How retrofit projects can modernize entrance security

by arslan_ahmed | November 16, 2022 9:00 am

Photos courtesy Boon Edam

By Greg Schreiber

There are a range of entrance security requirements which vary in purpose, risk, and threat. What is acceptable for a community centre or subway paid zone may not be adequate for a company’s research and development centre. Even higher security requirements may be required in other situations.

Physical security retrofit is not as simple as it used to be. In a continuous pandemic, health compliance mandates, and growing social polarization and upheaval, such as the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol Building—today’s physical security upgrades must transcend previous technologies, which focused primarily on minimizing organizational risk.

Most enterprise companies have a pressing need for physical security modernization, which requires increased spending on technology solutions. Corporate physical security lacks in investing and adopting modern tools and technologies, especially when compared to cybersecurity, regarding it as a cost centre with little revenue potential to the bottom line.

According to a report1 on physical security threats, corporate security concerns have been accelerated by the pandemic and social discontent. The report states, “A proactive, always-on, data and intelligence-driven function powered by universal, accessible technology has never been more important for corporations, and a physical security digital transformation movement is underway.”

The report also added, “This rapid change and expansion of the physical threat landscape has created an exponential increase in data and pre-incident indicators that have become unmanageable.”

Evolving threats are the key motivator

The sudden enhanced desire for security upgrades and total retrofits has not been put into action yet because of concerns related to outdated technology solutions. Still, there is a higher awareness, organizational responsibility, and a renewed commitment to the “duty of care” to protect, not only people and anything of critical importance, but cyber-information as well; all while responding appropriately and promptly to lockdowns, intrusions, forensic information, and any unforeseen responses.

The facilities with existing secured entrance technologies realized their swinging doors with access readers will not meet the needs for tighter, more scrutinized security and health checks because of compromised throughput or tailgating issues. Conversely, other facilities which did not previously deploy security entrances may find them necessary now. However, simply specifying a new entrance is not a sound strategy to ensure a successful installation or upgrade as there are other key factors to consider.

Optical turnstile solutions provide a strong visual deterrent against intrusion and their physical barrier supports regulatory compliance and risk reduction to companies across the globe.

The main motivator for security upgrades remains the evolving threat landscape. Since business operations changed because of the pandemic, the drivers which were once ample for a secure and safe facility are no longer sufficient. The pandemic increased the demand for security entrances, as organizations now seek better means to control the flow of traffic into their facilities, especially with flexible work schedules where employees work at different hours. The type of security entrance deployed varies based on whether the entrance is manned by a security personnel some or all the time, or completely unsupervised. Different categories of security entrances are available to cater to the specific needs of each entry/egress location within a facility.

Laying the foundation strategy

The emerging role security entrances play in mitigating the costly liabilities associated with unauthorized entry, while assisting in the safety and well-being of staff, has never been more important. For instance, building owners working closely with emergency departments understood they should account for the changing social landscape and the growing options of available entrance technologies to control access and monitor safety. Picking a product which fits the blueprint, without considering the organizational culture and unique nature of the building, can lead a project to failure.

Understanding the goals

Before launching a physical security plan, the project team should be aware of the unique needs and demands of every organization. To mitigate risks and liabilities, they must address unauthorized entry, such as theft, bad press, legal fines, and loss of life. Each organization has a different building layout, security goals, government regulations, etc. Prior to selecting an entrance strategy, it is the owner’s responsibility to research and incorporate various elements, such as culture and throughput, and anything the organization should take into consideration regarding security.

The first step, for business owners wanting to upgrade the physical security entrances, is to define their organization’s security goals by understanding the threats to their facility and the culture of it. With this information, they can choose the right security solution which meets their organization’s needs and is a good fit with their corporate culture. Often, security consultants looking into entrances for their clients are asked the wrong questions such as, “How much does it cost?” and “How many do I need?” Instead, clients should focus on the “Why?” questions, so they can discover their overall goal surrounding security.

