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Security Special Report Bonus: A United Front

Written by Heidi Schwartz. Posted in Bonus Features, Magazine, Security, Special Reports, Technology


Published on March 13, 2005 with No Comments

By Laura Schultz

Published in the March 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Believe it or not, it is actually possible to achieve both of these goals. However, one should first consider the good news and the bad news swirling around the state of facility security today.

First, the bad news. In the wake of escalated concerns across the U.S., security pressures are greater than ever before, but resources continue to be limited. Squeezing every bit of value out of facility investments gets tougher by the day.
Now the good news: facilities can be safer. There are new tools to keep facilities protected, and there are means to make sure those tools provide maximum return on investment.

By assessing the security needs of the facility and seeking out products capable of performing beyond their core function, facility managers can assemble a top-notch security system while keeping budgetary concerns in mind.

The State Of Facility Security 

Consider the following example of a health care facility in western Canada (the facility wishes to remain unnamed for security reasons). The 800-bed hospital was in dire need of a security upgrade. However, it could not justify the expense under a reduced operating budget, which was down 10% from the previous year.

The hospital was also experiencing a space crunch. With limited funds, expansion was out of the question.

The wing in most desperate need of an upgrade had special requirements (such as patient video monitoring and increased guard presence). Its video security system consisted of several analog cameras that fed into a large control room at the center of the wing, where two guards monitored the video.

When the hospital decided to integrate its security systems in the wing, various departments were able to consolidate their control centers into a single point of command that could be monitored by one guard.

The results? A volunteer was no longer needed to staff the front desk, since the video monitoring required only one guard. The second guard was able to patrol the public areas to create a visible security presence in the wing. And the large video control room was converted into additional office space for the facility.

Thanks to its security upgrades, the hospital was able to improve safety and save approximately $450,000 per year in administrative and labor costs. In the end, those savings paid for the upgrade and the office retrofit.

This brief case study illustrates that by integrating security technology with core building services and enterprise systems, the maximum value of those tools can be realized. This allows businesses to improve security, work within budget constraints, react quickly and appropriately to situations, and increase operator efficiency. Loosely put, integrating security and core building services not only improves safety and security, but also contributes in a positive way to a company’s bottom line.

The Toolbox 

There is innovative technology emerging in the security market that may offer significant improvements for facilities and security managers, as well as end users. Implemented alone, these solutions provide clear benefits to everyone. But the real power lies within managing them as part of an integrated security and building solution. Without a holistic, integrated approach to managing security solutions, information is kept in narrow silos and isn’t completely maximized.

Keeping information in silos can slow response rates and blur the facts in emergency situations. In other words, only pieces of the puzzle are solved, not the whole problem.

On the other hand, silos can be eliminated when building systems are integrated. Information is shared between departments, and important building functions can be centralized.

Integration is not only able to automate security functions, it also enables these same security functions to automate building functions. For example, an integrated system might tie access controls into lighting controls so lights are automatically turned off when no one is in a particular space. This improves efficiency and reduces costs. [For more on lighting efficiency, see "Lightening The Load," which also appears in the March issue.]

What Does An Integrated System Look Like? 

One large Canadian university uses digital video in its six remote parking structures. Cameras are positioned at pinch points in each of the structures to capture license plates and photograph occupants entering and exiting the facilities both on foot and in vehicles. The system is connected by wide area network to the campus network and linked wirelessly into police cruisers. Patrolling officers can see real time activity, which enables complete coverage and quicker response times.

Previously, the university used a reactive system that required one person to manage and maintain it full time. Now, maintenance has been greatly reduced and police officers can spend more time patrolling to prevent crimes.

In general, network enabled video can be transmitted from any or all locations that have a connection, giving users more flexibility to place a camera closer to a problem area. Digital video can also be used to create electronic fences around important areas and perimeters, which are much more cost effective and aesthetically pleasing than a chain link fence with razor wire.

Advanced capabilities transform video from an observation system to a sensor system. The video provides real time feedback and responds according to a situation. For example, cameras can locate stationary bags, items out of place, or people and objects moving too quickly through a space. These incidents can be early indicators of an escalating situation that will require intervention. Detection gives security personnel a head start on preventing potential problems.

Additionally, the need for security personnel to tour a facility physically (sometimes referred to as “rattle and hum” tours) is reduced. By using an integrated security solution, a facility that once employed a number of guards to monitor the facility and grounds by foot can now monitor all those areas from a single command center, reducing administrative costs and improving overall monitoring capabilities.

