Five solutions for increasing building lobby security while maintaining aesthetics
By Charles LeBlanc
Many owners I’ve worked with want to increase security for their employees but are worried their office will end up looking like a guarded prison. This is a particular concern for lobbies, which are intended to present a good first impression and where security considerations now also include screening for COVID-19. Fortunately, with some well-placed security systems and close coordination with the architect, designs can be both secure and aesthetically pleasing. Doing so, however, comes with challenges. Following are five of these challenges and how they can be solved.
Separating public and non-public spaces. The biggest issue we see in many lobbies, especially those that are large and open, is unclear lines between public and non-public spaces. If visitors can access employee spaces without being greeted by a receptionist or otherwise challenged, the building is very vulnerable. Positioning the security/receptionist desk perpendicular to the flow of traffic in the lobby and using low walls or planters to create a path to the desk are two examples of approaches that increase security in the lobby without sacrificing the architect’s desired aesthetic. From here, visitors may be granted entry to the non-public spaces through locked doors, turnstiles, or elevators controlled by the receptionist.
Limited desk space. Along with choosing the best position for the security/receptionist’s desk, it’s important to consider the amount of space necessary to perform everyday tasks – and still have enough room for security equipment such as monitors, cameras, and visitor kiosks — items often overlooked in the planning phases. Therefor it’s important that the owner, architect, and security consultant fully understand the space requirements for lobby personnel and security equipment.
Screening for infectious disease. COVID-19 has introduced the need to screen employees and visitors as they enter a building. One potential solution is the use of thermal imaging technology at entrances to screen people for fevers. However, the evaluation and integration of this technology into security applications is new and the application has not yet proven practical and reliable. Fortunately, current industry best practices for lobby screening can be implemented until thermal imaging technology catches up with screening requirements.
Prolific use of ornate materials. Many owners desire floor-to-ceiling glass windows, stone and wood wall features, and expensive flooring and ceilings in their entryways. These materials can make the placement of cameras and other security systems difficult. By working with an architect starting at the beginning of a project, security systems can be blended with other architectural, mechanical, and electrical fixtures to create a wholistic design.
Accessibility. When planning the location of security systems, especially cameras, steps should be taken whenever possible to ensure they are easily accessible for maintenance or replacement. Attempting to avoid placing equipment on ornate surfaces, however, often means they’re located in hard-to-reach places. In these situations, routing security equipment to an access panel that may also be utilized for other building systems simplifies access for maintenance personnel to check on wiring and power before bringing in ladders or lifts to reach the equipment. Access panels can also be discreetly designed into ornate materials to allow service access to equipment without damaging the materials.
By fully integrating your security consultant into the early planning phase of a project, the team can avoid many of the common challenges above and provide cost-effective and time-saving solutions for those that can’t be avoided.