FC&A Magazine - Future Constructor & Architect
Product Specific
Assured Security and Access Control  for Public Buildings

The ownership, management and use of public buildings have evolved over recent years, meaning balancing security and access control for staff, assets and users can be something of a challenge. Here, Craig Birch, Product Category Manager at UNION, explains why the long-held perception of mechanically operated push button locksets as a security device for public buildings is potentially placing people and assets at risk, as well as the latest changes to the BS 8607 standards affecting this product that can help overcome this issue.


Mechanically operated push button locksets are used in public buildings around the world, to help manage access control at a site, as well as protect assets and people. However, it is an uncomfortable truth that these products very rarely offer any real level of security. They are, in fact, generally more a means of access control. Yet, for many years, mechanically operated push button locksets have been purchased as a means of securing an area where only authorised personnel are permitted. This is a commonly-held misconception of the purpose this product should serve.

Put simply, mechanically operated push button locksets are vulnerable to physical attack. A strong shoulder charge or kick would likely force most older ones open – not ideal for a device that is thought of by many as a security solution.

This is because the locking device typically used with traditional mechanically operated push button locksets is simply a tubular latch. These can be easily pushed back and do not offer any sideload resistance. Furthermore, many models can often be overridden because manufacturers do not supply the product with a code that differs from the original factory setting. As a result, there is a risk that many mechanically operated push button locksets will unlock from the same code, unless someone has taken the initiative to update this.

Many of those responsible for security and access control in public buildings have tried to overcome these shortcomings by using two devices on a single application. For instance, a British Standard lock with a key will be used, as well as a low-security access control device as well. However, operators are then faced with the task of deciding who needs to access this room and how many keys need to be issued, all of which comes at a cost and presents other opportunities for security to be compromised.

However, BS 8607 – the standard for mechanically operated push button locksets – offers a series of grades that these locks can meet for strength and robustness. Grade 5 is the newest and most stringent level for delivering assured security and access control. But what does it offer that grade 4 does not?

Setting the standard

Both grade 4 and grade 5 of BS 8607 stipulate that products meeting these standards must be suitable for “applications where security, abuse and usage levels are expected to be equivalent to BS 3621”, which relates to thief-resistant locks.

Products for both grades 4 and 5 also undergo a General Vulnerability Assessment, using tools such as vice grips, cordless drills, picking tools, chisels and wedges. But if the security, abuse and usage levels are the same, what then is the difference between the two grades?

Essentially, those rated grade 4 can only achieve this standard with the help of an integral additional locking unit. So, with a grade 4 product, users must lock and unlock the solution from the inside with a key, and then operate the mechanically operated push button lockset from the outside to unlock the door.

In contrast, a mechanically operated push button lockset that meets grade 5 standards provides a ‘one-stop’ security and access control solution; one that does not require a separate locking unit. With a grade 5 product, the latch and lock are integrated and tested together, without the need for an additional key. This means that, when it shuts, a grade 5 solution automatically locks. Then, should a user need to exit a room, it is simply a one-handle operation to unlock the door.

While it is intended that both grade 4 and 5 devices offer the same resistance to attack and it is simply the way it is locked that is different, the fact that a user has to physically lock a door themselves with a grade 4 product means the technology is reliant on key holders to secure the premises themselves. Ultimately, those in charge of a public building’s access control and security measures need to take responsibility and ownership for this. But with a grade 5 solution, security is assured as the door will lock automatically.

In addition, third-party certification, inspection and testing of products conforming to security standards is also recommended. BSI certification offers a scheme specifically for products conforming to grade 5 under its Kitemark brand. This means the product will have been fully tested and inspected to this certification, offering complete peace of mind to those responsible for maintaining security and access control in these buildings and environments.

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