Best Access Control System for Apartments (& 4 Key Considerations)

Elliot Blackler July 14, 2022 15 min read

Contemporary apartment complexes and other buildings, both rented and owned, have started to move away from traditional lock and key technology and begun embracing different ways of getting into the building through the front door and even into the apartment itself.

Due to the sheer amount of people who come in and out of an apartment complex it can sometimes be challenging to ensure everyone is safe and all the keys, and thus the doors, are secure. Countless times people lose their keys, leave them in the lock or simply break them. 

These are just some of the reasons that access control for apartments has become such a hot topic in the last few years, and part of the reason that the industry as a whole is booming.

In this detailed guide, we are going to explore access control systems that can be implemented into apartment blocks, flats, and other similar properties.

We will be looking at how the access control systems work, some different features, benefits and finding the right system for your apartment.

To summarise the above:

  • Access Control for Apartments Features
  • Apartments Access Control Basics
  • Types of Apartment Access Control
  • Benefits of Apartments Access Control
  • How to Find the Best Apartments Access Control System
  • Apartments Access Control Cost
  • Deciding on the Best Apartments Access Control System

Short on time? Download our Nortech Access Control Comparison


Key Components of Access Control for Apartments

Access control for apartments offers a lot to all parties, whether that is the landlord, the owner or the tenant, and with the rise of access control technologies across a lot of different industries from gyms to schools, to warehouses there are a lot of ways to utilise and deploy this technology.

When it comes to apartment complexes specifically there are definitely some different elements that are important to consider and think about when looking into apartment access control.

 

A Safer Complex 

Apartments often have a large amount of foot traffic, from the residents themselves, workmen and women, delivery drivers, landlords, visitors, friends and family. It is important to keep the building secure around the clock and keep everyone feeling safe and secure.

Finding ways to keep your apartment secure is important, and access control is a huge step in the right direction.

Deploying an access control system within the apartments creates a much safer place for everyone involved and allows for various potential security issues to be avoided. 

 

Organisation and New Resident Management 

Being able to have a much tighter control on the apartment complex and the issued ‘keys’ is an important element when implementing an apartment access control system. 

Whether it is from an organisational perspective or being able to quickly and easily help manage new residents and the issuing of new ‘keys’.

An apartment access control system will allow for simpler new residents and tenants arriving and old resident turnover.

 

Managing the Apartments

Finding ways to more effectively manage your apartment complex is always beneficial for everyone involved, from allowing the residents to get into their home a lot quicker to being able to duplicate an old keycard (or key) quickly when one has been lost or stolen.

The added feature of being able to disable an old digital key’s access is also incredibly important, for instance if an old resident forgot to hand in their key or other credentials (keycard, key fob, etc…)

 

Fire & Emergency Safety 

In the event of a fire or other emergency within the apartment complex an access control system can help unlock all the doors and exits providing safe ways to get out of the building quickly and efficiently.

Compared to a lock and key building this makes for a much safer and easier way to escape the apartments and get all the residents to safety with ease.

 

How Does Access Control for Apartments Work?

Access control is widely used in a variety of industries and you have probably even used this technology without even knowing it. A very similar example of how access control is used for rooms and entrances is in the hotel industry, typically using hotel key cards.

Hotel key cards are a form of access control and one of the areas we will be covering in the following section.

To oversimplify key cards for access control act as a way of identifying you, the card holder, as the person who is staying in the room via a digital identification process, the key is programmed at the reception to ‘talk’ to the reader at your room and grant you access.

We will briefly look into a few different methods of access control that could be deployed within apartments. The broad concept of access control is the same, it is a form of security system that can keep an area secure and can even be referred to as digital keys.

 

Types of Apartments Access Control 

Keeping an apartment complex secure can come down to so many factors and there are a huge amount of extraneous variables that come into play. 

Although a lot of the different forms of access control would work in theory for apartments, we will be covering the most popular or likely access control technologies that are likely to be deployed for apartments.

For the sake of simplicity and readability, we will be keeping each section fairly brief to give a basic overview of the technology and how it would be installed in an apartment scenario.

Smart Card Access Control

As we briefly looked at above, one of the most popular options for access control is smart card access control which is what is used in the majority of hotels and even, more recently, in gyms too.

A smart card system is one of the most trusted, widely used and recognised access control technologies on the market. It is both low cost and highly effective. 

Smart card access control is basically a form of digital lock that uses a credit card sized ‘key’ or as it's called in the industry, a credential to identify the user and unlock the door. The card is typically inserted into the reader but can also be scanned by a tap too.

This form of access control is one of the most user friendly and would lend itself well to a variety of settings including, but not limited to, apartment access control.

Key Fob Access Control 

Although a lot of people have not come across the name access control before, it is fairly likely they have used a form of it in the past few years, due to its popularity. 

One of the most commonly used types of access control for apartments is key fob access control. As the name suggests, a key fob, sometimes called a keyring is used to tap the reader and grant access to a building.

Key fobs are arguably the easiest methods of access control to implement and use, hence why they've become so widespread and popular of the last few years.

