Growing focus on safety for students a key driver of success for well-designed educational institutions

By Michael Fisher, Managing Director, Boon Edam Australia

Safety on campus is becoming an ever-stronger consideration for international students when deciding where to study – and an incentive for local students to prefer one educational institution over another.

The importance of a secure and welcoming environment was confirmed clearly in the 2022 QS University Rankings, by Quacquarelli Symonds, which is one of the most comprehensive and widely read ranking systems in the world.

Melbourne and Sydney came in the top 10 of 115 cities globally considered for Best Student Cities in the world for studying abroad, on scores of 95.5 and 94.3 (ahead of Paris, for example, on 92.1) ranked on liveability factors including safety and security. Also in the top third of preferred university cities were Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland, and Perth.

Protection against crimes such as burglary, violence, mugging, robbery, theft, and sexual assault were also among the top criteria of the 75,000 respondents involved globally in an earlier QS group survey, which confirmed how important the efforts are among Australasian educational institutions to ensure their on-site security and the well-being of students and staff.

Student and educational institution safety has major ramifications for educational institution design as Australasia emerges from Covid restrictions and seeks to attract back international students. This important group has contributed more than $A35 billion into both countries’ economies in recent years, directly boosting local jobs and wages and lifting the living standards of both countries.

A groundswell of change towards increased security for educational facilities and their students had already begun well before the Covid pandemic. Designers and managers of such facilities were already examining their Duty of Care towards student welfare in the face of local headlines about hostility towards students, as well reports in the UK, for example, that students there were more at risk of crime and mental health issues. After incidents of violence in the US, the Californian Supreme Court caused the law to be updated to state that post-secondary institutions have a duty to protect students from foreseeable violent acts that occur while students are engaged in curricular activities.

So this is a global challenge, with highly significant future outcomes for major educational marketers such as Australia and New Zealand. The question for designers and architects will not only be how to design more security into their facilities, but also how to do it cost-efficiently and without creating an oppressive atmosphere. I think all of us who have studied at tertiary institutions would like to remember it as a vibrant fun place, so it is important to consider not only the effectiveness of security, but also the atmosphere and aesthetics it creates.

Security experts agree that the three most important components of a physical security plan are access control, surveillance, and security testing, which work together to make your space more secure.

Case Study One: Columbia College

How to achieve this is well illustrated by Columbia College Chicago’s five-story, 10,590 sq m Student Centre, which is the first such centre on its expansive urban campus since the school’s founding in 1890. The structure provides a diverse student body with a welcoming, inspiring hub for creativity, collaboration, and chance encounters. It is also an example of Boon Edam’s layered, effective yet stylish and unobtrusive approach to security.

This building offers five spectacular stories of spaces for students including music and film-screening rooms, dining options, a fitness centre, a reflection room for meditation and prayer, and event spaces for meetings, performances, and receptions.

A Boon Edam TQM manual revolving door, centre. In addition to conserving energy by acting to prevent expensive HVAC heating and cooling, Boon Edam revolving doors can be integrated into broader security systems that conserve manpower while increasing entrance safety.

According to Andy Dutil, Director of the Columbia College Chicago Student Centre, the school has taken the initiative to improve overall security, with the intention of keeping an open feel to the campus. To help meet that objective at the new Centre, the architects designed the building with Speedlane Open optical turnstiles and a TQM manual revolving door from Boon Edam.


Columbia College Chicago has a closed campus. In order to enter any building on campus, students and staff must have a Columbia ID or visitors must have a valid appointment.


The main entrance at the Student Centre is the TQM revolving door that leads to a public foyer that includes a coffee shop and lounge.


Since the turnstiles are just past the security desk at the boundary of this area, they serve as a visual and physical indicator of where the public area terminates.


Next to the Speedlane Open turnstiles, which are notable because they do not have any closing barriers, guards watch as people pass through them to ensure that everyone is scanning their IDs and that the IDs are valid, in which case the turnstile shows a green light. In a situation where a red light shows and the turnstile alarms, the guard will check the person’s credentials and can try to troubleshoot the ID card.


Controlling Access with Visual Appeal


Columbia College sought an open but secure atmosphere, where access is controlled without security being obtrusive.

“The decision was really about what creates the least barrier to those entering and exiting the building,” said Dutil. “We don’t really want our students to feel like they are overly policed or that our buildings are not accessible to them. So the design of the Open turnstiles provided the best solution in terms of controlling access without being obtrusive.”

Swift Passage While Maintaining Accountability

Before the Student Centre was built, students entering any campus building would just show their ID to the security officer as they walked past. The administration realised that while this does provide some level of security, it is not foolproof – particularly when many people are entering at the same time for a class.

The College’s head of security made the suggestion to install a system that would allow for swift passage of authorised people while maintaining accountability around who enters and exits the building.

As anticipated, there was a brief learning curve for the students using the new system. “This was the first system like this on our campus,” said Dutil. “And the first few days that the new Centre was open were also the first few days of school. There were a lot of people new to the campus who required a bit of coaching from guards and our student staff in terms of where to place your card, and to not walk through before you place your card.”

Coming Out Ahead of Swinging Doors

Dutil confirms that the access systems placed at Boon Edam turnstiles are actually outperforming those placed at swing doors across the campus for convenience and adoption. “Across the campus, there is a card reader at every swing door entrance of a building where you present your card and a light turns red or green. But oftentimes the card reader is missed or depending on the placement of the lights and placement of the guard, it can be kind of hit or miss with students walking right by it.”

