect intruders, prevent entry, control access to secure areas, and notify staff of unauthorized entry or emergencies. Some of these functions require special security systems, but the first line of defense involves the design of secure doors and windows.

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