Proximity Access Control 

Often confused with key fobs, proximity cards are a fairly similar form of access control, but do have a few nuances that separate them from key fob technology.

Although you may not be familiar with the name proximity cards or ‘prox cards’ for short, you have probably used this form of technology recently. In fact, contactless bank cards are technically a form of proximity access control.

The card, be it a form of payment or the ‘key’ to a door, has a low frequency and low distance read range where the data from the card is effectively read, this is often only a few centimetres. 

Near Field Communication Access Control

Near Field Communication or NFC for short, is a form of access control that is used in a few different ways, and if you are an eagle eyed technology user, you may have even seen these settings on your phone or smart watch.

NFC readers can work in two similar but different ways depending on the technology used within the credential, it can be either active or passive.

Active NFC technology means that the technology is always active and there is a battery in the device which powers it, as opposed to passive which effectively gets charged by the scanner it taps on. 

For the majority of access control for apartments, it would make more sense to have passive technology used, as there is no need to have the internal technology powered up when they are away from the doors.

The Future of Access Control for Apartments

As we have alluded to, in this area of access control, we often look to hotels as the inspiration and where the industry is going when it comes to securing private property and rooms. 

With this being said, one of the next steps that hotels are looking at implementing is utilising your phone as a digital key

This could be through a few different technologies and even ran via an app. For example, bluetooth, near field communication and even barcodes or QR codes could be used as a form of access control via a mobile device.

There are a lot of different directions that access control for apartments can go into, and there is not specifically one or another that is the right one. 

Sometimes one technology overcomes its competitors and becomes the dominant one, we’ve seen this countless times in history from Betamax vs VHS, Bluray vs DVD, to Netflix vs Redbox.

 

Benefits of Access Control System for Apartments

Obviously, when it comes to apartment access control benefits there are a lot that may be a higher priority for one complex and ones that would be more important to another. 

In addition, every type of access control system has its own usage and nuances, so we will be covering mostly broad benefits of access control for apartments.

Security Benefits of Apartments Access Control

 

Keep Your Apartment Safe

Access control systems are significantly more secure than other security methods when it comes to ingress and egress control, i.e. getting in and out of a building. 

Having a digital security system is much more robust and the locks cannot be picked or broken into like a traditional type of lock can be, making them much safer and secure. 

 

Limit or Even Eliminate Copies Being Made 

As we have seen, regardless of the access control technology used, they are hard to replicate the credential, as much more difficult than getting a copy of a metal key cut

For example, anyone could take a key and get it cut at a locksmiths or even at a key vending machine, you are not able to do this with access control systems.

 

Keep Outsiders Out 

To further emphasise the above points, access control systems are able to keep an area much more secure with the additional information the systems provide.

Let’s put this into context, at the security office or wherever the system is managed, you can see when a certain card has been tapped or used, and even who used it if the system is complex enough. 

Therefore you can keep an eye out for irregular or odd activity much easier with trackable and usable data.

Resident & Tenant Benefits of Apartments Access Control

 

Easier Access 

As we have alluded to in the above point, it is much simpler as a resident to use your access control credential (key) than it is to use another form of entry, such as jingling for your keys and unlocking the door. 

In addition, the majority of access control doors will automatically lock again once they are closed, which means you will not have to worry throughout the day if you locked your front door or the front entrance to the apartments. 

 

No Metal Keys

As I am sure you have noticed, we as a society have limited the places we use metal keys in the last decade or so. From hotels no longer using keys to keyless entry to cars and number plate recognition systems, we are rarely using traditional metal keys. 

The majority, if not all access solutions for apartments would fit in a wallet or purse and have fail safes too, so are much easier to use (and not lose) than metal keys.

Furthermore, this helps alleviate the possibility of someone gaining access to your apartment after you have lost your key.

 

Simple to Operate 

Often, when it comes to new technology and updates to procedures, especially at your home, people are stubborn and reluctant to change.

In the case of access control solutions for apartments, all of the systems are designed to be simple to use and effectively foolproof. 

If you can unlock a door with a key, you can unlock a door with an access control credential. It is often as simple as tapping your keycard or credential against a reader or scanner, and within seconds you will have access to the door.

General Benefits of Apartments Access Control

 

Make Residents Feel Safer

Having the people who are living in the apartments day to day feel secure within their own home is incredibly important, this is even more critical if they are renting, as they could easily leave and find another rental.

An apartment access control system allows for a much safer and more secure internal environment, due to a much harder system to breach and less likely for strangers to gain access to the building.

In addition, when a criminal sees a more intense security system and deployed technologies they are much less likely to even attempt a crime, removing the potential for heat of the moment crimes.

 

Works Well With Other Technologies

It is not secret that access control technology is often installed as part of a wider security system, this is typically because it plays so well with other systems and can be used to increase other security technology’s effectiveness and vice versa.

This does not mean that it is not effective without other technology such as CCTV or ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) but they do work very well as two or multi-layer security systems. 

A lot of the time, an apartment block might have some other form of security technology, especially in London, for example, where apartment CCTV is more widely used.