One challenge of a security retrofit project is new technology replacing an already-existing solution. In many instances, it is possible for existing technologies to still be part of the retrofit plan. To aid in the process, security professionals should develop a strategic roadmap ahead of time. This map should outline how to keep existing systems and devices functioning while the project is in progress. Moreover, this map should also be communicated to other employees and stakeholders in the organization for transparency purposes.

The entire retrofit project team should discuss three implications when selecting entrance solutions to mitigate unauthorized entry: security, mustering, and corporate culture. By considering elements, such as the need for guards, knowing how many people are in the building at all times, and balancing convenience with security; the security consultant, working with the owner, can select the right entry solution for their project.

Types of physical security entrances

Understanding the goal before selecting the technology solution is vital, especially on a retrofit project, because the new entrance may differ in expectation from the currently installed device. Creating a checklist of the available technology options is a good starting point. The following list highlights the lowest security protection level to the highest. It is important to take note of the types which require supervision.

Tripod turnstiles

Tripod turnstiles are a safe and secure entry solution for an area offering an easy and comfortable option for all users. These extremely rugged, low security deterrent solutions are straightforward and effective in controlling large volumes of people daily in supervised environments.

Security revolving doors can allow simultaneous a two-way traffic flow and a high traffic capacity.

Full-height turnstiles

Another rugged, low-maintenance solution for the harshest outdoor conditions. These act as a deterrent against tailgating and unauthorized entry at the fence line. Initially used for outdoor access control, today’s full-height turnstiles can fit the needs of the environment, whether it is a supervised interior or an uncrewed exterior monitoring.

Access and side gates

A comfortable, low security solution providing wide lane access. Although the gates do not mitigate tailgating, they are an important component of an overall risk mitigation strategy. This type of entrance supports accessibility for people with disabilities and provides a comfortable alternative for users carrying large bags, pushing strollers or dollies, or anyone who is more comfortable using a wider lane. These gates are often placed alongside turnstiles in
supervised locations.

Optical turnstiles

A popular, medium security solution for most lobby applications, providing a balance between security and visitor management. This entrance solution includes sensors, which detect tailgating and piggybacking attempts, and raises an alarm for guards to respond, however, supervision is required.

Optical turnstile solutions provide a strong visual deterrent against intrusion and their physical barrier supports regulatory compliance and risk reduction to companies across the globe. When coupled with biometric and access control devices, their automatic moving barriers can also provide a touch-free entry experience.

Security revolving doors and mantrap portals

Security revolving doors and mantrap portals prevent unauthorized entry in the form of tailgating and piggybacking. Security revolving doors can allow simultaneous a two-way traffic flow and a high traffic capacity. Mantrap portals allow a two-way traffic flow, but only in one direction at a time, while accommodating a wheelchair, delivery cart, stroller, etc. When integrated with access control or biometric systems, these solutions can become an integral component of a building’s security defence, and can be upgraded with bullet-resistant or vandal resistant glass to provide additional protection and peace of mind for the occupants.

Both entrances support regulatory compliance, risk, liability reduction, and accurate metrics collection, and are the most secure forms of security entrances a facility can install.

Architectural revolving doors

Such doors do not mitigate tailgating; however, they offer several security features, including creating safety around a public entrance. These doors can be locked remotely by a person or access control system, and support public entry during the day, alongside authorized access at night. Should a threat develop outside, they can also be remotely locked instantly in any position.

Power, access control, fire alarm connections, proper flooring, and conduit requirements must be addressed for a smooth and cost-effective installation.

Revolving doors have long been an energy-efficient and sustainable entrance for buildings. Their “always open, always closed” working principle keeps conditioned inside air and unconditioned outside air separated, which prevents drafts, dust, and noise from entering the building. Since less energy is required to maintain the conditioned climate inside the building, revolving doors help reduce the carbon footprint of a building as well and save energy and costs. Many architects today are switching from swinging door entrances with vestibules to revolving doors because they are esthetically more attractive and save space.

