Access control opportunities to improve energy efficiency

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David Ward from ASSA ABLOY explains why access control is a vital area in which significant savings can be gained.

Assessment of access control systems has become increasingly crucial as new solutions being created for easy access and egress often provide a more energy efficient outcome than what is currently in place.

Schemes, such as the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), have put greater emphasis on how much energy is being used in commercial buildings in Australia.

NABERS is a national rating system that measures the environmental performance of Australian buildings, tenancies and homes. It measures the energy efficiency, water usage, waste management and indoor environment quality of a building and its impact on the environment.

For more than 10 years, NABERS has helped FM professionals across Australia to improve their sustainability performance, delivering financial benefits and a stronger environmental reputation for their company.

Schemes like NABERS have led FM providers to assess the areas in which their building can be more energy efficient, for example in lifts, heating, ventilation and lighting.

Access control is another area that has been identified as having the potential to deliver significant energy and cost reductions, making assessment of what is already in place crucial as alternatives become available.

Access control in commercial buildings
Overhead door magnets have traditionally been the go-to devices for access control points in commercial buildings, as their upfront cost is lower than alternative products.

In instances where a carbon footprint and energy costs need to be reduced, however, electric locks are rapidly becoming the preferred solution for many companies.

By selecting electric locks, FM providers can ensure they are choosing a system that not only allows for swift and easy access, as well as egress alongside an enhanced security provision, but also reduces the energy consumption and carbon footprint of a building at the same time.

Door magnets are less energy efficient because they require a continuous electric current to lock the door. This current then breaks with the use of a request-to-exit button, cutting the lock’s magnetic hold and allowing the door to be opened.

In contrast, a motorised or solenoid electric lock only uses power to open or activate the door, so energy can be saved because doors are closed for the majority of the time.

As a general rule, 13 door magnets use the equivalent energy of a kettle being run for an entire day, while electric locks use 10 to 20 percent of the energy in the same period. So although door magnets may have a smaller initial cost, in the long run electric locks could be substantially more energy efficient, reducing costs.

Access control safety
Aside from the environmental energy efficiency benefits, some electric locks also offer a superior level of safety, which can be essential in certain applications.

In the event of an emergency, such as a fire, there needs to be a reliable exit route that allows a quick and easy escape. There can be risks associated with installing a magnet on a door that is used as an escape route.

Door magnets require special arrangements to be made to guarantee they are fail-safe at all times in the event of an emergency. It may be that an alarm or ‘request to exit’ mechanism is required for electromagnetic locks to allow someone to exit, as there is no mechanical override.

This is a great concern as it could hinder the safety of the occupants by not allowing for swift and easy access and egress.

"By selecting electric locks, FM providers can ensure they are choosing a system that not only allows for swift and easy access, as well as egress alongside an enhanced security provision, but also reduces the energy consumption and carbon footprint of a building at the same time."

In contrast, motorised and solenoid electric solutions satisfy the needs of both fire doors, and emergency and panic situations where a mechanical means of escape is required.

Motorised electric locks are also ideal for more secure access control, as they do not feature a handle on the external side – which can be the most vulnerable part of a door – making them a hands-free solution.

This can improve the flow of people through the door, which is especially useful when a swift and smooth exit is needed for a large number of people. Therefore, electric locks are the superior device, not only in terms of energy efficiency but also public and staff safety.

Quality is another major concern when it comes to effective access control, so having a symbol of quality assurance is desirable. It is important, however, to not solely rely on symbols to offer a guarantee of a quality product.

For access control in commercial buildings, consideration should also be given to the level of security a product can provide, and the effectiveness of the solution when it comes to safety.

Identifying the right solution
Although there will always be the temptation to cut costs in order to have the cheapest solution possible, the growing importance of energy efficiency and standards in helping buildings make the grade has to be front of mind. It is also about ensuring that public and staff safety is the number one priority.

With energy efficiency schemes high on the agenda, it is likely that access control will be one of the areas under heavy scrutiny.

Therefore, the security industry needs to provide more energy efficient solutions in the form of electric locks, and this will be greatly beneficial for all parties involved, and help to create a greener environment across Australia.

From the points raised, it is clear to see that electric locks offer the most energy efficient solution, which is also secure. ASSA ABLOY recommends FM providers select electric locking systems every time for effective and energy efficient access control.

With energy efficiency in mind, ASSA ABLOY has developed a range of low-energy electric locks, which have been designed to use significantly less energy than door magnets.

These devices boast an annual energy consumption of 0.6 kilowatts per hour in comparison to a door magnet that uses 32.5 kilowatts per hour per year. The locking solutions are compatible with traditional devices.

They boast low current consumption due to energy only being used when the lock status is changed. In addition to the energy and cost reductions, the low-energy electric locks have a wide voltage range and a number of usage possibilities.

The ASSA ABLOY range of electric locks includes motor and solenoid locks, which are the most effective forms of electric locking. Solenoid locks work by pushing to actuate the locking mechanism.

Motorised locks work by winding to actuate the locking mechanism, which provides the most energy efficient form of electric lock and makes them suitable for the internal doors of public buildings, offices, schools or hospitals, and the external doors of apartments and detached houses.

Opinions and findings are based on ASSA ABLOY’s technology and may not be representative and/or indicative of the performance of other wireless access control offerings.

This article contains insights from the ASSA ABLOY white paper titled: ‘'Effective and Energy Efficient Access Control in Commercial Buildings'.

This article appeared in the Apr/May issue of FM Magazine and on the FM Magazine website.