Security choices for a smarter, more sustainable building

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In a survey for the Wireless Access Control Report 2023, almost 90% of security professionals say sustainability will influence future product commissioning, reports ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA.

The focus on sustainability cuts across industries and continents. In fact, in one recent poll of 3,000 global CEOs, 51% said sustainability was the biggest challenge on their desk.

Euromonitor’s global sustainability survey indicates the key areas where businesses look to target investment.

Among them are sustainable sourcing (74% of respondents), energy (69%) and certifications to avoid greenwashing (44%).

In the mission to make sustainable buildings, access control can have an impact on all three factors, most significantly in improving energy efficiency.

The World Green Building Council identifies efficiency as one essential feature in any green building.

Reducing energy use is both quantifiable and actionable; all technologies inside a building have an effect.

The impact of access control here can be immediate and simple.

For example, monitoring more access points ensures doors are properly closed which, in turn, improves a building’s thermal efficiency.

However, awareness is growing that the choice of an access control system can affect long term sustainability performance.

Sustainability and wireless access control

The energy efficiency advantage in choosing wireless over traditional wired access control is widely known.

When compared to a hardwired solution, wireless access control devices consume less power at every stage of their lifecycle.

Cable-free fitting is much faster, which means installers travel fewer miles between sites, using less fuel.

Wireless is also less disruptive to the building fabric and less energy-intensive: Many electronic and electromechanical door devices require minimal (or no) drilling to mount and initiate.

Wireless locks also operate more efficiently. Instead of an “always on” electricity connection to power locking magnets, they only “wake up” when presented with a credential.

Companies can expect significant energy savings during operation: More than 70%, or thousands of euros over a typical installation’s lifetime, according to one benchmarking study.

Keyless operation also means less materials used – especially when credentials inevitably need replacing. Wireless devices may enjoy an extended lifetime, too.

They can usually be moved if workspaces are reconfigured, unlike wired electronic locks.

The next evolution: Energy harvesting

Energy harvesting is becoming a familiar technology for designers of smart, sustainable buildings. It is widely used in building sensors, for example.

Innovative application of this technology to security can remove energy use at an access point altogether, when they are equipped with digital locks powered by energy harvesting technology.

Such “self-powered” digital devices do not require batteries or cables – or indeed, any external electricity source.

Energy-harvesting access solutions combine the familiarity and convenience of key operation with the intelligence and flexibility of electronic access control.

They put facilities managers in command of premises without the disruption or energy use of traditional wired doors.

With key-based electronic access control based on this technology, for example, lock electronics harvest energy from the thrust and/or turning of a key.

Kinetic energy from the keyholder is recycled to power communication between credential, device and the central management system.

Energy usage and green building certification

Building security, sustainability and intelligence are inherently connected.

As one consequence, access technologies have a role in gaining certifications for the most important international green building programs.

The benefit of certification may be material as well as ethical: One London property market expert estimates the rental premium for BREEAM certified office buildings at between 3.7% and 12.3% .

In assessments for LEED, BREEAM and others, energy efficiency is a key criterion.

Measurable improvements in energy performance can help a project receive its desired award.

For this reason, ASSA ABLOY Group created resources to support a submission to the most important schemes aimed at smarter and greener buildings.

These include detailed contribution sheets for BREEAM, LEED, DGNB, WELL, HQE and Green Star. Each one details how multiple products and technologies contribute to criteria or credits.

They cover electronic access control solutions, doors and door closers, mechanical and electromechanical locking systems and accessories including handles, panic devices and drop seals.

In addition, to help embed sustainability principles within every stage of the smart building’s life cycle – from design to delivery and, later, maintenance – ASSA ABLOY teams support Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other digitalisation initiatives.

BIM brings transparency and knowledge sharing.

ASSA ABLOY’s comprehensive BIM library is formatted for seamless integration with any design software.

Each object has detailed geometry and specifications; many have additional documentation such as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to further support sustainable construction for smart buildings.

Motives for enhancing sustainability credentials in these ways can go beyond altruism. Almost a quarter of companies already see sustainability as a source of competitive advantage.

And, as projects in Denmark and Germany, detailed below, illustrate, embedding sustainability principles can benefit both building owners and users.

Energy-harvesting locks and “sustainable construction”

One landmark new residential development in Esbjerg, Denmark, puts sustainability at its core.

In fact, the developer is a Premium Member of Green Building Council Denmark, an organisation which promotes sustainable building.

Apartments at A Place To, Esbjerg, connect with common areas which offer opportunities for social activity and co-living.

To ensure access control matched its sustainable commitment, it looked for an energy-saving solution which would operate without batteries or wires.

Integration-readiness was another priority, to provide seamless operation with other intelligent building technologies, including online readers and door-phones; they also needed the ability to add new smart features anytime.

ASSA ABLOY PULSE key-operated electronic cylinders with energy-harvesting technology now secure more than 300 apartments at A Place To, Esbjerg: “We went for a futureproof solution which was maintenance-free and where we did not have to change batteries,” explained Peter Høpfner, COO and Founder.

PULSE devices are self-powered: The energy generated by key insertion is harvested to energise encrypted electronic security.

This sustainability focus is one major reason why PULSE won the 2022 Danish Building Centres Energy Award, the purpose of which is to “celebrate innovative products and solutions in construction and to increase knowledge of climate-friendly building materials.”

The PULSE key also contains an RFID chip.

It doubles as an access card for entrance and communal areas: Convenient for residents and, from a sustainability perspective, reduces unnecessary plastics use.

“In addition, PULSE cylinders have an independently assessed EN15804+A2 Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) valid through 2026,” commented Henrik Degn, PULSE Business Development Manager, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions EMEIA.

“The EPD details the precise environmental impact of a device through its full lifecycle.

“EPDs are rich in the details required by projects seeking green building certification, which is increasingly popular worldwide because it can deliver financial as well as ethical benefits for a building owner.”

Historic buildings with energy-harvesting electronic locking

Another project in Erfurt, Germany required the redevelopment and retrofitting of two historic residential and commercial buildings in the centre.

These buildings have apartments on the upper floors with offices, shops and restaurants on lower floors.

They were previously secured with a mechanical master key system.

The owner opted for an eCLIQ programmable key access control system for these mixed-use buildings.

Care had to be taken to ensure the historic appearance was not impaired and that doors were not damaged.

Hence, the eCLIQ system was selected for both easy operation and wire-free installation. The entire eCLIQ access control system is administered with CLIQ Local Manager software.

This user friendly program is installed locally on a PC for efficient building management.

“We are very satisfied with eCLIQ, as the system is very flexible,” said the buildings’ Owner, Angelo C. Brecht. “In addition to the normal eCLIQ keys, we also use battery-free Spark keys, which generate their own power and are therefore extremely sustainable.”

Spark is the first battery-free eCLIQ key to unlock doors using only energy that it generates itself. Insertion into the cylinder generates sufficient power to read access rights programmed on the key.

Because Spark keys need no external power source, they can help organisations to save energy and achieve sustainability goals.

Spark keys are more convenient for users and administrators because no battery changes are ever needed.

They are compatible with existing and new eCLIQ access systems and software — and can unlock all 60 eCLIQ cylinder types, including padlocks and cam-locks for access points beyond just doors.

To learn more about how ASSA ABLOY supports green building certification, visit:

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