Integrating Security With Core Building Functions 

Beyond integrating individual security systems, facility managers can tie these systems into other core building functions. There are several benefits to this type of integration.

Increased Operator Efficiency. Most facilities can experience a 20% to 30% improvement in operator efficiencies with integrated systems. Additionally, a single platform for multiple building functions reduces the time needed to train employees and the chances of human error, because it is significantly less complex.

Information Management And Report Generation. Some people feel that security is about understanding information and taking action based on that information. A common and often overlooked benefit of integration is the ability to make sense of all that collected data. When information such as access control reports and video information is combined and properly analyzed by wider facility systems, end users can see the benefits every day.

Using access control trend information can help predict building loads for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), as well as lighting. It can also show how people move through the facility, which allows managers to schedule cleaning and maintenance properly.

Integrated access control can also provide information to occupants on after hours building usage. Managers can gauge times of peak activity and schedule deliveries and elevator service to reduce wait times and traffic congestion.

Reports are also effective tools in helping manage facility expectations. By providing weekly or monthly reports of energy, air conditioning, lighting, and access control costs, integrated systems provide details on the cost of doing business.

By monitoring access records, one company learned some employees were coming in on the weekends to work. While that was great for the employees and the company, it was terrible for building efficiency. In this case, access of a single employee on a floor would kick the building’s HVAC system into gear, regulating the entire environment for just one occupant. After analyzing this hidden expense, the company realized it would be more cost effective to purchase home desktop computers for employees and encourage weekend warriors to work from home rather than at the office.

Integrating Security With Enterprise Systems 

The possibilities here are endless. Following are several examples of possible applications:

Integrating With Administrative Services. When Thomas College in Waterville, ME recently increased its residence capacity by 30%, campus security concerns increased as well. The college decided to implement a smart card solution for students, faculty, and staff to monitor and control building access.

The college also integrated its student and staff records and library management systems with the access control system. As a result, the college reduced administrative costs and provided the college community with better service and less hassle.

The system even helped campus officials track down a student who tried to steal a change machine. When campus security realized the machine had been stolen from one of the residence halls, guards were able to look through the door logs to identify the culprit. (That change machine, by the way, will soon be a dinosaur on campus. The college is planning to integrate its smart cards with vending capabilities.)

Integrating With Financial Systems. Facility managers have found that employing smart cards for vending and cash management has led to increased spending. Consumers are more likely to spend (and usually spend more) any time they do not have to pull cash out of their wallets. Using smart cards for cash management also improves productivity and reduces administration costs associated with bookkeeping and cash handling.

Petty theft is also reduced with the use of smart cards for vending and office purchases, because consumers are less likely to walk through the building with their valuable items and, thus, are less vulnerable.

Integrating With IT Functions. Think about the number of times that employees send a print job to the printer down the hall from their offices-and how many times they become distracted by another task (or another person) and forget to pick up that print job. These events create materials waste.

Smart card technology allows offices to manage print spending by creating rules. For example, a job can be spooled to a printer, but the printer will not actually start printing until a smart card shows that the person who sent the job is in the room to pick it up.

Integrating With Access Control And Time And Attendance. Access control technology can help logistics companies meet regulations and deliver on commitments when they are integrated with human resources solutions. After 9/11, new regulations on shipping went into effect that mandated strict “chain of possession” tracking. Under these regulations, any container that is not accounted for correctly must be hand searched at customs before proceeding on its journey.

In order to track contact between containers and employees manually, one North American port realized it would need employees at work 30 minutes longer than usual every day. The 5,000-plus employees at the port did not mind the overtime, but the bookkeepers knew it would be a crippling expense.

To avoid the overtime costs, port management decided to invest in an access control solution that would integrate with its existing human resources management system and automate the chain of possession tracking. Now the port operates at the same productivity as before the new regulations-without added labor costs. The port also saves itself from critical delays at customs.

How To Integrate A Security System 

Integration requires two broad steps. First, identify the specific security needs and understand the technology that is available. Second, take a holistic approach to integrating that technology with core building services.

It would be nice if there were a single security solution that could address every facility’s security needs. But buildings are as distinct as the people who occupy them. The security needs of one building may be very different from the one next door.

A good starting point is to assess the vulnerabilities of a facility. Take a good look at the geographic location, demographics of the occupants, and residents of the surrounding areas. Consider how the facility is used and where its primary vulnerabilities lie. What measures need to be in place to protect important assets in light of those vulnerabilities? How can human lives, the physical plant, intellectual property, and data be protected? What should be done to augment current security solutions to meet these needs?

