As Senior Living technology continues to evolve and safety becomes a top priority, more and more providers are implementing access control systems to keep their communities safe. In fact, the use of access control systems is growing faster than either video surveillance or intruder alarms.1

Whether you’re upgrading old building access systems or installing more sophisticated and advanced access control systems (ACS), it’s important to verify the system is installed and adjusted correctly, or it’ll likely fail. This process is called commissioning, and it occurs throughout the entire duration of your project.

Today, requirements for testing access control systems are significantly more complex because of multisystem integrations and code changes. Senior Technology Designer Patrick Mahoney shares why the systems should be commissioned and what happens during the full commissioning of systems.

Patrick Mahoney

Senior Technology Designer

Why Commission Access Control Systems?

Commissioning ensures your systems are properly functioning, which reduces your liabilities. As part of the building’s Life Safety systems, many access control systems are required to release doors upon activation of the fire detection and alarm system, so it’s essential everything is working properly.

In addition to reducing liabilities, the advantages of commissioning ACS include:

  • Certainty that doors and gates operate as intended
  • Verification that electronic building systems are integrated to function properly
  • Assurance that patches and updates are applied and cybersecurity measures are functional
  • Ability to create operational training, policies and procedures for staff
  • Compliance with codes

7 Steps to Commissioning ACS

The extent of commissioning required for each project will be different depending on the owner’s needs. When installing an access control system, it’s the owner’s responsibility to understand the functionality and develop a sequence of operations with the designer, installer and integrator. Given the liabilities associated with electronic safety and security (ESS) systems, it’s a good idea to have a full evaluation of the systems’ hardware and software to ensure the access control system meets all requirements.

The following steps may be included in full commissioning of ESS systems:

1. Commissioning Team

The first step is to designate an individual to lead the commissioning process. This person, called the commissioning authority, may be a member of the design team, an employee of the owner or an independent third party. After designating the commissioning authority, a commissioning team is selected, which can include a variety of design professionals, security experts, facility and construction managers as well as the owner. 

2. Owner’s Project Requirements

Early in the design process, the team develops the initial owner’s project requirements (OPR), which is a document stating the requirements for each door in the project as well as the building operator’s objectives and expectations. It includes documentation for each system, special requirements and applicable codes.

3. Construction Documents

When incorporating access control systems into the construction documents, it’s essential the architect and security system designer work closely. Many systems may need to be integrated at each door, making the process more complex.

The access control system may need to be integrated with the following systems:

  • Automatic doors
  • Intercom 
  • Fire alarm
  • Delayed egress
  • Video surveillance
  • Magnetic locks
  • Door ajar alarm
  • Latch bolt monitoring
  • Healthcare systems (e.g., supervised care elopement prevention systems)

Doors may include many of these design considerations, so it’s important to develop a sequence of operations because multiple systems could be active at the same time.

Access control systems are just one way to keep your community secure. Shop our large selection of technology solutions, or learn more about the latest security technology that can help prevent security situations from occurring or assist if they do arise.

4. Development and Utilization of a Commissioning Plan

The commissioning plan outlines the entire commissioning process and is updated during each phase of the project. The commissioning plan should include the following information:

• General project information

• Commissioning scope and overview of the project’s security

• Commissioning team members, roles and responsibilities

• Process tasks and commissioning activities through all phases

• Commissioning schedule

• Commissioning process documentation and deliverables

• Testing procedures, including integrated testing

• Recommended training

5. Contractor Submittals

The commissioning agent and design professionals will review contractor submittals to ensure the submitted equipment aligns with the basis of design documents and to verify the installed materials comply with all instructions. These submittals are included in the commissioning report.

6. Inspection and Testing

Before residents can move in, the access control, integrated systems and Life Safety systems must be tested. It’s important to verify the installation meets the owner’s project requirements, basis of design, applicable codes and all local police and fire department requirements. Testing should also ensure that all notifications and alarms are properly received by staff.

7. Commissioning Report

The post-construction report is a comprehensive account of the commissioning process, and it includes information about each system, the testing process and verification that staff and residents are trained on the installed systems.

Commissioning begins early in the project and extends through all phases of design and construction. To keep things running smoothly, it’s a good idea to have the installers perform follow-up visits so any issues can be addressed.

The growth projections of the access control market show no signs of slowing, and as more individual systems are integrated into security systems, commissioning will become even more valuable to educated owners.