The choice to use revolving doors is always about saving energy. Esthetics play a part but do not drive the decision to move from swing doors to revolving doors.

Security entrances selection guidelines

There are several types of security entrances available, each designed with a specific purpose and level of protection including security mantrap portals, security revolving doors, speed gates, and full height and tripod turnstiles. To assist in selecting the right entrance solution, security entrances can be classified into three classifications:

  1. Their ability to prevent tailgating and piggybacking
  2. Their ability to detect tailgating and piggybacking
  3. Their ability to deter by monitoring or controlling traffic

Security entrances which prevent tailgating and piggybacking allow for the elimination or reallocation of guard supervision, providing security and facility managers with tangible return on investment (ROI). These solutions include revolving doors and mantrap portals, which are virtually impenetrable and prevent unauthorized intrusion. Also, by collecting metrics gathered by sensor systems in these solutions, security personnel can predict and quantify their actual risk of infiltration.

Entrances detecting tailgating and piggybacking provide a strong visual obstacle against intrusion, and when coupled with biometric and access control devices, can also detect unauthorized entry attempts in real-time and issue alarms for security personnel to take immediate action. This category of solutions includes speed gates, which are designed for this purpose and to facilitate both security and visitor management operations. Ideal for reception areas, speed gates can also support regulatory and risk reduction compliance mandates.

Security entrances which only detect unauthorized access serve as a deterrent against casual attempts to gain unauthorized access. These monitor and control traffic under the supervision of a security personnel. Appropriate for building perimeters, supervised locations, “exit only” applications, or any location where large crowds need to be controlled, the entrance solutions include full height and tripod turnstiles, wide lane gates, and monitored access solutions.

The data collected using overhead sensor systems in security entrances, designed to prevent and detect threats, can also be used as a great new source of business intelligence. The intelligence provided from these devices can help forecast and quantify an organization’s risk of infiltration and threat. Typically deployed at employee entrances and other sensitive areas within a facility, sensors further elevate the effectiveness and efficiency of security entrances as an enterprise level solution.

Each security level requires a distinctly different mix of technology and personnel. It is the security consultant’s job to help lay the foundation of how to best achieve the desired levels of security. It is also important for the consultant to aid the user when telling the C-suite about the long-range total cost of ownership (TCO) of technology deployment, as well as its potential ROI. This is best achieved by highlighting how the system can track who is in the building, mitigate physical violence opportunities, prevention of risks, and provide superior evidence collection capabilities.

The ROI factor is also relevant for the owner during any retrofit, especially when it comes to environmental considerations. Energy costs for a building can be substantial if inefficient entrances are deployed. Opting for a revolving door (with the security features mentioned earlier) is an energy-efficient way to maintain a consistent temperature in a building.

Important retrofit factors to consider

Another key consideration in planning a retrofit project is the culture of the organization. Culture permeates all other decision factors and is critical to success. A successful security policy is a direct result of top-to-bottom commitment to technology and business operations. All management, stakeholders, and staff should be engaged in the retrofit process. Everyone should be willing to assist in implementing a cultural shift in increased physical security, and communicate and train if necessary.

Most security entrances use a barrier to mitigate unauthorized entry, with the more sophisticated barriers integrating presence sensors to detect objects or users. Building owners looking to upgrade security entrances should carefully consider how proposed solutions will prevent entrapment or contact, and how they will respond to either event. With a renewed interest on safety and health impacts, these are points to be discussed during the bidding process. If not addressed, it is the one factor which can possibly undermine the success of the project.

Impacts to culture and safety are important to consider as well when retrofitting. These decisions should be based on the facility’s security compared to their safety needs. These include the ability and ease of product training for staff and the product’s response to tailgating during peak periods; for example, if the product stops and requires re-badging, and whether large objects are typically carried or pulled behind. Upgrading older security entrance technologies to larger sized and more advanced products, especially when space is limited in an older building, can prove to be troublesome and it might even eliminate other older devices. Specifiers need to ensure they have properly assessed the traffic needs of the facility before reducing the number of entrances.

