Grand Valley State University Tackles Security from the Outside In

Oct. 1, 2008
The main entrances of each residence building were equipped with the hard-wired Schlage card readers or Schlage Wireless readers and locks. Schlage CL Campus Lock standalone locks are used on residence room doors for all new construction.

To provide greater security in living centers and other buildings, Grand Valley State University began by upgrading access control on exterior doors and other critical areas, moving from keys to a combination of hard-wired, wireless, and standalone electronic access control. New construction is taking security to the next phase with the standalone devices included on interior residence room doors as well.
Grand Valley State University was established in 1960, with the main campus located on a 1,275-acre site, 12 miles west of Grand Rapids in Allendale, Mich. Grand Valley also offers classes on campuses in Grand Rapids and Holland, and through centers in Muskegon and Traverse City. The public, four-year university serves more than 23,000 students, with a faculty of 750 and a support staff of 1,065. The main campus serves approximately 16,000 students, with housing for 5,500 and 500 additional units planned.
For many years, access control to all campus buildings was handled with a fairly robust but conventional brass key system. Gradual loss of key control and the desire for greater security led to implementing card systems in some areas, but centralized control and standardization was lacking.
Dave Feenstra, maintenance supervisor & project manager ­­— facilities services, explains, “The maintenance staff had to spend too much time making keys and replacing cores. We re-keyed the whole campus a few years ago, because over time, people had compromised the system, either knowingly or unknowingly.”
Although the re-keying helped return some control, the university wanted to provide a higher level of security across campus but particularly in student housing.
Feenstra points out, “If somebody breaks into an office and steals equipment, that’s one thing, but where the security of the students is concerned, it’s a lot more critical. We feel the parents entrust their children to us, so we want to make sure we provide them with the best security we can.”
A card reader system seemed the best way to manage and control access, but the cost of retrofitting thousands of doors would have been prohibitive. To provide the improved control in a cost-effective manner, the university selected a Schlage Security Management System (Schlage SMS) that enabled it to link hard-wired Schlage card readers or Schlage Wireless locks on exterior doors with Schlage Computer Managed (CM) standalone locking systems at selected interior academic locations.
 “The first project was to get the building entrances secure,” Feenstra says. “With hundreds of students living in a building, once we decided to secure the doors 24/7, locks were wearing out in as little as a month because of the heavy use. Whenever a key failed to operate properly, security was a challenge.”
The main entrances of each residence building were equipped with the hard-wired Schlage card readers or Schlage Wireless readers and locks. The readers communicate with the Schlage Security Management System which grants or rejects access based on access rights assigned to each individual card holder. If access is granted, the SMS control system sends a command that electrically unlocks the door.
This was cost-effective, in part, because the number of entrances was limited. Feenstra points out that the controls for the system were located in each building’s communications closet to take advantage of the secure location and proximity to the campus wiring network.
One benefit of the Schlage SMS system is the ability to change access parameters or perform a lockdown with a few keystrokes. In the event of a threatening telephone call or a stolen card, building entrances can be locked down quickly until the problem is resolved. “There’s a responsibility for the university to provide the best environment we can, and the ability to manage a situation through our card access control is part of that mission.”
Once the system was in operation, some additional doors were equipped with SMS readers and electrified locks, based on student usage patterns. Feenstra explains, “We were finding that students were propping other doors open with a pebble or a penny so they could re-enter. In almost every case, the door involved pointed toward a food source.” He notes that it only takes one such incident to compromise security for the entire building.
To solve the problem, Schlage readers and locks were added to secondary doors as needed, and door position sensors (“prop alarms”) also were added to sound an alarm if a door was held open too long. Other doors are locked from the inside but have no outside access, so they can only be used for egress. These usage patterns and needs will be considered when planning future construction, according to Feenstra.

