Building Security Systems
Campuses are adding more cameras, access control and other key protocols
- By John Nemerofsky
- February 01, 2021
Changes are coming to corporate campuses as owners
and managers look to increase efficiencies in
the way facilities are secured and building operations
are managed. Today's security managers
already have their hands full keeping pace with
pandemic and other related changes. As security takes on increased
importance, campuses are adding more surveillance cameras, access
control, intrusion, fire alarms, visitor management, emergency noti-
fication systems and intercoms.
Add to that the security team’s growing responsibilities for overseeing
a campus' interior spaces, including offices, conference rooms
and other shared areas. These spaces require an entire set of building
systems to monitor and control heating, ventilation and air- conditioning
(HVAC), control lighting, water conservation and other effi-
A typical corporate campus may have dozens of disparate security
and building control systems operating simultaneously. Until recently,
both functions—security and building automation—were likely to
work on separate networks. But there is a growing trend to merge
these systems on one enterprise campus-wide network to provide
better control and increased efficiencies that result in lower costs.
However, integrating multiple campus systems that typically run
on different operating systems and competing database structures is
challenging. Many systems have proprietary hardware making it dif-
ficult to unite and gain visibility from other product vendors. Unifying
a variety of mechanical and electrical systems into one more extensive control system requires either a
facilities staff with a comprehensive knowledge
base or the help of a trusted and experienced
security systems integrator.
In either case, it no longer makes sense to
have separate monitoring environments and
independent teams of people managing both
security and building automation functionality
and alarms. Why have separate groups
of employees sitting in front of monitors at
different locations? It is more convenient and
efficient to have one centralized point of
command and control, freeing security officers
and operations staff to handle other
important duties or expand services to tenants.
Mobile employees can respond faster to
reports of a nighttime attack near the parking
garage or a water leak in the mechanical
One major technology advancement making
this possible is the movement toward
open-platform, software-based management
systems on both the security and building
automation sides. Today's modern building
automation systems are abandoning proprietary
standards and protocols and embracing
open architecture platforms that are both
backward- and forward-compatible.
With no need to replace existing equipment,
cabling or computer networks, administrators
can begin to make these changes
without fear of current investments quickly
becoming obsolete. This is a major benefit in
that it allows for future upgrades to be made
as budgets permit.
Two traditional building automation system
protocols—BACnet and LONWorks —
can be transmitted over a campus data network,
allowing for a real-time, remote
interface with building systems and controls.
That arrangement also allows any workstation
with access to the network to provide
authorized campus employees with monitoring
and control capabilities—even remotely
from an authorized operator's or administrator's
home via the internet.
The security industry also is moving
toward the same open standards concept
with many equipment manufacturers supporting
standards from organizations
including SIA, ONVIF and PSIA.
So, how does all of this work in the real
world? Here's an example from a corporate
campus in the southeastern United States.
The campus was designed and built to
incorporate IT operations and facility operations
into one group from the outset. The IT
infrastructure, fire, security, HVAC, and
buildings control systems would share one
common platform. A total of 23 systems reside
on a single internet protocol (IP) network.
The head of the campus IT had this idea
but soon found that many architects and
engineers were not accustomed to this
approach. He developed specifications and
located a technology partner with the experience
and vision to implement his ideas.
The use of the open data protocol, Lon-
Works, allowed various vendors' equipment
to be installed and integrated on the same
infrastructure. That avoided unnecessary
network and cabling. And now any vendor
or contractor can add new equipment and
functionality to the infrastructure.
All of the campus systems are managed
from the network operations center. Operators
use the building automation system to
monitor, control, and largely automate the
campus' chiller plant, heating and cooling,
indoor air quality, lighting and lavatories.
The system is also responsible for power
management and asset tracking. Other systems
monitored from the center include
internet, email, fire panels, digital video
monitoring and access control. And, because
all the systems are web-enabled, operators
can monitor and remotely control them from
The integration and interfacing of systems
make it exceptionally comfortable and safe. The
building automation system allows operators to
react to temperature fluctuations and make
HVAC equipment adjustments with a click of a
mouse. Integrated occupancy sensors activate
lighting in offices and conference rooms and
make airflow adjustments as needed.
Integration benefits fire and life safety, as
well. If the fire alarm system detects a fire,
the building automation system signals the
HVAC system to stop delivering fresh air to
the area and pressurizes the path of egress,
clearing it of smoke. The access control system
will unlock doors and show the route
while positioning surveillance cameras on
the fire to give responders a live feed.
Additional security features include biometric
readers for an added layer of identity
verification at mission-critical locations such
as the computer center. Emergency telephone
stations are scattered throughout the
campus and surveillance cameras automatically
focus on the stations when they are
An important benefit of the system is cost
savings. The campus management team
saved about $1.5 million by avoiding unnecessary
and redundant cabling included in the
original design. And compared to traditional
designs, the campus projects savings of
$350,000 annually in staffing costs and
another $600,000 annually from reduced
utility bills. The entire operations—facility
and IT systems—are managed with just
seven full- time employees.
This project shows how new construction
can be designed and implemented to achieve
building systems convergence. The results
are convenience, higher service levels, greater
efficiencies, lower utility and employee
costs and easy future expansion. While this
newly constructed campus offered the ideal
situation, this type of project is also highly
applicable to retrofit jobs on older corporate
The importance of security and building
automation is becoming increasingly apparent.
Tenants and visitors not only enjoy but
also are more productive in an environment
where they feel safe.
Productivity also increases where environments
are carefully controlled.
The days of individual, standalone security
and building control systems are numbered.
IT professionals, security directors
and facility managers see the value and are
now demanding a single control-point
option. System convergence has arrived and
will only gain momentum.
Before rushing into the many benefits of a
convergence project, be sure to retain the
services of a proven, experienced systems
integrator that can work comfortably with
both the security and building automation
functions. Also, look to the integrator to provide
any necessary training of the campus
staff and system maintenance to keep the
new system at peak operation for years to
This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.