Integration and compliance needs

As the integration of security turnstiles and revolving doors continues to expand into more advanced access control systems, consultants need to be cognizant of special code requirements for security entrances, and which ones differ from regular swinging and sliding doors’ requirements. They must also consider how codes vary in different provinces.

The importance of code adherence is universal but can vary according to different facility use case applications. For example, standards from the CSA Group (CSA) are aimed at setting minimum standards for protecting people and property.

Most codes require devices to operate during emergencies and power loss. There must be a battery backup option to ensure all units can operate normally for a few hours or unlock or open barriers as required by the code. When power is gone, contingencies should be in place for units which can automatically or manually open and at what critical egress points these units are deployed.

Adherence to compliance regulations at each individual entry point may determine the best solution for a particular location and redefine its parameters. If identity verification is essential, biometrics can be added to the solution, for example, creating a two-stage authentication method using credential and identity. Again, working with an experienced team is a crucial step in planning for the optimal physical security program.

Integrating security entrances with an electronic access control system can provide full insight of who accessed which areas, when, and for how long. The system can collect useful operational data, such as failed entry attempts, providing input for training programs. Any unused permissions or unusual usage patterns can be tracked. The system can also instantly and automatically update all revised or revoked access permissions; for instance, deprovisioning identity badges immediately upon an employee’s termination.

Physical constraints and support systems

The shifting security dynamic and evolving technology can be a challenge for the security consultant and the end-user in their common pursuit to design entrances on the forefront of safety, while balancing the need to welcome people and move them through efficiently. With more security entrance projects involving retrofits to existing buildings, the biggest challenge usually revolves around the flooring in the facility.

Security entrances require the floor to be super flat to work properly. In case of a security revolving door, a door rotating on an uneven floor will put undue stress on the door wings and operator. The wear and tear will be excessive, and the door would need to be replaced sooner than expected. Shimming is a popular method for trying to square a door on unlevelled floor. However, the shims will eventually force the door out of balance and plumb, resulting in a door that is hard to push, excessively loud when operating, and set to fail.

When designing for lobby turnstiles, all conduits and wiring for electrical, access control, and fire connections should run through the floor. Existing flooring configurations, especially when the floor is made of concrete with existing conduit inside, often require breaking and removing the floor to install the new wiring and conduit in the appropriate locations. This can add considerable expense to the retrofit project and may also be technically prohibitive, depending on the building.

Some buildings may also have flooring structures which do not allow for any excavation. One potential solution to these problems is to add special, above-grade platforms which are mounted to the floor surface under the turnstiles. These platforms include inclined ramps on each side, complying with accessibility requirements. Power, access control, fire alarm connections, proper flooring, and conduit requirements must be properly addressed to ensure a smooth and cost-effective installation. These items should be in place and functional before the installation begins.


Security entrances play an important role in organizational risk management, safety, and security. Covering a range of factors and considerations for specifications will help make security entrance upgrades or retrofit project a success; however, there are additional factors which can make or break a retrofit project. Choosing a manufacturer who will offer scalable and flexible options, as well as top-of-the-range standard products if ease and convenience are a need, is key to this process.

Every project and installation is different, and sometimes a customized product outweighs the importance of speed and standardized design specs. The security entrance manufacturer should be part of the integrated design team and viewed as a partner who is invested in the client’s long-term ROI and is equipped and knowledgeable enough to guide the client and themselves in this area.


1 Read the Ontic Center’s report, “The 2021 State of Protective Intelligence Report.”


Greg Schreiber has been with Boon Edam for precisely 20 years and currently is senior vice-president of sales. His career spans for more than 25 years in the security entrance and door industry in a variety of sales management roles, including national sales manager from 2007 to 2012, vice-president of sales from 2013 to 2016, and most recently his current role. Since 2013, Schreiber has successfully steered the North American and global accounts sales teams to produce double-digit sales growth.

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