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A Guide to Commercial Building Access Control & Security Systems

A Guide to Commercial Building Access Control & Security Systems

Commercial buildings provide a unique security challenge for access control, as they want to be inviting and accessible to tenants and visitors, while also securing the facility from undesired individuals and situations.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of commercial building access control systems. We will then discuss common features and types of access control systems, as well as how to implement a building security system. Finally, we will highlight the importance of access control for commercial buildings and discuss some of the security issues and challenges faced by businesses today.

What is Commercial Building Access Control?

Access control is a system used to control who can enter and access areas within a building. It may involve the use of turnstiles, cards, PIN codes, and or biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition. Through the implementation of access control systems, building owners can limit physical access to all or some areas within their facilities, thus providing an additional layer of security for protecting the people within the facility, as well as the building itself.

Commercial buildings come in many shapes and sizes, including multi-tenant high rises and skyscrapers filled with commercial offices. Commercial building access control aims to secure the base building, which includes the entry ways, the common areas, utility closets, amenity spaces, and tenant space.

Features of a Building Security System

Robust building security is an important part of access control. When implementing a building security system, there are many features to consider. These include:

Access control systems

Access control systems can include mobile credentials, card readers, turnstiles and biometrics. Touchless access control systems, such as mobile credentials, offer the added benefit of keeping buildings and residents healthier by reducing physical touch points, while also offering the convenience of access on one’s own mobile device. Mobile credentials can be electronically distributed to both tenants and visitors removing the requirement for an individual to come on site to receive a physical credential.

If residents lose their physical card, the building can face a security risk. However, mobile phones offer additional layers of security, as smartphones are often locked by the user.

Tenant experience

It's important to provide tenants and visitors with a valuable user experience, especially as more workers return to the office. LenelS2’s mobile credential solution integrates with third party tenant experience platforms, such as the Cohesion intelligent building platform. This integration allows users to utilize their phone to access their mobile credentials, while also acting as an electronic guidebook for the building, in assisting finding the nearest coffee shop or amenity spaces. Tenant experience can be a key selling point for building owners looking to differentiate their properties in this competitive tenant market.

Video management & surveillance cameras

Video management and surveillance cameras provide visibility throughout a facility and can be utilized both live and forensically. Surveillance cameras include video analytics and motion detection for proactively monitoring areas of interest. Video management tools are used to forensically look through video footage to investigate incidents in the building, whether it's a slip and fall, an altercation in the garage, or a vehicle fender bender. Teams can also crowdsource mobile video to supplement security camera footage. All this information can be displayed in a unified security management dashboard, making it easy for teams to monitor access control and video events building-wide in a single application.

Intrusion detection systems

Intrusion detection systems are used to monitor areas within a building and can then be monitored by a central station which can dispatch police or other emergency personnel if alarms occur off hours. Intrusion detection systems provide the ability to monitor alarms throughout a building, and during off hours have those alarms communicated to a central station, which in turn can dispatch emergency personnel as needed.

Visitor management software

Visitor management is another common feature of building access control systems. Visitor management provides an active dashboard of visitors that are in your facility at any given time, as well as the ability to run comprehensive reports on visitor activity over a defined period of time. One capability of visitor management systems allows for the issuance of mobile credentials or QR codes to visitors which can be used to gain entry at a turnstile.

Elevator access control

Elevators may be secured in multiple ways, including traditional methods such as card readers within the cab to unlock floors, or more modern approaches such as destination dispatch, where a tenant or visitor goes to a kiosk to authenticate and is then directed to a specific cab to gain access to a desired floor.


Security systems can also provide valuable analytics to building owners. This data can showcase building utilization by tenant, making it easier for landlords to address staffing and cleaning services across the building.

Access Control

Access Control


Types of Access Control Credentials

There are a number of different types of access control credentials available for commercial buildings. These include:

Card and Keyfob

These use cards or keyfobs that are programmed with access rights, which allow them to be used to open doors or access elevators.

