The sky’s the limit

The sky’s the limit

Ghelamco standardizes on HID Mobile Access and Door Readers for all flagship Polish skyscraper projects

Ghelamco is a family-owned international real estate investor and developer operating in Belgium, Cyprus, France, Poland and the UK. Founded in 1985 and with assets now totaling over €2.6 billion , the company has an impressive track-record building spectacular, high-quality, BREEAM-certified residential and office buildings particularly in Poland, where it has been instrumental in establishing Wola, western Warsaw’s new thriving business district.

Ghelamco Poland has built various skyscrapers in the area: the 220m high Warsaw Spire, with hyperboloid glass facade and 109,000m2 of space, along with The Warsaw HUB complex. Completed in 2020, this features two 130m towers – purchased by Google for €583 million – along with a third building, home to two IHG Group hotels – a Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn Express – as well as a conference center.

Warsaw UNIT is Ghelamco’s third flagship project which opened in 2021. Standing at 202m, it combines office and retail space, and is one of the most technologically advanced green buildings in central Europe. It uses 30% less energy compared with similar developments. A fourth skyscraper project called The Bridge is underway and expected to open in early 2025.

The buildings are multi-tenanted by blue-chip corporate clients. To support this, Ghelamco’s physical access control strategy focused on selecting solutions to guarantee secure entrance while offering maximum flexibility and future proof upgradeability.
“We prepare the shell and core of each building, provide access to these common areas via speed gate turnstiles, lifts and the car parks, and then support clients with bespoke fit outs depending on their specific needs. This means the base building access control technology we use must work with numerous other systems – which may even include other access control products that clients choose to install themselves. Easy integration, updating and management over time was therefore, key,” Łukasz Stępień, Ghelamco Poland’s project manager, explains.

Ghelamco is also progressively deploying smartphone-based access control throughout its portfolio – a process that started with its office in Warsaw Spire and was next fully implemented in The Warsaw HUB.

“Innovation is our hallmark, so we want to use the latest technology on projects. Many of our tenants want mobile access today. Others, however, still prefer physical cards, so selecting a vendor that supports both in tandem was an imperative,” Michał Nitychoruk, Ghelamco Poland’s communications manager, says.

Furthermore, Ghelamco wanted to integrate mobile access with an intuitive smart building software platform and app to augment and add value to how users interact with each building and enable a productive and seamless experience. The requirement was to manage not only physical access control, but offer an easy-to-use way to link lift and parking systems, closed-circuit TV, visitor management and – in the future – other building management systems and sensors that monitor air and water quality, for example.

In Poland, HID has become Ghelamco’s preferred partner of choice for mobile and physical access control across its prestigious sites, with the developer standardizing on its solutions.

“HID was chosen because it is the best-known physical access control company in the world. This gives us the confidence – a warranty if you like – that our tenants will accept their solutions when they move in. They trust HID because it is the market leader,” Stępień says.

A combination of mobile-enabled HID iCLASS SE R10 and R40 smart card readers have been installed throughout The Warsaw HUB and Warsaw UNIT. Specialist subcontractor GEO-KAT fitted 1,400 readers in HUB, with Tech Lab working in UNIT to implement 1,200 devices.

In Warsaw Spire – while physical cards are still predominately used – HID® iCLASS® SE™ readers with Bluetooth® and NFC modules have now been fitted for testing to support a phased transition to mobile access in Ghelamco premises. Moreover, mobile-ready HID Signo Readers will be deployed in the new Bridge skyscraper leveraging Seos® as its underlying credential technology.

“We love using smart phones for access as they’re just so flexible. It’s much easier to issue, revoke and manage credentials not only for us, but our facility management partners, tenants and owners, too,” Stępień adds.
In addition, feature-rich enterprise applications have been implemented from Signal OS, a Polish proptech software development company based in Warsaw.

Utilizing the Google Cloud Platform™ at the backend, Signal OS provides a wide array of functionalities within three key applications and a solution called ‘Edge’ which is a middleware used to integrate all the building systems.

Supporting stringent GDPR rules, Signal OS’ ‘Wayin’ application automates mobile access credential delivery with privacy control in mind. The system supports both Android and iOS devices. ‘Wayin’ is connected via an API to HID Origo - which is cloud-based - to provide HID Mobile Access credentials.

The main advantage of ‘Wayin’ is a self-management panel for the tenants to then manage access privileges and credentials of employees. “Wayin is a crucially important component of our solution as it sits on top of the building and the tenant’s own access control systems to consolidate it, so there is one holistic view per building and between buildings at the same time” Tomasz Felczyk, Signal OS’ chief executive officer explains. “It then manages the privacy policies so – if required – tenants can view personal employee data but facility managers and third-parties only see critical data involving base building security. Each party gets a dedicated panel to manage their own staff and set up badges, rules and access privileges.”

“The Ghelamco buildings are complex and like small cities in terms of the number of occupants. Simply put, using `Wayin` we democratize them so that tenants can use and manage access control themselves and move about more freely and easily,” Felczyk, says.

The ‘Parkiza’ parking application has been installed in both the Warsaw HUB and Warsaw UNIT buildings, with access control linked to it. This allows parking access based on car plate recognition technology, smartphones running HID Mobile Access or physical cards. The system has a complex rules engine to manage nearly 400 car plates in UNIT and 1,000 in HUB given the high ratio of users per parking place.

In addition, the ‘Visitor’ module provides a secure web-based guest invitation system for employees and receptionists.

To date, 9,000 active users are registered in the Signal OS system in The Warsaw HUB and 4,500 in Warsaw UNIT, with about half using HID Mobile Access in both buildings. Given the number of people, two-factor authentication is used to automatically onboard users based on their corporate domain and email addresses. This has avoided unnecessary paperwork and queuing.

The benefits of using HID Mobile Access in combination with Signal OS have been immediate. It has enabled Ghelamco to attract new clients who want to lease space in efficient and green buildings. Ghelamco is also saving money by not having to issue PVC access cards, which are commonly lost and then create a security risk.

Visitor management has also been simplified. In Warsaw Spire, for example, 10% of all cards issued to visitors per month were never returned. This has been addressed as the QR code functionality within the ‘Visitor’ application is now used to invite people for their meetings. QR codes are emailed in advance so access to buildings and lifts can now be done remotely without time-consuming involvement from office or facility managers. As guests arrive and the QR code is scanned, the person they are meeting receives a notification alert. “It is the flexibility of mobile access combined with Signal OS, which everyone benefits from,” Nitychoruk adds.

As the first developer in Poland to join the Science Based Target Initiatives, Ghelamco has set targets to be a zero-emission company by 2025 and is aiming to have its office buildings powered from renewable sources by then. To support this, the firm announced it is building its first solar farm – capable of generating 10 megawatts – which will power Warsaw UNIT and other sites.

The shift to mobile access control directly supports this ambitious ESG policy as it removes waste and carbon emissions associated with producing and replacing PVC access cards. Smartphone use is ubiquitous today, so having the mobile credential on a device makes logical sense.

“HID is focused on sustainability. Features in the HID door readers like Intelligent Power Mode mean they go into standby mode when not used. Substantial power savings can be gained when you consider the numbers of them installed in our buildings multiplied by the 15-to-20-year life span of each,” Sępień adds.

Looking to the future, Ghelamco is looking at how best to extend and augment the access control approach in its estate by adding support for digital wallets to enhance speed of access and user convenience.

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