Stefan’s Grand Design
Stefan Lepkowski

Member Article

Securing a Grand Design ? and your office!

Many of us have aspirations of building our dream home. For Stefan Lepkowski, MD of award-winning North East communications consultancy Karol Marketing, this is no mere dream, but reality. Six years ago he and his wife Ania began an ambitious project to restore and develop a beautiful derelict mill in rural Northumberland, combining restoration work with cutting edge design to create their ideal home. A seamless blend of old and new, incorporating mellow sandstone with uncompromising steel and zinc, the house’s unique architecture saw it featured on the latest series of Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

Stefan, it must have been quite an experience to be involved with Grand Designs. What was the most positive aspect for you?

Being involved with Grand Designs was great in many ways, but I think the best thing about it was the sense of dedication from everyone involved in the project. Ania and I were always passionate about creating a home for ourselves and our two children from the derelict mill. We were lucky to be involved from the outset with an equally passionate team, particularly in our architect Kevin Brown and engineer Peter Stienlet at Patrick Parsons, but knowing we were involved in creating a ‘Grand Design’ created an added excitement which was infectious. This spread to each individual involved in the project, no matter how small their part. It was quite a holistic approach for everyone to be striving after the same goal, to create an end result of the highest standard, rather than simply viewing their part in the project as ‘another job’.

You mentioned that the Grand Designs element to your building project made you much more conscious of security. What were your concerns?

Having signed up to appear on Grand Designs, we were immediately aware that our project had metamorphosed overnight from an anonymous - and distinctly unglamorous - building site to a ‘showcase’ project which would be scrutinised by millions. We suddenly became conscious of the security risks posed by this sort of media exposure. This is something I spent a lot of time thinking about. When your home becomes a ‘Grand Design’, it becomes public in a way which lays it open to a whole new level of risk. I wanted to be sure that we had done everything we could to ensure that our home continued to feel secure – a stronghold for the family where were immune to any unwanted ‘interest’ following the house being featured on the programme.

When your home is essentially a building site for years on end, you have people constantly coming and going, and it’s important to be able to monitor who has access to the building. Being involved with Grand Designs only increased this element, with photographers and film crew turning up on site on a regular basis. It felt important to us to have security arrangements that would allow us to be relaxed around this never-ending stream of people. We didn’t want to be constantly worrying about who had keys for which door.

So how did you go about finding a security system that would give you piece of mind?

Actually, I was put in touch through the master locksmiths association with Hal Rose at Cathedral Locks in Durham. Above all I wanted to find a system that would put our security concerns at rest without making the mill feel like a fortress! I’d also heard that it might be possible to find a system where keys couldn’t be copied, so we could have control over who had access to the property.

Hal recommended that we install a patented master key system produced by Mul-T-Lock. I was fascinated to discover that there was a system out there which would cater for our need to have keys that couldn’t be copied and also removed the necessity for carrying large bunches of keys around everywhere.

Mul-T-Lock keys can’t be copied without proof of ownership, which gave us the peace of mind to loan keys to people involved in the building project without worrying that they might be taking copies of the keys while we were away from the site.

I understand that you discovered this system could be used at your business as well?

Yes, this was a major revelation! Using Mul-T-Lock meant we could install a ‘master key’ system – with different people’s keys giving different levels of access. So for example my key opens all the doors in the house, but I can give a key which looks exactly the same to a tradesman and it will only open selected doors, meaning certain areas can be kept private.

An additional aspect - which could be a huge benefit for anyone who owns their ownbusiness - is that Mul-T-Lock systems can be suited across different buildings, meaning you only need one key to access both your home and your office. This is brilliant for me as I only ever have to remember one key! We’ve rolled out the ‘master key’ system we have at home across the office too – so my wife’s key only opens the doors at home, while mine opens all the doors at home and work. At Karol Marketing, our employees all have just one key each, which looks the same but each one grants different levels of access, making sure they can only enter parts of the building which are relevant.

I wanted to flag this up as I think using a patented, master key system such as the one we have could be useful for many SMEs. With a small business it’s easy to think that it doesn’t matter who has access to what, but in fact it can make things much simpler and lessen any security concerns you do have about sensitive data, information or valuable equipment if you can compartmentalise access. Using the ‘one key’ concept has really streamlined things for us, and knowing that our keys can’t be copied means that if an employee was to lose a key, or (heaven forbid!) leave without returning it, we wouldn’t be at risk from someone making copies and gaining access to the premises.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Stefan Lepkowski .

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