“But with the Open turnstiles, they’re very visible and although they’re not a total barrier to entry, they are something that’s right in front of you. Because it’s very noticeable and not easily overlooked, the students have learned pretty quickly to get their ID out. In fact, this was meant to be a test run for the campus to ensure it would be viable and worthwhile for other buildings as well.”

Touchless advantages with Covid

Another major advantage of technology like the Boon Edam Speedlane Open turnstiles is that they are touchless. As the world grapples with how to keep Covid under control, touchless entry solutions have increasing benefits in stopping the spread of disease and infection, which can be so easily spread through multiple people touching a door handle, for example.

Students are one group that has had trouble with containing Covid globally because they typically employ a more communal approach to living and hygiene practices compared with older demographics. So any measures that can mitigate the spread of disease on campus have a broader benefit to the institution’s community.

Case Study Two: NC State University Hill Library

Founded in 1887 as a public, land-grant, research university and part of the University of North Carolina system, NC State is the largest university in the Carolinas. The university is home to two libraries: the D. H. Hill Jr. Library on the North Campus and the James B. Hunt Jr. Library on Centennial Campus.

The Hill Library houses over one million volumes of the libraries’ total collection and offers a number of different common spaces for work and study. A recent renovation transformed the interior with the addition of an open grand staircase. The stairs connect the second and third floors to the lobby and flood the space with natural light. As part of this renovation, four Boon Edam Lifeline Speedlane Swing optical turnstiles were added to the Hillsboro Street entrance on the north side of the building. Two of the new turnstiles are for visitors entering the library, and the other two are dedicated for those exiting.

More Efficient Security at the Entry

The Hill Library is open to the general public during certain hours, with visits limited to the campus community the rest of the time. During the day, when the library is open to all, the turnstile barriers are kept open for free entry and exit. After general hours, the exterior swinging doors lock, and authorised visitors must use their ID badges to unlock the doors and subsequently pass through the turnstiles.

Processing up to 10,000 People per Day

On a typical day during the school semester, the turnstiles process approximately 6,000 to 7,000 students and other visitors. During the summer, this number drops to 400, but during exam time, usage peaks with up to 10,000 people entering the library every day. The campus population had no difficulty adapting to the new turnstiles at the Hill Library, as there were already turnstiles in place at the Hunt Library. According to Travis Tyo, the Director of Facilities for the Libraries, the new Speedlane Swing turnstiles were an improvement from the older turnstiles, due to their accurate ability to sense tailgating attempts and avoid barrier contact with fast moving users.

Upgrades Continue with New Additions

The University is already implementing another installation of Speedlane Swings at the south entrance to the Hill Library. The new entry will match the layout of the north entrance, with four turnstile lanes and a security guard on site. A future installation at the Hunt Library is also in the works.

Travis says of the installation, “We worked closely with our Security and Applications Technologies departments here on campus; we tested different products, and everybody liked the Boon Edam turnstiles and the ability of the company to respond whenever we need them. Ultimately it is much simpler and more efficient to have people badge in than to have a security guard look at IDs as each person enters the library.”

Boon Edam advantages

Unlike security providers committed to one type of entrance security or another, Boon Edam offers a full suite of security entrance products to fit a full range of needs emerging in Australasia. It is one of the world’s leading ranges of revolving doors and security entrances, which offers maximum security where it is needed and graduated security where it is suitable. It complements and reduces the cost of manned security, by using security staff where they are most needed and freeing them up from areas where they are not.

This layered strategy is based on Boon Edam’s 140 years of experience in architectural revolving doors and entrance security, which now extends over 27 countries and includes scores of Fortune 500 companies globally, as well as household names in data and information management.

Boon Edam security technology installations based on this truly global range and experience are taking place across Australasia in banks, legislatures, treasuries, company headquarters and public spaces (that cannot be specifically named because of the security implications and contractual obligations).

Duty of Care relevant in Australia

Publicly accessible facilities in Australia and New Zealand are seeing the value of entrance security technologies and strategies that have already been adopted to protect staff, visitors, intellectual property and cyber facilities globally.

Employers and facility operators in Australasia have a legal duty of care to look ahead, to see what might happen in their facility. No-one can say ‘It’s never happened before,’ because anticipation of future trends is built into Duty of Care.

Furthermore, educational institutions in Australasia have a growing fiduciary obligation to keep both students and employers safe from harm. There have been instances where institutions have been exposed to class actions because they were found to have not put reasonable protective measures in place.

So we all have to know what’s going on and how to plan to meet the challenge with a security checklist that includes the key stages of risk mitigation with security entrances – crowd control, deter, detect, and prevent.

Boon Edam’s broad security entrance suite extends from the Winglock Swing access gate (far right) to sophisticated building entrance and interior portals such as Tourlock and Circlelock (fourth and fifth from left, respectively), with built-in StereoVision 2 anti-piggybacking technology that uses a combination of optical and near-infrared sensors to recognise shapes, size, and volume in three dimensions, without impact from lighting or reflections.

At the end of the day, security entrances are a good investment for any organisation that needs to control access to any points in their facilities. And proper security doesn’t have to come at a crippling cost – in security situations where our security products complement and replace costly manpower, they could pay for themselves within just a few years. The ROI in these cases would be total and the benefits ongoing.


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