University campus buildings and student accommodation facilities are complex infrastructures and, with so many security requirements, it can be challenging to keep on top of them and the hurdles they impose. Andrew Shaw, Architectural Consultant for Allegion UK, discusses how to ensure the security and safety of the students of today and tomorrow.
Many UK universities treat safety and security as a feature hardwired into their systems, as young adults and their parents are citing safety when it comes to essential factors when choosing a university.
It’s listed in prospectuses and on university websites to ensure that current and prospective students, staff and parents alike have a clear idea of the safety and security procedures in place.
Student accommodation and campus facilities can pose many security challenges, and with the high turnover of students, keeping track of access is important. This not only allows the responsible persons to keep everything running smoothly and safely, but it also helps to eliminate the possibility of certain crimes.
Security teams must consider high-traffic areas, access for all, student turnover, fire safety measures, security of people and belongings, as well as efficient and smooth people movement.
Efficiency and coherency
Every October, universities must ensure that everything – from individual student data records to premises refurbishments and site safety – is in place to welcome new and returning students, staff and visitors.
This means that throughout the academic year as well as over the summer and other holidays, universities have a constant obligation to keep safety and security standards high.
Student accommodation has also been previously criticised for poor design, especially when it comes to fire safety and general security. With that in mind, it’s important to give the appropriate thought to which doors and door hardware are suitable to specific requirements, to maximise security and, in turn, student safety and wellbeing.
Traditional and electronic
When it comes to university accommodation, without a key handover strategy in place, how can universities be sure their students have adequate access?
For example, some access control systems allow tracking of who accesses and exits a premise. They also easily issue and retract credentials, allowing someone access as easily as it can be taken away.
Conversely, traditional mechanical locks can be beneficial both as a standalone solution and as a combination with electronic access control.
Ultimately, all design aspects of a particular building must be considered before arriving at a product choice. The variety of choice available means universities can opt for hardware that suits their needs, even when faced with budgeting pressures.
The Complete University Guide states that an estimated one-third of the UK’s student body becomes a victim of crime (mainly theft and burglary). When you also consider the vast number of new students moving away from home to university, it’s easy to understand how their lack of knowledge about a particular area may make them susceptible to victimisation.
One focus for optimising security in university facilities and accommodation is to put in place an effective lockdown strategy.
Every university campus has both exterior and interior sections, so implementing an adequate lockdown plan must include both of these layers.
Fire safety protocols
An evacuation plan, and high-quality doors and door hardware, can help to keep end-users safe.
In the event of a fire, students and staff must be clear on what is expected of them to ensure a smooth and effective evacuation.
Doors and door hardware that facilitate maximum egress can help to improve evacuation and prevent unnecessary stagnation of movement.
Specifically, hold-open devices are linked up to the fire alarm so that in the event of a fire, the doors release immediately and then return to a closed position.
Similarly, exit devices (such as panic bars or emergency exit devices) open without keys and are easily accessible, to allow a functional exit if needed.