Department of Computer Science and Technology

Access and security

We take the access and security of the William Gates Building, and those who use it, very seriously.

We work hard to ensure that the building is accessible throughout the year at anytime for those who have permissions to access it.

However, we also want to ensure that those using the building, especially out-of-hours, are safe from intruders and hazards.

Please take the time to read these pages, to ensure you know where you are allowed to be, when areas are off limits, and how to maintain the security of the building both for yourself and your colleagues.

Access cards

The Computer Laboratory's door access-control system uses the Mifare RFID chip in the University card, which was introduced in 2004.

Most students should already have one of these cards, and the department will issue temporary cards for visitors and students who do not have one.

Access cards

Access to the William Gates Building main entrance and the entrances to the private areas within the building are opened using your access card:

  • Departmental staff, PhD, ACS and Part III students and long-term visitors
    Your card should allow access to most areas, which will include out-of-office hours access.
  • Undergraduates
    Your University card will allow you access to the entrances to the building and the Intel Lab (SW11).
  • Short-term and day visitors:
    Your card will be tailored to allow you movement within the building as required, but may not allow unaccompanied out-of-hours access through the front door.
  • Car park:
    Your card will only give access to the car park if previously arranged.

You might also have a key to lock your office.
Should you lock yourself out of your office, contact either:

Building Services: (7) 63662
Reception:         (7) 63500

Access is generally available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, though you may find some areas restricted at different times for specific purposes.
Please adhere to these restrictions.

Please bear in mind that there is no support outside of normal working hours.
Make sure you have the emergency telephone numbers to hand should you need them.

When you leave the Lab for the last time

Please return your office key, and where appropriate, your access card before you leave the Lab.

The building

map of William Gates Building This map illustrates the layout of the William Gates Building.

The building is divided into public and private areas by The Street.

The West side of the building is the public area, where you can find the café, vending machines and lecture theatres.

The East side is the private area for departmental staff and those students and visitors who are given rights of access.

Access to restricted areas are given on need and must be requested in advance.


South courtyard The courtyards are nested between: The Street, North, Centre, South and East corridorsof the William Gates Building.

North courtyard During the summer, access is given to the South Courtyard, where decking and benches are available for people to socialise and eat lunch

However, the North Courtyard is generally reserved for the breeding mallards!

Opening times for the courtyards: 08:00 – 16:00

Door locks

The locks in most research-student rooms have been disabled and we no longer routinely hand out keys to research students. If you have valuables that need to be locked away then lock them in the pedestal provided with each desk (keys can be provided by building-services).

If your door’s lock has not been disabled, it can be switched between an open state in which the outside handle opens the door and a locked state in which only the key opens the door from the outside.

The lock can be kept in the unlocked state by one of two mechanisms:

  • Snib lock: The small metal knob above the latch can be used to hold the top latch back in a way that anyone can release.
    • Activation: hold the inside handle down and move the small knob downwards
    • Release: push the small metal knob upwards
  • Lock back: The key can be used from the inside to hold the top latch back in a way that only a keyholder can release.
    • Activation: hold the inside handle down and turn the key from the inside to the left
    • Release: turn the key from the inside to the right

The door will be locked only if the top latch has been released in both these ways.

Note that in any state, the door can always be opened by pressing down the handle from the inside or by using a key from the outside. In other words, unless there is some defect, nobody can be locked into an office and nobody can configure the lock to keep other keyholders out of an office.


As the building is essentially open all the time for use, there is a shared responsibility for security.
Everyone is responsible for the care and security of the building and the safety of all people within it - whether those people be staff, students, visitors or children.

If you use the building, especially outside of normal working hours, please be vigilant of strangers, reporting any suspicious behaviou.

Please also be conscience of the security of the building by not leaving fire and security doors propped open.

Reporting suspicious events

Please report any suspicious behaviour immediately, either to Reception, Building services, (or The University security services if out-of-hours).

Perimeter Security

The lab's perimeter security is "armed" at 18:00 each evening. At that time, the security system will raise an alarm if any of the perimeter doors remain open. This includes balcony and courtyard doors.

Please be aware, that whenever an alarm is raised, someone is despatched from the University's security service on the New Musuems site in the centre of Cambridge. This is a huge waste of time and money for false alarms, so please do be careful not to set these alarms off in error, by propping doors open.

If you see a perimeter door open in the late afternoon, please shut it. If the door won't close, alert Building Services, Reception or one of the Computer Officers, so that action can be taken.

Fire Doors

Please DO NOT prop fire doors open.

Some fire doors (mostly mid-corridor doors) are held open by a magnet which is released when the alarms go off. These are marked with a notice such as "Automatic Fire Door - Keep Clear". These are not a concern.

Fire doors should not be wedged open, held by a fire extinguisher, etc. If you see such a doors wedged open in this manner, please remove the obstruction and check that it closes.

If there is a repeated problem or you are concerned, please email Building services.