Building Security Systems

Building Security Systems

Campuses are adding more cameras, access control and other key protocols

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- ciency systems.

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 building's basement.

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 their smartphones.

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 activated.

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 campuses.

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 come.

This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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