Securing Commercial Buildings

Nov. 4, 2019
Code compliance and occupancy classification are important considerations

Securing buildings involves several factors with which the locksmith must have a strong familiarity so they may provide the most efficious solutions for their clients.

Securing buildings involves assessing the risk factors associated with the location, how the building is used (referred to as its Occupancy Classification), considering the construction of the building, the domographics of the building’s users, developing a plan, specifying the mechanical and electronic systems which ostensibly will accomplish the project goals then implementing the plan and commissioning the systems.

Building Occupancies

Building occupancy classifications refer to categorizing structures based on their usage. When you are providing measures to secure them, the building codes are determined by the facility’s occupancy type, demographics of building occupants, and building location.

There are two aspects to security: preventing unauthorized entry and ensuring safe egress.

We usually refer to an intrusion alarm as a security system, but the security of the occupants of a structure invloves far more that intrusion. The Building Codes address safe egress, but not intrusion alarms.

Underwriter’s Laboratories offers ‘Standards’ for security systems. UL 681 is the Standard for Installation and Classification of Burglar and Holdup Alarm Systems and UL 294 is the Standard for Access Control System Units.

ADA Compliance

Access control is should not be confused with accessibility. The concept of accessibility focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or enabling access through the use of assistive technology.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.

The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life. Title III adresses public accommodations and commercial facilities.

Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (Title III). Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools,  day care facilities, recreation facilities and and doctors' offices. It also requires newly constructed or altered places of public accommodation—as well as commercial facilities (privately owned, nonresidential facilities such as factories, warehousesor  office buildings  to comply with the ADA Standards.

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I (employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees); Title II (programs and activities of state and local government entities); and Title III (private entities that are considered places of public accommodation).

Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities (Title III). The Department of Justice’s revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) were published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. These regulations adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, "2010 Standards." On March 15, 2012, compliance with the 2010 Standards was required for new construction and alterations under Titles II and III. March 15, 2012, is also the compliance date for using the 2010 Standards for program accessibility and barrier removal.

Accessibility is not to be confused with usability, which is the extent to which a product (such as a device, service, or environment) can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.

Occupancy Classifications

Occupancy classifications are typically defined by model building codes.

Occupancy classification definitions will vary from building code to building code, and the building code which is relevant is the one which is recognised within the jurisdiction of the regulating agency where you or your project are located. For example, some occupancies are subject to federal regulations rather than solely a state or county’s building codes.

I recall a meeting at a nursing and rehabilitation center which had been flagged by a state fire inspector but officials from not only the facility’s corporate  and local office, but also representatives from the City Building Department, Country Fire Marshal, State Fire Marshal, and CMS were there to debate and defend the punchlist left by the fire inspector.

Of course the reason for the concern was the cost to correct the discrepencies was looking like $30,000.00.

Oddly, the previous year the inspection revealed only superficial issues, reminding us again how AHJs may each have their own opinions. Each entity was working from a different Building Code, and of course every item was subject to interpretation. It made for lively debate, but everyone knew who would prevail in the end.

If the nursing home failed to come into compliance, they were told all the patients would be moved out of the facility, and the doors to the place would be chained shut.

Another illustration of how definitions vary between the various building codes is they relate to special Locking Arrangements which can be found in the Securitron iMXDa installation and operating instructions.

This is a self contained delayed egress electromagnetic lock, and delayed egress systems are scrutinised by AHJs and covered in depth in the building codes because delayed egress is one of the few situations where you can legally inhibit free egress from a structure.

Some AHJs and jurisdictions are very concerned about entrapping individuals in burnning buildings.

Several pages of the Securitron iMXDa manual are dedicated to how this this device can be configured to comply with several Building Codes being used throughout North America. The Securitron iMXDa is a very adaptable piece of gear and It is certified and Listed by the following:

Note: Building Codes are under constant review and revision, as is the documentation supplied with products, so it is on you to be sure you are using current documentation and are up to date with what is considered acceptable to your AHJ.

Classifications By Group

The following Occupancy List is based on the International Building Code, the most commonly used building code in the United States.

Assembly (Group A) - places used for people gathering for entertainment, worship, and eating or drinking. Examples: churches, restaurants (with 50 or more possible occupants), theaters, and stadiums. Group A is divided into five sub groups:

A-1 Buildings intended for the production and viewing of performing arts or motion pictures (theaters, concert halls).

A-2 Buildings intended for food and/or drink consumption (restaurants).

A-3 Buildings intended for worship, recreation or amusement and other assembly uses not otherwise classified.

