In an ideal world, the design and installation specifications for the security system in a new building would be incorporated in the architectural plan from Day One as a fundamental element of a facility’s infrastructure.
All to often, however, security has been an afterthought – something that building owners considered the province of tenants. When they did take on the responsibility for installing security technology, they often attended to it at about the same time they got around to selecting lobby furniture for their completed building.
But that attitude is changing quickly among architects designing for a post-9/11 world. To cite just one example, security integrator Clifford Franklin, president of Sabre Integrated Security Systems in Manhattan, points to his company’s early and intimate involvement in the design of the Olympus Industrial corporate headquarters in Orangeburg, N.Y., which opened in early 2003.
In a close collaboration with the New York-based architectural firm of HLW Design Build LLC, and the client’s U.K.-based architect, Sabre was able to have input from the very beginning and throughout the two-year-long design and implementation process.
HLW, Franklin says, initially had broad specifications on how to build the 70,000-square-foot headquarters, which incorporated offices, laboratories, a theater, and warehouse space. Olympus, meanwhile, “gave us a broad view on surveillance and intruder protection,” while providing Sabre with sufficient guidance to produce an initial rough design.
As the building’s design evolved, so too did the security system specifications, down to the number of doors to be protected and the brands, models and exact positioning of indoor and outdoor cameras.
With a drawing in place, the security portion of the business went out for bid, but Franklin says Sabre had a distinct advantage in pursuing the contract: the company’s established relationship with the owner and architects. Not surprisingly, Sabre’s was the winning bid.
But Franklin says all parties came out ahead as a result of Sabre’s early involvement. Having access to both the client and the design/build architect from the beginning contributed to many improvements in the security installation process, which helped keep costs down by avoiding retrofits. Rather than an add-on, the security system was tailored neatly to the facility’s overall design.
“We were able to talk directly with the client and find out how their building would operate,” Franklin recalls. Typically, he says, the security integrator is brought in late in the process, and “nine times out of ten, you don’t know what the building’s uses are.”
Unless the architect has a detailed understanding of the building’s operations and is intimately involved in every aspect of its design, Franklin says, it is difficult to create a security system based on drawings alone.
A detailed understanding of the client’s needs upfront, he adds, “makes the selection process for equipment a lot easier.”
For example, the CCTV system Sabre installed for Olympus was based on a Pelco DX7000 digital video recorder in combination with Pelco’s indoor and outdoor cameras. Olympus wanted to be able to both view live images from internal and external cameras in real time and record the images, so a sub-system for recording data was necessary.
In this case, Franklin says, the client wanted to reinforce the impression of security on the outside of the building, so exterior cameras were positioned to be easily seen, on poles in the parking lot. On the interior, however, the design called for more subtle positioning, both to conceal the security system’s presence and to avoid interfering with the character of the building’s design.
“The architects,” says Franklin, “are looking for aesthetics. They want security to fit in with their design of the building.” Clients are also interested in the look, he admits, but their highest priorities are typically more pragmatic: “They also want it to fit with the needs for the building.”
Even so, compromise is often necessary. For example, Franklin recalls one instance in which cameras in the foyer of the building were repositioned to preserve the look. “We liked the camera position, but the architect didn’t like the placement,” he says.
While he admits that sometimes, “with a surveillance shot, you may have to compromise the view a bit” to accommodate the architect, he adds that with today’s rapidly evolving cameras and lens technologies, you can often compromise “and still get a good security shot.”
In fact, Franklin says, technological improvements that have reduced the size of cameras and their housing while simultaneously improving optics and low-light resolution have made it even easier to hide components within the framework of the building’s design.
Hoon Lee, project architect on the Olympus project for HLW, says any changes made to the security system were done at the design stage, in large part because “we designed and specified items based on the security integrator’s recommendations from the beginning to eliminate any field confusion, delays, or added costs to the project.”
“No physical changes were made during security installation or post occupancy,” Lee adds.
Working closely with an integrator from the beginning, Lee says, provided a level of continuity for the client. “HLW Design Build provides a single point of contact, a single point of responsibility for the entire project, from the beginning to the end,” he says, adding: “We prefer working with a security integrator like Sabre so that we can guarantee the installation.”
Although money is frequently saved because changes don’t have to be made late in the building process, Lee says cost saving isn’t even the most important factor.
He ticks off what he considers three more important “benefits of hiring a security integrator.” They include:
Having a single source of responsibility. If questions arise during any stages of the project, the design team or contractor can call the security integrator;
Designing the building with the security installation in mind, which leads to better, more realistic design decisions, and
Improving post-occupancy service, “with no finger pointing if something should go wrong.”
Franklin echoes Lee’s premise that designing with security as a part of the overall plan can aid decision-making, but he also insists it can “have a huge impact on cost” as well.
One area where savings were felt in the Olympus project, Franklin says, was in electrical work. Electrical raceways and components are among the first elements considered in a building’s design. “Because we were in early,” he says, “we could have (the electrical contractors) incorporate conduit runs for security in the process.”
While acknowledging that each project is different, Franklin says he had a good relationship with HLW’s design/build manager, “and a good relationship helped us in the long run. It was refreshing to get in on the ground floor.”
Going forward, Franklin says he hopes more architects and clients will look to incorporate security at the very inception of a project.
While acknowledging that security is a cost, not a profit center, for end users, Franklin says that, post-9/11, security can no longer be an afterthought or an add-on. It must be woven tightly into the overall plan of any new construction.
Within his own organization, Franklin says he is looking to use his marketing personnel to make a case for teaming security integrators such as Sabre with architects from Day One on all future projects.