 

Improve Your Image 

It is vital as an apartment complex to show your residents and tenants that you are serious about keeping them secure and make them feel safe in their homes. With this being said, access control solutions offer a perfect solution.

Showing that you are invested and investing in your resident’s security and helping them have a smooth and safer entrance and exit from their property makes your apartments have a much improved image in their eyes.

 

What Do You Look For in the Best Access Control for Apartments?

When you are on the market for an access control system for apartments there are countless things that you may want to consider or research and that is completely dependent on each case. 

What is important to one apartment may be a non factor for another. With this in mind, we will be covering a few broader things to look out for when looking at apartment access control systems.

 

Value for Money

This does not specifically mean the cheapest option, and value for money (VFM) is more how much does it provide for you? As opposed to how much is it? 

Working out which system will provide you with the best value for money is key to think about. Although an apartment might not always think of ROI (return on investment) as something that is important for a security system, it is actually a core part of VFM.

 

Easy for the Residents (Users)

Finding an access control solution that works for your residents and tenants is obviously a core factor to consider. 

If the people using it aren’t gaining benefit from its installation they are likely to be annoyed and will take their anger out on you.

You are aiming to make both yours and your resident’s lifes easier, not harder, so find a solution that is going to benefit not only you but them too.

 

Creates a Safer Entry/Exit 

Sometimes the reason that an apartment will look at an access control solution is because of a breakin or a change of management or other external factors. 

Regardless of the reason, you want to ensure you have improved the entry and exit to the building and created a safer solution, whichever technology you use.

Utilising different technologies within access control systems can help improve this, for example, anti-passback systems do exactly what they say in the name, stop people coming back through the system too quickly.

 

Simple to Manage 

As we have alluded to above, it is important to work out ways to improve both your life from an administration and management standpoint, whilst simultaneously improving your user’s lifes too.

Having an access control system that is easy to manage that does not take your time away from other tasks and aims to solve problems is what you should be looking for.

Working out which access control technology is best for your apartment complex can be tricky because there are so many options. Each access control system has their own benefits and usages, doing research will help you determine which works for you.

 

Cost of Access Control Systems for Apartments

Trying to figure out the cost of fitting an access control system into a block of apartments may seem like a daunting task, but in the majority of applications, it is only the entrance and or exits that are fitted with the technology. 

Contrary to popular belief, all the doors do not need to be fitted, i.e. every resident’s apartment does not need an access control reader and separate credential to get into it. 

Instead, the residents would have access to the external doors only, in some instances inner doors may be fitted too in the corridors for example.

Below are just a few examples of factors that could affect the overall price of fitting access control technology in apartments, this is not an exhaustive list, more of a guide for the kind of elements that might play a part.

  • Apartment Location (a city centre would be more costly, for example)
  • Amount of Entrances or Exits and Apartments That Require Access Control
  • Potential of External Intervention or Break Ins
  • Access Control System/s That Need to be Installed
  • Current Security Systems Being Used
  • How Hard The Job is (Level of Complexity)
  • Which Model or Brand of Access Control Technology is Used
  • Local Installer Rates in the Area

 

If you are interested in getting more information for your apartments then look no further, our expert security team are always happy to help and give some additional information, click the following link to request a quote.

Speculative Apartments Access Control Example

Being able to determine the cost of installing access control for apartments is by no means a short answer, and not really a total that can easily be figured out. 

As we have looked at above, there are a lot of factors that can have an impact on the cost.

We are going to give an example of the kind of cost that a complex might have, to give a little more context to the pricing of an access control system for apartments.

 

Per External Apartment Door  Access Control Cost: £350 - £800 x 2 Doors

 

Issuing Credentials to Residents: £1.50 - £3 per person

 

Maintenance (Yearly): £100 - £150

 

Repair Costs - Average Cost of £100

 

Additional Costs - Replacement parts, readers, controllers etc, anywhere from £120 - £400 depending on what needs to be fixed 

 

Choose the Right Access Control System for Apartments

Apartments can be incredibly diverse and different places depending on a plethora of factors and grouping them is not technically the right way to approach access control solutions. 

What we mean by this is that what works for one set of apartments may not work for another one, for example, some may have a barrier or gate and require parking solutions, whereas some may be split into multiple buildings and even locations.

Needless to say, every apartment will definitely have a preferential type of access control that would work best for them, but that by no means there is only one option available for them.

Factors such as budget, location, number of residents and current security measures will come into play too.

If you are interested in learning what might be the best solution for your apartments feel free to reach out to our UK based team of experts.

Nortech have been an industry leader in security and access control systems for over 30 years and we would be happy to help find you the right option for you and your apartments.

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Why Should You Trust Us?

It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

Please consider subscribing or adding to the conversation in the comments below. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our resource centre.

Elliot Blackler

Elliot is the in-house content specialist at Nortech and runs all aspects of the resource hub. He's passionate about UK manufacturing and how modern content marketing can help bring light to complex industries.

Elliot works extensively with the Nortech team to shine a light on the access control industry for both installers and end users. Always keen to improve, feel free to email him on new content suggestions or feedback!

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