There was a time, says Bill Bozeman, president and chief executive officer of PSA Security Network, when a newly constructed 30-story building in New Orleans might sport leather
furniture instead of a security system. But in a post-Sept. 11 world, that type of scenario is long gone.
Today, “one of the absolute first things is how do we protect this building,” says Bozeman. “I think architects have a much better grasp on security than they did before.”
Security is increasingly becoming part of the initial planning of a project. But to understand how security systems and devices fit — aesthetically and technologically — into a building, designers and owners may have a hard time sorting through the maze of technologies to find which solutions will work best in specific situations.
Denver-based PSA, which represents a network of more than a hundred security integrators in 48 states as well as several foreign countries, has about 81,000 SKUs in its catalog “and next year it will be more than 100,000,” Bozeman says. Those SKUs represent more than two hundred product lines, which member companies can present to the security consultant or architect.
“More than half the projects our members install don’t use security consultants,” Bozeman adds, so architects and engineers often seek out PSA members because of their access to multiple product lines, as well as their training and certification on the various types of equipment. “If an architect wants a beige, flush-mounted camera for a wall, a PSA member would most likely have access to it.”
PSA member companies specialize in the design, installation, and integration of CCTV, access control, and life safety systems. They are also sought for their knowledge of the latest technology, including structured cabling, wireless components, and the like. “I think for the most part, architects and security are working together,” Bozeman says. “They (architects) don’t see it (security) as a burden as they once did.”
Tom Hruby, executive vice president of Security Equipment Inc. and a member of the PSA Security Network, says the advantages for him and the customers with whom he works are numerous, beginning with PSA’s “huge access to manufacturers.” He can access products more economically without having to strike his own dealer and purchasing agreements.
The benefit for architects and engineers, Hruby says, “is we’re not tied to a cookie-cutter approach to projects” and are able to understand “the latest and greatest new equipment” from both a technical and sales side. Added training, he says, gives them “comfort and confidence” in presenting to the A/E community. “They are looking at us to say how it all works together and how can we make it work together.”
Another PSA Security Network member, Kurt Kottkamp, says the size of PSA’s membership “helps leverage the buying power of all the companies.” Kottkamp, president of Enterprise Security Systems in Pineville, N.C., says the organization also has the ear of the manufacturing community to a greater degree than would unaligned systems integrators.
In addition, he says, the scope of PSA “gives customers, who have multiple (project) sites, the ability to have access to (PSA) members in other cities.”
Kottkamp says a lack of knowledge of how security systems work and are integrated into projects can cause frustration among architects and engineers, who then leave the security decision-making up to the end user, often after a project is completed. “What they want (from a systems integrator) is a turnkey package,” he explains. “They want someone to coordinate (the security piece) and make it easy for them.”
Architects and engineers do often seek this information their own by attending trade shows. “But it’s hard to learn it working the floor,” notes Hruby, who conducts seminars for local architectural firms to show them the feature sets of security equipment as well as the possibilities — and limitations — of integration among different products.
In his home state of Nebraska, Hruby says most architectural firms have in-house engineers who will seek his advice on planning the security portion of projects, such as determining the right CCTV system for a hospital. “Typically we only get directly involved with the architect if the engineer wants us to explain something for them,” he says.
By showing firms what is possible, Hruby says, a project can avoid some of the common pitfalls, such as incomplete integration of all systems or inadequate network capacity. “You always wish they would consult you a little sooner and a little more often,” he says, especially in terms of the depth of integration so, for example, the intercom can be integrated into the security system.
P. David Shelton, president of D/A Central Inc., which has three offices in Michigan, says the A/E community hasn’t necessarily kept up with the changing technology in the security industry. “So they look to us for advice without looking at a specific manufacturer.”
Shelton’s firm belongs to SecurityNet, an association of 16 security integrators. Within the association is a group of engineers, called TechNet, which reaches out to help the architectural community understand new developments in security and how they apply. Often, for example, an architect or project engineer will like multiple security features without realizing that not all manufacturers can meet those specific needs.
Although not as large as PSA, SecurityNet “can offer architects access to the lead projects that they need to know about,” Shelton says, from the top five to seven players in the security industry. In fact, SecurityNet is a strategic partner with GE, a major manufacturer in the security field.
Manufacturers have done a pretty good job of listening to architects’ concerns, says Shelton, noting that many architects today are focused on the aesthetics of security products and how they fit in with their overall designs. “You’ve got different colors and sizes of domes,” he says, and systems are easier to maintain and operate.
Both Hruby and Kottkamp point out that security devices have become more aesthetically pleasing in recent years as well as smaller and more unobtrusive. “Pan-tilt-zoom cameras used to look like machine guns,” says Kottkamp. “Now we have dome cameras that fit in the palm of your hand.”
But the big concern for architects, says Shelton, isn’t just tied to the appearance and functionality of the security system. Architects realize that security features such as fire systems, access control, and the like are as much a part of the building as HVAC. “It’s all about planning and executing the job from a project management standpoint.”
Integrators, he says, “are more than installers: We know the systems intimately and have the competency required to serve the architectural community.”
THE AUTHOR IS A FREELANCE EDITOR AND WRITER (JOFRIED@MAINE.RR.COM) FOR SEVERAL NATIONAL TRADE PUBLICATIONS AND A FORMER EDITOR OF ARCHI-TECH RESIDENTIAL AND GOURMET NEWS MAGAZINES. SHE LIVES IN PORTLAND, MAINE. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PSA SECURITY AND SECURITYNET, SEE WWW.PSASECURITY.NET AND WWW.SECURITY-NET.COM