Biometric Access Control

These systems use biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition to authenticate users’ identities and grant them access. These provide a higher level of security, while also eliminating the need to utilize a physical credential.

Mobile Access Control

Mobile credentials provides a touchless access control experience, keeping tenants healthy. Additionally, it offers an extra level of security over keycards.

Mobile Credentials Iphone Access

How to Implement a Building Security System

The first step in implementing a building security system is to conduct an assessment of your building’s needs (threats, location). This can include evaluating the size and layout of the building, as well as any existing security features. Once you have identified your potential threats and security requirements, it’s important to develop a plan for implementation. This should include selecting the appropriate access control system, training staff on how to use the system, and regularly testing the system for vulnerabilities. Consider the following when implementing a system:

Integration capabilities

Most commercial buildings create their foundational building security with an access control solution. They may then add additional measures such as video surveillance or visitor management, but they would need to integrate with the access control solution. Since buildings have typically already made an investment into solutions such as new elevators, it’s important to find a partner who can seamlessly integrate with those existing technologies.

Work with trusted experts

At present, there are very few regulatory requirements for the deployment of access control, which means trusted experts in the field are very valuable for assisting in design and technology selection. As security is more of an art, it helps to hire artists. Although there are some relevant codes and related compliance requirements, security should be a tailored solution for the individual property to help your team meet the specific needs of your building, depending on size, location and tenant population.

An easy to use system

One important consideration with any such large-scale system is the experience of your security team. While your building security system must meet the primary goal of securing the building and assets within it, it should also be easy to use and navigate. Ensure you have a system that is powerful, but user friendly.

The tenant experience

Access control products should be easy for tenants as well. Mobile credentials provide a touchless experience, making it easy for tenants to enter the building.

Why Access Control is Important for Commercial Buildings

Access control is important for commercial buildings because it enables desired individuals access to select areas within the building, while also providing the commercial building owner valuable information about building activity and utilization.  While most importantly keeping the building safe and secure so business can proceed unfettered.

Some modern systems allow users to collect and analyze reader usage data and put it towards trending information. The raw data allows building managers to learn about occupancy and utilization and therefore offer the correct services at the time. It may also potentially help with predicting future needs such as determining when tenants may be considering downsizing their office space.

Security Issues and Challenges Faced by Commercial Buildings

The security of any commercial building must be robust enough to protect its occupants from physical threats as well as other forms of harm such as theft or invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, there are a number of issues and challenges that buildings face when it comes to security. These include: 

  • Unauthorized access due to weak access control measures 
  • Poorly trained staff on how to use the system 
  • Lack of emergency protocols in case of a breach 
  • Weak surveillance camera systems or lack thereof 
  • Poor physical security, such as weak locks or doors
  • Numerous entrants / large number of people each day, including tenants, visitors, delivery personnel and contractors
  • Potential for a critical situation that requires a full building lockdown

Additional challenges come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including getting people back into offices and providing touchless access experiences to minimize the spread of germs. In general, these issues can all be addressed with a proper security and access control solution designed to integrate with your existing building features and technology.

How LenelS2 Can Help 

LenelS2 has over 30 years of experience in the building access control space, including with large commercial real estate owners’ clients. LenelS2 is part of Carrier, the leading global provider of healthy, safe, sustainable, and intelligent building and cold chain solutions, which uniquely positions LenelS2 as we focus on solving building challenges every single day. We provide comprehensive access control solutions for commercial buildings that are easy to use, secure, and reliable. Our team has extensive expertise and is constantly innovating to meet the needs faced by our clients across a wide variety of industries. Whether you are looking for an on-premise or cloud-based access control solution, our team of experts can help you. 

Not only do we offer access control and video on a single dashboard for a seamless experience, but LenelS2 products are designed to function with each other as well as a whole spectrum of third-party products and systems. We are capable of both retrofitting modern solutions into your existing facility or starting fresh with brand new buildings or full gut renovation.

If you want a strong user experience and robust modern technology to keep your buildings healthy, consider LenelS2. Request a free demo today to learn more.

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