Q: With demand for network-based access control systems on the rise, how does that affect the way our company should approach the design of a system? Are the basics still the same?

A: Most of the basics are still the same. In fact, there are nine main factors that must be considered before you can bid a job.

1. Number of users.The number of users determines which control panel will be capable of supporting the requirements. It is important to consider all of the users – not just those who work in the building every day, but also those employees who may need regular access. Every access control system should be designed for future use. It is standard to plan for a minimum of 20 percent expansion for the future.

2. Entry portals (doors).A thorough inspection of the existing doors is essential to access control design. Identifying the number of doors that will require electronic lock hardware is important in determining the control panel and power supply requirements. The type and quality of the doors will determine type of lock hardware needed.

3. Type of ingress.The building owner must determine how personnel will gain access to the building. There are several types of entry readers available today, including proximity, magnetic stripe, biometric, and keypads.

4. Stand-alone or networked access control.This decision will determine the capabilities of the system. Smaller applications may use stand-alone systems. If the building has more than 100 users or multiple doors, a networked access control system may be the best solution.

5. The occupancy and size of the building.NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, specifies requirements for means of egress based on the occupancy classification of the building. Some buildings are permitted to have electronic access control, while other building-occupancy classifications have certain limitations. The size of the building will determine the amount of wire needed.

6. Badging.Badging permits the building owner to individually identify those with permission to access areas with a special badge. Maintaining the database of users is an important part of the system. An employee could be dedicated to maintaining the database, or your company could do this.

7. Electric Strikes.Both fail-safe and fail-secure strikes are available. The most commonly used is the fail-secure strike, because in most cases it is desirable to maintain the doors in a locked position upon loss of power. Some applications may require the use of fail-safe strikes by code or legal reasons. Fire-rated doors require special fire-rated strikes. If you are installing a strike on a fire-rated door, make sure to plan for this. Fire-rated strikes are more expensive.

8. Maglocks.Maglocks are more expensive than electric strikes, but many installation companies choose them because of their ease of installation. Mag locks are generally available in small (300 lb.), medium (600 lb.) and large (1,500 lb.) categories. The holding force used should be appropriate for the type and quality of the door. NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, must be followed for egress requirements.

9. Means of Egress.Getting into the facility is important, but getting out in an emergency can be a matter of life and death. The egress portion of most access control systems must be intuitive so that no special training is required to exit. NFPA 101 requires two means of egress. A request to exit motion detector and an exit push button or touch sense bar are commonly used to meet this requirement. Most access control systems are designed to allow free egress, meaning no code or credential is required to exit. Some systems may have controlled access on certain doors, or delayed egress.