Construction Corner is a Q&A column committed to answering reader-submitted questions regarding construction and development. Inquiries may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should I look for in an access-control keypad for my site? I currently have about 25 units behind my moving center and would like to offer my tenants a better form of access control.
--Alvin in Provo, Utah
First of all, consider installing a keypad for entrance and egress. This allows you, the site owner, to better track how long a particular tenant is on site. Also consider what conveniences you would like to extend to your tenants.
For example, an access keypad can usually do so much more than grant access to your facility, such as allow two-way communication with the office via an integrated intercom. This can be a very useful (and marketable) tool in the winter months when a tenant has a quick question and doesn't want to make the trek into the office.
On higher-end keypads, you will also find an LCD display that can greet a tenant or let him know when his next rent is due; built-in video cameras that can take a picture of a tenant or potential intruder when he enters an access code; and card-swipe technology that allows a tenant to use his driver's license or similar magnetic card in lieu of a code. The ultimate in convenience is allowing a tenant to pay his rent at the keypad. This feature can allow a delinquent tenant to pay his balance and gain immediate access to his unit without ever stepping inside the management office.
I own a self-storage facility outside of Boston and am in the process of building another. The electricians laid all of the conduit for the gate and keypads under the concrete drive. We had a severe snowstorm, and when the installers tried to pull wiring through the conduit, it was frozen. I am now trying to back-charge the electricians for having to dig up the driveway, but they are telling me it wasn't their fault--they can't control the weather. From a construction standpoint, does this make sense?
--Joe in Medford, Mass.
Though the electricians can't control the weather, they can control how they terminate their conduit. Good electricians will take the extra care to insert end-caps or at least duct tape over the end of exposed conduit. It is likely your electricians did not cover the ends of the conduit, therefore allowing water to get into the pipes and freeze. If that is what happened, you have a good case to request the electrical contractor cover your costs to lay new conduit.
Tony Gardner is a licensed contractor and installation manager for QuikStor, a provider of self-storage security and software since 1987. For more information, visit www.quikstor.com.