How to Specify Electronic Access Control

For professional installations, planning and documenting is essential.


I consider access control a science as well as an art, just like my locksmith friends regard locks and keys. In both, you need to intuitively use your insights and creativity along with technology to reach your destination. Some people get by on intuition or just “playing it by ear.” But when...


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I consider access control a science as well as an art, just like my locksmith friends regard locks and keys. In both, you need to intuitively use your insights and creativity along with technology to reach your destination.

Some people get by on intuition or just “playing it by ear.” But when it comes to locksmithing, door control and life safety systems, “playing it by ear” cheats your customers and your employer.

I’ve known many locksmiths who master keyed in their heads. I’m glad they weren’t mastering my building. I’ve also known many technicians who think the only way to install is to “play it by ear.”

For professional installations, planning and documenting is essential. You can be sure you have the right materials and the correctly rated components. You can have the site “prepped” so you can operate as efficiently as possible.

If your system requires inspection by the LAHJ (local authority having jurisdiction) or others, you can provide a road map. If the system requires service at a later date (and they all will eventually), product documents and a wiring diagram will save you (or the unfortunate individual elected to go out and work on your installation) an incalculable amount of wasted time trying to figure out what you did.

So even experts in the field (such as myself) begin our planning during the first moments of phone contact with a client. We still take notes and document everything for the benefit of our purchasing agents our installers, the LAHJ who must approve it, those who will subsequently live with the system and maintain it, and for our own recollection.

With specifying electronic access control, like playing an instrument, “practice makes perfect,” but planning and documenting are mandatory for the professional.

Many versions of access control planning worksheets are available, and you can either use one of these or modify one to suit your own tastes. Following the script will mean you will probably obtain the required information to quote and design your project. Save your intuition and creativity to sell it to the client.

Here is a typical set of questions (and explanations for why they need answers) you can use as a basis for your own planning worksheet.

Total Number of Doors Controlled by Proposed System: (Initially and Ultimately)

Proposed System Type & Feature Set: Automated Door Control; Access Control, Video Surveillance; Time & Attendance; Intrusion alarm, Delayed Egress; environmental monitoring. Is central station remote monitoring required? Is activity report required? Is real-time alarm annunciation required?

Credential type: Number of employees; employee turnover and ultimate capacity; muster report.

Does premises require rekeying or remastering? Level of key security required.

Is there a fire alarm or sprinkler system?

Code Issues: What is the occupancy type? Does the premises have a valid certificate of occupancy? Is a building permit pending or required for the installation/modifications?

Door Names and Locations

Door Operations: (Examples: employee entrance; emergency exit, stairwell door, etc.)

Door Types: (Single; Double; in swing; sliding; etc.)

Are there any Elevators to be included on the System:

Door Construction: (Wood, metal, storefront, etc.)

Frame/ Wall Construction: (Metal or wood frame; poured concrete, sheet rock, glass side lights; etc.)

Existing Hardware: (mortise lock; cylindrical passage lever; 3 pcs. 4.5” hinges, etc.)

Door & Hardware Condition & Modifications required: (Door closer is leaking; door is sagging; threshold has popped; owner is unsure about who has keys to the door, etc.)

Existing Electronics: Are there any existing service monitoring contracts or lease agreements? Is existing equipment scalable and functioning? Is it proprietary or obsolete? Are you expected to honor any warranties (for example manufacturers’ warranties on existing equipment)?

Proposed New Locking System: (Maglock, electric strike with storeroom function lever; rim type exit device; etc.)

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