Case Study: Boise State University Gets to the Core of Housing Security

Boise State University built higher security into its expanded student housing facilities by standardizing on patent-protected small format interchangeable lock cores for new construction and replacing lock cylinders in existing buildings. The patented keyway prevents unauthorized duplication and gives the university better control over who has keys, while standardization reduces maintenance and spare parts requirements.

Boise State University is Idaho’s metropolitan university, located in the state’s population center and capital city. It offers a variety of undergraduate, graduate and technical programs in eight colleges, including an extensive evening program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The university’s 168-acre main campus includes more than 60 buildings, with an enrollment exceeding 18,000 students. Student housing accommodations include 890 beds in existing resident halls plus recently added facilities that include 375 resident hall beds in a suite configuration, another 77 four-bedroom suite apartments and 150 two-bedroom apartments for family-type living. Adding the new residence hall accommodations and apartments was a $31-million project, completed in time for the 2004 fall term. The two-building Keiser/Taylor residence hall project includes Keiser hall on the south and Taylor hall on the north.

Housing Expansion Sparks Security Upgrades

Concurrent with the new housing construction, the university saw a need to improve overall student housing security. Jim Olsen, Maintenance & Operations supervisor, says,“We were satisfied with the mechanics of the previous key system, but the security wasn’t as good as we wanted.” Locksmith Maurice G. Hamlin explains,“The keyway’s patent restriction had expired some time ago, so it was easy for people to duplicate keys. We had a number of keys show up that we hadn’t issued, and some master keys had been lost over the years. The useful life of the system had expired, so the decision was made to incorporate a new system into the two new projects and change the existing buildings at the same time.”

After investigating various keyway options, Olsen and Hamlin worked with IR Security & Safety and its local dealer Clark Security Products to convert the entire student housing to the patent-protected Schlage Everest keyway. Now key blanks can only be obtained from the manufacturer. This minimizes the possibility of unauthorized key duplication for many years, and the protection of patent law puts teeth in its enforcement.

One of the biggest improvements is the control provided by the new key system. “With the new key system,” Olsen says, “we have a new key policy, and all key distribution is tightly controlled. It wasn’t uncommon before for people to take grand masters home. Now, we’ll issue building masters instead of grand masters. It’s a much tighter policy than we had.” Under the new key policy, no employees will be allowed to take keys home, and no master-level keys will leave the campus.

Hamlin says upgrades at the existing buildings are mainly core changes. Because the previous system used small-format interchangeable core locks, it is a fairly simple matter to replace them with the Schlage Everest cores and get the system up and running without extensive hardware changes.

Standardization Pays Off in the Long Term

For the new buildings, hardware standards include the Schlage Everest keyways, as well as Von Duprin exit devices, LCN door closers and other related hardware that forms part of the same system. This coincides with university-wide standards that have been established to simplify maintenance, minimize spare parts stocks and reflect life-cycle costs instead of simply purchase price.

Olsen notes, “Low bid is the opposite of dollarization. We’ve had a history of problems because of low bid, and we’ve gotten to the point where we recognize that value is going to pay for itself by reducing problems later on. You can pay now or pay later. We’ve only got so much time to spend, and we don’t want to spend it running around fixing things that keep breaking.”

He says that bids can be brand-specific but not source-specific, so a bidding process still is part of any project. However, by combining it with product standards, the university is assured of getting consistent quality and reducing the volume of different spare parts it must maintain. Olsen adds that maintaining the standard on new construction is easier if the project is furnished “less hardware,” and the hardware is handled by a separate bid or purchased from suppliers who are on state contract. Another benefit of the new key system is its expandability. Olsen says, “The Everest design allows us to have multiple keyways under different levels of masters and grand masters.” This is an advantage for the university’s combination of new and existing buildings, as well as for future expansion.

Bud Rountree of Clark Security Products points out that the timing of the changeover was fortunate for the university. “There was an incentive program in effect from Ingersoll-Rand that allowed customers who purchased a certain amount of locks to also buy a Club Car utility vehicle for a dollar. Because of the timing of its projects, the university qualified, and we presented the vehicle to them recently. It should be a useful addition to get around the campus for maintenance work.” Club Car is part of Ingersoll-Rand, which is also the parent company of the lock and hardware manufacturer, IR Security & Safety.

Olsen adds that the vehicle’s maneuverability will be an advantage with the addition of more buildings on campus. “With the tight footprint of the new buildings, we’re not going to be able to drive our regular vehicles down the sidewalk, and the Club Car is an outstanding alternative,” he says. “We can just throw in our tools and the parts we need and pull up to a service entry without taking up a lot of space or making a lot of noise.” Hamlin notes that the custodial staff has made good use of the vehicle, which benefits the entire department. In addition the Club Car and another one the university already owned are used at the beginning and end of the school year to transport students and their belongings to buildings that do not have vehicle access.

With the new buildings, the university also is applying other hardware solutions. For areas that require more stringent access control, they are testing Schlage CM computer-managed locks, which provide electronic access control without hard wiring. Information can be downloaded from the locks to a PDA and computer-managed to access audit trail information as well as changing credential authorizations.