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Among the many components and features of institutional and commercial facilities, few are as taken for granted as door hardware and access control systems. Building occupants and visitors entering, exiting and moving through facilities deal with them regularly, but few, if any, give much thought about their role in facilities or their performance under tremendous amounts of wear and tear.
Jacob Moler and other members of the access controls and security systems department at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) do not have that luxury. As is the case in many organizations these days, the department is contending with a host of evolving challenges, from product and technology integration and technician training to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on its organizations and facilities.
UCSF hosts nearly 6,000 students on several urban campuses and outlying facilities in and around San Francisco.
“We're managing about 88 existing buildings,” says Moler, who is responsible for applications and advanced product support. “We have four new construction buildings coming online and two leased spaces that are coming online that are just outlying areas. We are in charge of about 7.2 million square feet on the campus side.”
Staffing includes one key cutter, six locksmiths and seven technicians.
“The technicians handle card access, alarms, video cameras, intercom systems, things like that, and they are led by two supervisors,” Moler says.
The size and layout of the facilities presents the department with logistical and management challenges, many of which were made more complex by the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020.
“As far as our card access control doors, we have about 408 entry points,” Moler says. “After COVID and reducing down to single points of entry, we are only utilizing 157.”
Having to inspect, test and maintain fewer doors and related components might seem easier, but restricting access to more effectively screen and monitor building traffic also created unexpected issues among building occupants.
“It makes it more difficult when we start talking about building access for people and letting people know where they are supposed to go. Access is very important to people, and they hold it close to their chest. When they're not allowed in somewhere, we’re the ones that have to filter those conversations.”
The department also had to deal with the issue of garage doors on campus, which had been treated differently pre-COVID.
“Our loading dock areas were a huge impact during COVID when we had to lock down,” Moler says. “We were used to opening the doors and leaving them open all day. You needed card access to get into the building, but for truck drivers and recycling people, the doors were always just open. Somebody would open them in the morning, and security would close them at night.
“As soon as we had to start restricting those areas, the question became, ‘How do we restrict these areas?’ It became a huge project for us to go over all of our loading docks.”
The answer for Moler and his team was to install intercom systems. One intercom allowed visitors into the garage while another restricted access from the loading dock into the interior building.
“Those could all be manned from a central security point if needed at downtimes when security wasn't at each building,” Moler says.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.
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