A-4 Buildings intended for viewing of indoor sporting events and activities with spectator seating (arenas).

A-5 Buildings intended for participation in or viewing outdoor activities (stadiums).

Business (Group B) - places where services are provided.

Examples: banks, insurance agencies, government buildings (including police and fire stations), and doctor's offices.

Educational (Group E) - schools and day care centers up to the 12th grade.

Factory (Group F) - places where goods are manufactured or repaired (unless considered "High-Hazard" (below)). Examples: factories and dry cleaners.

High-Hazard (Group H) - places involving production or storage of very flammable or toxic materials. Includes places handling explosives and/or highly toxic materials (such as fireworks, hydrogen peroxide, and cyanide).

Institutional (Group I) - places where people are physically unable to leave without assistance. Examples: hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. In some jurisdictions, Group I may be used to designate Industrial.

Mercantile (Group M) - places where goods are displayed and sold. Examples: grocery stores, department stores, and gas stations.

Residential (Group R) - places providing accommodations for overnight stay (excluding Institutional). Examples: houses, apartment buildings, hotels, and motels.

Storage (Group S) - places where items are stored (unless considered High-Hazard). Examples: warehouses and parking garages.

Utility and Miscellaneous (Group U) - others. Examples: water towers, barns, towers.

Altronix Tango

Customize your Trove access system with Tango, it’s almost like dancing with the stars. Altronix introduces its new Tango1B, PoE Driven Power Supply/Charger with Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery Backup.

This game-changing power solution significantly reduces the overall costs to deploy access control and security devices by eliminating the need for a licensed electrician. 12VDC or 24VDC devices can be powered simultaneously via 802.3bt PoE input, providing tremendous savings!

“Our new Tango1B further capitalizes on the inherent benefits of utilizing PoE to efficiently power access control and further reduce the overhead associated with conventional access control deployment,” said Alan Forman, President, Altronix Corporation. “With Tango, a technician can have an access or security system cost-effectively powered in seconds flat.”

Tango1B is powered by any 802.3bt 4PPoE power source (such as Altronix NetWay BT Series Managed Midspans), harnessing the new IEEE standard to deliver 12VDC and 24VDC simultaneously. Tango provides battery backup using a single Lithium Iron Phosphate battery (LiFePO4) adding to the solution’s ROI. Tango is uniquely designed to be stacked with compatible Altronix sub-assemblies, utilizing a single footprint.

Altronix Tango1B is manufactured in the U.S.A., and backed by a lifetime warranty.

  • Utilizes 4PPoE (802.3bt) to simultaneously deliver 12VDC & 24VDC
  • Eliminates the need for a licensed electrician, providing tremendous savings by using low-voltage installers and wiring methods
  • Designed to stack with Altronix sub-assemblies, saving valuable enclosure space
  • Operates with midspans such as NetWay4BT & NetWay8BT

More Info:

DETEX Tailgate Detection System

The Detex Tailgate Detection System assures that only one individual enters a secured doorway for each authorized card read. Compatible with most card reader technologies, the AT-5600 is easy to retrofit. This unique and cost effective optical security system, which uses unique algorithms and infrared sensor beams to detect tailgating, is ideal for areas requiring tighter security. Typical applications include employee entrances, computer rooms, bank vaults, dorm entrances, and areas with restricted access. Its subtle design does not distract from interior aesthetics and it mounts easily on standard door frames.

Features and Benefits

  • Local digital voice annunciator; unauthorized access/egress is annunciated locally and with the access control system
  • Key switch for local alarm shunt/ override
  • Alarm 3 seconds fixed time/ auto reset
  • Mounts on standard width door frame or wall (80” max width) Spacer mounting kit standard, can be used as a raceway for wiring
  • Alarm can be reset by a remote contact
  • Remote annunciator plates fit in a single gang box
  • Status indicator lights (Wait or Proceed)
  • Field configurable for card in/card out or card in/free exit operation
  • Adjustable access period
  •  Alarm status relay for remote annunciation
  • Tamper Switch
  • Adds additional security to a restricted area where unauthorized entry must be controlled
  • Integrated door prop alarm for additional security
  • Compatible with most access control systems and easily retrofits, providing enhanced security
  • High throughput easy entry or exit for authorized personnel
  • Encourages employees, students, visitors, etc. to maintain access control procedures
  • ADA compliant

More Information:

HID Global iCLASS SE RB25F Fingerprint Reader

HID Global’s iCLASS SE® RB25F Fingerprint Reader brings reliable biometrics authentication to the door with patented multispectral imaging technology to provide high-performance image capture and fingerprint matching in under a second and with high-level security.

