BUILDINGS - Smarter Facilities Management

Creative Security Strategies Develop a More Efficient Building Ecosystem

Benefits of a robust security system extend beyond loss protection

By Justin Feit
 

Working under the constraints of tight budgets, FMs are more likely to invest resources into building systems where the dividends that pay out are clear, substantial and immediate. Systems that use large quantities of energy like HVAC and lighting are often the first place to look for improvements, as they take up a massive chunk of operating costs.

In the quest for reducing costs, some major improvements can be passed over because the benefits are not as clear or instantaneous as others. Security systems, for example, are often overlooked because they require a capital investment, and it can be difficult to find the return on investment that you would find in a typical system upgrade.

“FMs and building owners need to recognize that there’s an inherent benefit in security and it can provide an ROI by using the technologies to do things that you wouldn’t have originally anticipated them doing,” says Sean Ahrens, Global Practice Leader of Security Consulting and Design at JENSEN HUGHES in Chicago. “The ROI comes when we start using these systems to facilitate other things.”

Security systems, while integral to almost any facility, are often thought of only as a loss prevention measure. That premise can seem antithetical to the idea of yielding savings if you are only looking at clear-cut responses to a given solution. But advancements in security system integration have opened up opportunities for greater efficiency in several arenas when users get creative with their application.

What does it take for a security system to make a facility more efficient in addition to safeguarding it? The answer lies in intelligent integration practices and creative applications that promote efficiency within a wide range of applications.

Foundational Elements

An FM looking to implement a new security system first needs to keep two integral factors in mind: the facility and the network. These two areas will more or less dictate the type of system that you need, so it’s important to consider these two concepts in tandem.

“The first thing we do is meet with the IT group and understand what kind of infrastructure and networks they have,” explains Brent Edmunds, President and Co-Founder of Stone Security in Salt Lake City. “The systems we install reside on those networks.”

In addressing the network requirements, you will also need to consider the logistical issues raised. Because a security system requires some point of centralization, making sure the network can handle facilities that are spread out is critical.

According to Edmunds, video data is one area you need to account for when planning a security system “because it can create a lot of traffic on the network. Sometimes there’s no fiber connectivity between buildings, and you’ll probably want to localize cameras to the individual buildings but have them centrally managed.”

A large component of the security industry today is based solely on connecting what were once thought to be disparate parts. Now it is important to consider how the modern security system can more completely connect its own security operations with other building systems and with the building’s occupants. A common metaphor that bears repeating about buildings is that they are ecosystems whose operations are all interconnected; security systems should also be part of that conversation.

Even under the larger umbrella of security, the two main components of a commercial building security now work off of one another more than they ever have. Video surveillance and access control have been separate systems in the past, but over the last decade, manufacturers and security integrators have worked to develop systems together.

“The two systems complement each other very well and allow a business to put together a security plan that controls how people move around the building,” says Edmunds.

Connecting video surveillance and access control together and then to other building systems has become considerably easier because of technological developments, the emergence of the Internet of Things and the movement to a non-proprietary model of business.

Overseeing Efficiency

Overall, technological advances and industry trends have made security systems more affordable and longer-lasting. But what can all of these advancements in security do to further impact the bottom line? Through greater oversight of operations and processes that are prone to inefficiencies, security systems provide the opportunity to catch issues faster and put contingency plans in place.

“A key area for cost savings in the facilities world has been leveraging security data to track space usage,” says Rachel Turner, Vice President of Strategic Business Development at RightCrowd, a software company located in Seattle. “In many large, global companies, the overhead and cost of buildings can be up to around 50%, so anything that can be done to reduce that is a key metric.”

With access control and video surveillance working together, FMs now have the ability to address issues immediately from a single location. Many integrators and manufacturers are centralizing security functions into single programs, allowing for alerts and alarms to appear on the same screen as video surveillance.

When an alarm goes off for an HVAC system, for example, the individual working with the security system can immediately respond to the alarm by checking video surveillance of the affected area. That individual can then assess the situation, deciding that it needs further attention or that it is merely a false alarm. Depending on the volatility or importance of various systems in a facility, an integrator can establish setpoints, thresholds and other benchmarks to notify security personnel for further inspection.

“With our access control systems, there are alarms and event triggers that we’ve used to monitor freezers,” says Edmunds. “One of our university clients has cryogenic freezers with alarms, which are tied into the building automation system and the access control system. They get alerts when a freezer goes above or below a certain temperature threshold.”

Developing more effective contingency plans is a key trend in security today. Software programs that bring together various components of security and other systems in a facility allow users to create flow charts that solve a given alert or situation.

Within the flow chart, an operator can simply add the proper protocol and instructions to fulfill it when a crisis occurs. These contingency plans provide faster responses with fewer mistakes and can be completed by those who might not have as much experience or knowledge of certain areas of a building.


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