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In my story the protagonist has found them self on the bottom floor of a New York Office sky scraper and has to escape. For whatever reason they cannot exit via any means other than through the roof where some sort of plot device will allow them to escape safely from there. They cannot realistically use the stairs because of another plot device but all of the lifts are still in good working order. And thus my question remains. Why would each floor have a unique passcode that has to be entered to be able to take the lift to that particular floor?

P.S. Apologies for and bad formatting, spelling or grammar. I am dyslexic.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, if it's a skyscraper, it would presumably have multiple businesses in it. If each business had a whole floor, they could keep it private by requiring the code so that outsiders wouldn't wander in. $\endgroup$ – Phiteros Dec 10 '17 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Dec 10 '17 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ I've worked in such a building. Hell, you couldn't even call the elevator unless you had the access code for the floor you wanted (mind, the access codes were supplied via the RFID tag in people's ID badges). Some floors were "public" others were secured by company or even clearance within that company (I only had access to floor 16, 15 was public, and 18 was owned by the same company I worked for, I don't know about other floors in any detail). If you were in the stair well you had to scan your ID badge to exit the stairwell on those floors as well. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Dec 11 '17 at 0:44
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    $\begingroup$ I apologize, and I understand you're a new user, but I voted to close this question because it is not about worldbuilding. Please see what questions are on/off topic for more details. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 11 '17 at 2:58
  • $\begingroup$ As some people have said, requiring unique punch-in code for each floor would be very impractical, however, there might be a master security override code that gives access to all floors (for cases like fire emergency). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Dec 11 '17 at 17:36
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Like PipperChip says, it's quite a simple security measure and in many places, very common. In my experience however, it's usually implemented because different businesses operate in different parts of the building. So, you might have a bank running a mortgage section on floors 5 and 6 for example, perhaps a Government agency working on floor 4, and an insurance company might put their actuarial section on floors 8 to 11. Occasionally you'll have a business like a firm of solicitors on a particular floor, so the lift won't be locked down there, but their files, computers, and secretarial staff might all be located on the floor below (for instance) and that MAY be locked down.

That said...
Conventionally, this sort of thing isn't done with a passcode, it's done with a passkey. There's a very good reason for this. Let's say you have someone working for the bank who ends up changing jobs; they could be working for another firm in the building or moving to another building altogether. Either way, you can't 'remove' the passcode from them because it's 'something they know'. The only way to do that is to change the passcode, and not tell them the new one. If you have to do that every time you get staff movements, that gets very tedious, and ends up with a lot of people being trapped in lifts because they can't remember the new passcode or it got changed while they were on leave.

Far better to give them a passkey. It's a simple RFID chip embedded in a card. If they move floors, the lifts can be programmed to lock them out of the old floor and give them access to the new one. If they leave the building and forget to hand in their card (or even lose it while still needing access to the building) the old card can simply be deactivated.

Also, installing proximity sensors (for the RFID cards) is a LOT cheaper than keypads, require less maintenance (no-one mashing keys that are a bit sticky), less human contact (particularly important in many Asian countries where these kinds of health considerations are taken very seriously) and ultimately more secure.

In conventional security models, authentication (establishing that you're you) methods fall into 3 primary categories; something you know (passwords), something you have (keys) and something you are (biometrics). On ultra secure sites, you'll need two of these. This is where two-token authentication takes its name; you have a passkey that you insert, then type in a password of some kind as well. Or, possibly a biometric test and a password / passkey. Unless you're dealing with a Government building where security is a major issue though, you'll find that most lifts will operate with passkeys, not passcodes.

It's the far more efficient system without impacting relative security.

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    $\begingroup$ One other thing: Some elevator passkey systems are implemented by placing a security door just outside the elevator landing rather than by making the elevator smart enough to require a passkey (often because retrofitting or replacing an old elevator is possibly very expensive). In such systems, there is always an emergency button which unlocks the door and also sounds the fire alarm (because otherwise, someone could get trapped at the elevator landing during a fire). No idea how well that fits the OP's story, but it's another point to consider. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Dec 11 '17 at 4:36
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The building is used for highly classified project development

The organization occupying the building is working on one or more projects that are so highly classified that many of the separate task forces on the project are not allowed to know what the other groups are working on so that most of them do not know what the final goal or product(s) will be.

Keeping groups separated by floor allows for water cooler and break room discussions to spark idea generation and problem solving aha moments without the stress of needing to keep something quiet until back in an acceptable room. They know if someone is on that floor they can speak freely no matter what they are doing.

All teams located in one building is efficient overseeing team members that need to assess the entire or several pieces of the project progress. This security model also allows for modular expansion and integration of project teams when needed.

What the highly classified project goal or end-product is depends on the plot, and can fit well within many genres.

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This is just a simple security measure. In some buildings I have been in, where it has been the case that above a certain floor, there are vulnerable, secret, sensitive, or otherwise not-fit-for-public companies or groups.

An easy way to keep the public out is to require a pass-code or key for the lifts. This is just a particular implementation of it.

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    $\begingroup$ This is actually very common in downtown Vancouver, in residential condominium high rises. The key fob is necessary to first enter the elevator, and then to select the floor. it will only stop at the floor that corresponds to the fob. If you are a visitor, you must be buzzed in from a residential unit, and again the elevator will only be available for a certain time after the front door was buzzed open, and the elevator will only stop at the floor that corresponds to the unit that buzzed the front door open. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Dec 10 '17 at 22:22
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This question is edging into being rather broad but I think in this case it is just about specific enough.

The simplest answer is just that each floor has a different security requirement, for example a different business may own each floor - or just different levels of it. For example I contract at a bank where the 2nd and 3rd floor are trade floors, you need different access level to go into that than into the floor I work on.

Normally this is implemented using turnstyles on each floor rather than locking down the lifts themselves (since you need the turnstyles anyway to prevent tailgating) but an especially paranoid company could well have the lifts locked down. You would need to swipe your card (normally, rather than a passcode) to even select that floor.

I doubt every single floor would have a different code, instead they would be divided up based on purpose and you'd need a code for the zone that floor is in.

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  • $\begingroup$ every floor does need a unique code but your answer it relatively valid in that businesses wanting to protect things makes sense. $\endgroup$ – T54 Dec 10 '17 at 22:10

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