It captures images from both the surface and sub-surface of the skin with trusted liveness detection and under all environmental conditions. The reader maximizes security with built-in optical tamper protection and in support of Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) as well as HID Global’s Seos technology. It is field programmable and can be used with all popular industry-standard high frequency credential technologies.

Also new from HID Global is the company’s latest physical access control tool, HID® Reader Manager™, which allows security professionals to govern authorization keys, change reader configurations, update firmware, and inspect the status of enabled readers within Bluetooth proximity through a mobile app. HID Reader Manager complies with the latest industry standard, Open Supervised Device Protocol (ODSP). HID® Reader Manager™ puts the control of reader administration a tap or swipe away via iOS or Android compatible devices.

More Info:

Assa Abloy / AvericsUnity

ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions, a global leader in access solutions, announces the integration of their IP-enabled Power over Ethernet (PoE) and WiFi locks, as well as Aperio™ wireless lock technology with AvericsUnity from Averics Systems Inc. Averics develops browser based, non-proprietary access control solutions that can be used in local server or cloud-based deployments.

AvericsUnity seamlessly integrates and unifies multi-vendor security products into a browser interface. Built on current open technology, including support for mobile apps and touch screens, it provides for control of Aperio locks from anywhere, any time.

The two integrations offer Averics customers an easy way to connect additional openings to their AvericsUnity installations. Aperio is a global wireless platform that works with extensive locking hardware options from ASSA ABLOY Group brands, offering the flexibility to address a variety of applications throughout any facility. The platform uses wireless communication (IEEE 802.15.4) between the lock and an Aperio hub to provide real-time communication to the access control system, simplifying installation and reducing costs. IP-enabled PoE and WiFi locks allow facilities to use existing or planned network infrastructure to expand their system easily and at a significant savings versus traditional solutions.

The driving force behind Averics is to unify and simplify security management. The product philosophy is based on developing systems that are open architecture, non-proprietary and that comply with public standards. Through this approach Averics offers clients and integrators greater choice and flexibility in implementing outstanding custom security solutions.

More Info:;

Aperio™ / PremiSys™ 

With the broad range of wireless locks available with Aperio wireless lock technology, PremiSys now provides even more attractive and affordable options to secure non- traditional openings throughout facilities. This integration helps to solidify PDC IDenticard’s position as a solutions leader in wireless access control.

The Aperio integration offers PDC IDenticard customers an easy way to connect additional openings to their PremiSys installations.

PremiSys is a robust and scalable solution that combines access control with credential management, customized audit reports, mobile apps, security integrations, and more. It provides full system management for an unlimited number of door openings.

PDC IDenticard is a global leader and innovative manufacturer of access control systems, identification products, and patient safety solutions.  More Info: .

Yale Professional Installer Line

The new Yale Pro SL Series product line designed for professional installers. It is a key-free smart lock with built-in Z-Wave Plus (500 Series) technology. The lock offers seamless integration with popular Z-Wave Plus smart systems, such as ADT, Resideo by Honeywell,, Qolsys, AT&T, Ring Alarm, and more. The introduction of the Yale Pro SL and its product line signals the company’s commitment to build more tailored offerings for the Pro community.

Created with intuitive control in mind, the Yale Pro SL’s keypad wakes by simply touching the Yale logo, and locks with another quick touch of the logo. To unlock, owners enter their custom entry code or provide trusted guests and visitors with unique codes, and then rescind access by deleting the code. If the lock is integrated into a system, users are also able to remotely lock/unlock and manage access from their mobile app.

In addition to providing convenient access, high-level security is built into the smart lock. Unlike standard deadbolts, there is no cylinder to pick, and the keypad design eliminates the need to worry about physical keys being lost or stolen. Homeowners don’t need to worry about getting locked out due to dead batteries because the lock features a 9V battery back-up charger, located below the keypad, which can be used to temporarily power the lock. Installation takes just a few minutes with a screwdriver, and Pros can easily integrate it with compatible devices through a one-touch Z-Wave enrollment process.

The Yale Pro SL comes in three finishes designed to match popular door hardware: bronze, brass and satin nickel. It is available for purchase now at popular security wholesale centers, including ADI, Anixter and other regional wholesalers.

More Info:

About the Author

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary is a security consultant, trainer and technician who has also been writing articles on all areas of locksmithing & physical security for many years.