Re: Re: Common house access
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 07:24:11 -0700 (MST)

On Wednesday, November 5, 2003, at 01:40 AM, Lynn Nadeau wrote:

 The postal letter carrier has to be
able to walk in, too.

The post office has a very good systems for passing along keys and codes for secure entry. In Manhattan, each large building has a lock box outside in which a key to the building is kept. The postal carrier has a standard key that unlocks those exterior boxes and they are well guarded and changed when a security breach is suspected. We have given our postal carrier the code to our door and an opener for our parking gate -- they enter through the parking lot since that is much closer to the mailboxes and they are driving, not walking, with mail for 43 units.

We still talk now and then about having some sort
of keypad. The good ones seem to cost hundreds of dollars, but there are
locks that have a re-set-able combination keypad. I suppose you change
the code from time to time? Anyone using such a device?

We have a simple keypad on the back door and a complicated intercom system on the front door. The complicated system sounds like new-age efficiency and is designed so everyone could have a unique code but like everything else in Microsoft Nation it doesn't work that way. The idea was that if someone gave out a code and it started being used odd hours or we had a major theft we would track the source. We would also have a unique code for guest room users and change it often.

In practice this has been a total waste of money and effort. It isn't clear whether this is a badly designed system or a bad company installing it but it has been a nightmare for those of us who work at home and have to deal with it all day. Most people just use their cell phones to call me but then I can't buzz them in because the Intercom is also connected to the door opener. I have to hang up so the intercom can ring through and I can buzz them in. New delivery people go bonkers.

No one knows how to use the directory or to reset it. Many of us have never had a working code -- I use a neighbor's. The software for it was either never delivered or lost. The last I heard the company wants some ungodly amount to replace it. When the sun hits the outdoor keypad in the late afternoon it doesn't work at all. If you are on the telephone, it can't ring through. When it rains it doesn't work. And this has been one of the rainiest years in DC ever. I suspect, like our door closers that have to be adjusted whenever the temperature varies 10 degrees, it was designed for indoor use and was placed on an outside wall.

We have a simple 5 number code on the back door and that one works well. Other doors (we have far too many) work with a key and those who are close to those doors use them.

The most convenient door is on a key and is sometimes propped open by turning the deadbolt so the door won't close. This breaches security and is less energy efficient since it opens right into the dining room (no protective foyer). This drives everyone except the door proppers nuts. There have been many emails and even meetings about this but no solution has been found. The fact is that that door is better placed for all uses.

The lesson? Architectural design is very serious and a bad design will haunt you forever. Put ideology and fascination aside and pay attention to what people really do and how they "read" buildings. No one can even find our front door because of very subtle design problems that were just not apparent on site plans or elevations.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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