He notes that, with as many as 500 rooms in a building, the cost of hard-wiring all the interior doors would have been prohibitive. Because the buildings are secured with the Schlage SMS system on exterior doors, interior security needs also were less critical.
Instead, Schlage CL Campus Lock standalone locks are used on residence room doors for all new construction, as well as some existing areas. Since they do not require hard wiring, installation is simple, and they provide an added level of access control beyond the entrance doors.
Both types of standalone locks, Campus Locks (CL) and CM locks, are managed by the Schlage Security Management System; the same system that manages the online wired and wireless readers and locks that communicate in real-time. The CM locks are linked to the campus security system by downloading access codes from the central computer to a laptop or hand-held device such as a PDA and then uploading them to the individual locks. The uploading or downloading process takes only seconds and need only be performed when changes to the cardholders or to the lock operation is needed.
Campus Locks are initially programmed with a computer or PDA but instructions for changes are put on the cards, requiring fewer visits to each lock for those areas that require more frequent changes. Audit trail information for both types of standalone locks can be downloaded to the laptop or PDA for transfer to the main computer when necessary.
Magnetic cards are used as the primary credential, but the CM locks have the ability to accept PIN codes and iButton fobs as well. Feenstra says student residents can be assigned PIN codes to use in conjunction with the cards for added security. Maintenance people may be provided with iButton fobs as an alternative credential, he adds.
The CM and CL locks are powered by four standard “AA” batteries. With the first standalone units installed in 2004, the university has had time to evaluate their battery life. Feenstra reports no problems and says they obtained three years of life from the original batteries before they were replaced.
While there are many security and control benefits to having the CM locks on interior doors, it became apparent they weren’t needed on every door. Feenstra says, “As things evolved, we realized areas such as mechanical rooms for the apartments did not need this level of security. Students never need to get into them, so we went with regular brass keys and installed the CM locks on other doors instead.” Performing the critical analysis necessary to concentrate security where it is needed most helps the university obtain the best value for its budget.

To integrate and manage the CM and CL locks, the university uses the Schlage Security Management System, a Windows® based software program offered by Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies.
In addition to the Schlage CL and CM electronic access control systems, several other systems are in use. Feenstra says, “We decided to standardize all the systems on campus, but some departments already had other types of existing systems. Instead of calling for departments to scrap the systems they have, we will eventually include them as autonomous subsets of the main system. As they modernize their buildings, the departments will then come under the Schlage system. We will convert the buildings and take on management of the system after that.”
He adds, while some departments are reluctant to give up control, the subset approach adds the oversight of people with more experience in security management. This approach also provides the ability to integrate some buildings with existing whole-building systems, which incorporate security along with HVAC and other functions.
As the existing systems are upgraded, potential problems are eliminated. Feenstra points to a recent upgrade of a science building as an example. “The system was a 1994 installation and had not been upgraded. If there had been a major crash, they would not have recovered updated software or retrieved the information. They would have had no working card access system at all, because it was no longer supported.” With the new system, the university has a commitment for continuing support from Ingersoll Rand, the provider of the system, and Ingersoll Rand distributors. In addition, the system has expansion capability not available under the old system.
As more and more areas are added, the system will provide the ability to control access more fully and also pinpoint responsibility for any security breaches. If professors or students need access to a building for late-night work on a project, for example, they are issued cards. The person to whom the card was issued then bears responsibility for its use and therefore must report any loss, theft or misuse.
One additional issue needing attention was the control of access cards, particularly for buildings with the new locks on interior doors. In essence, this was an exercise in training people. In the case of housing units, Facilities Services issues the cards in groups but typically does not give them directly to individual users. For example, they may be given to an area coordinator or resident assistant who then distributes them to the individuals.
Feenstra explains, “These people know who belongs in which room. We just assign specific cards to specific room addresses. We learned at times we have to maintain the level of security all the way down the chain of distribution.” Therefore, it was necessary to implement training to ensure departments realized the importance of following issuance procedures and maintaining accurate records.
Much like the various existing systems that are being brought under control of the Schlage Security Management System, access control at several satellite campuses will also be standardized. As renovations occur, the buildings will be converted to Schlage online access control on exterior doors with CL and CM interior locks. Feenstra says, “They will have control of their buildings under the system but will not be autonomous. The software lets us set up those systems into subsets so they can manage their own departments, but Facility Services still maintains final control.”