Another important consideration is compliance with the new ISO 17799 business continuity standards issued after 9/11. ISO 17799 is a detailed security standard that covers all aspects of facility security from business planning to personnel to information security. Established and reputable integration partners understand these regulations and can provide businesses with the best solutions-and not just because they have experience integrating security solutions. In many cases, these companies have gone through the process themselves.

Once security personnel and management determine the vulnerabilities and needs of a facility, the next step is to become familiar with the available technology. After that, partner with an integration provider who meets the security needs. Work with a reputable company that can integrate security functions as well as core building functions-one who understands the specific corporate drivers and economic realities facing the organization.

Selecting An Integration Partner 

It is absolutely critical to select an integration partner who knows the integration philosophy and the business needs for a particular organization. An integration partner must not only understand the process at the highest levels, it must factor in other important variables: desired financial outcomes, business drivers, and the bottom line.

Security is becoming a mandated building essential. It is important to develop a long-term plan that creates flexibility and provides for future expandability.

The next step is to develop an operations center where the integrated building functions will be managed. This means physically putting a group of managers together in a room to share information about operations.

Before integration, separate departments will be managing their own building functions independently, almost in a vacuum. To integrate successfully, those departments must break down the organizational and technological barriers that perpetuate such behavior in the facility.

On the technology front, it is important to select an integration platform that uses open standards such as TCP/IP networking and Web-based user interfaces. The integration platform must also connect with the appropriate building systems and IT databases with standards such as BACnet, LonWorks, OPC, or ODBC.

Wireless technology is also an important consideration. Wireless enables inexpensive, flexible security installations. It also allows businesses to change security infrastructure quickly and often, without incurring additional time and costs associated with hard-wiring installations.

A Step Further 

Facility management at Public Works and Government Services in Canada is taking integration to an even higher level. By making the most of the information generated by the facility system, the organization has not only improved security and lowered operating expenses, but reduced its effect on the environment as well.

At the organization’s Alberta facility, an integrated system helps provide the mission critical security control that government operations require. It also helps managers there to deliver on the commitment by Canada to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

To achieve these goals, facility managers analyzed occupant information to compare energy consumption to the real time costs and emissions effects of using internal cogeneration or outside utilities. Then they had the data necessary to make informed decisions about which energy source to use at the lowest cost and with the least impact.

To improve occupant comfort and conserve energy, the facility now uses card reader data in order to determine occupancy levels in different areas throughout the building. The building management application then uses the information to adjust HVAC and lighting automatically. If access data shows, for example, that most of the occupants of the third floor have traveled to the fifth floor for a meeting, the system will automatically increase resources on the fifth floor while reducing resources on the third floor.

This same technique is used to determine building maintenance schedules as well. By analyzing access data, facility managers are able to direct maintenance staff to heavy traffic areas more often. For instance, the staff kitchen on one floor may not be regularly used, because employees like to gather on a different floor to eat lunch. Without being able to track and react to such access data, both kitchens would be cleaned with the same frequency, even though one kitchen is being used more often than the other one.

To help disperse costs between departments, the system shows which personnel members have occupied the building on weekends and after business hours, so utility costs can be charged back. This not only helps with costs, but it also makes each department accountable for its energy consumption in the building.

In all, Public Works and Government Services has been a model of successful security integration and environmental responsibility. But there is more: the organization has been able to fund its integrated systems completely with the cost savings associated with reduced energy consumption.

Bringing It All Together 

Integration enables users to gain control over building systems in a logical, effective manner. In reality, once the goal of integration exists, it is essential that facility managers communicate to colleagues and decision makers on the business benefits. In a time when departments often battle for limited resources, having all necessary personnel on board working toward the same goal is key. Once the business case is made, most people agree that integration is too compelling to ignore.

Schultz is vice president of marketing for Honeywell Building Solutions, based in Minneapolis, MN. For more on Honeywell’s Integrated Solutions, visit

About Heidi Schwartz

Heidi Schwartz

Schwartz joined Group C Media in April 1989 as managing editor of Today's Facility Manager (TFM) magazine (formerly Business Interiors) where she was subsequently promoted to editor/co-publisher of the monthly trade magazine for facility management professionals. In September 2012, she took over the newly created position of internet director for TFM's parent company, Group C Media, where she is charged with developing content and creating online strategies for TFM and its sister publication, Business Facilities. Schwartz can be reached at

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