Technology Integration: Security

April 1, 2008

Security Integrated into Building Design

By P. David Shelton, CHS-II, PA

Buildings are meant to be places of refuge and prosperity, embodying a sense of well-being and productivity.

Not happening? Some of the most attractive buildings we have seen are virtual "security traps" or "incidents waiting to happen." The public expects a sense of security and safety wherever they go and the courts have determined that building owners, operators, and even designers do have a responsibility to provide such. Open spaces are good; nooks, crannies, and dark hallways, even short ones, are not. If there are places where occupants can be accosted, we have a problem. If there are places where the public can come in, stay and not be noticed, or worse yet, stay until after hours unnoticed, we may have an even bigger problem.

Opportunity is the main driver for committing a crime. I want to think the best of people but 38 years in the security systems business has taught me that the best security is to remove opportunity. If it can't be removed, the next best thing is to see or record the opportunity. Design the building, and indeed the security system, to remove as much opportunity as possible.

Today's integrated surveillance systems can easily detect, alert, and record movement in unauthorized areas, parcels left behind, malingerers, even unusual traffic patterns. Access control systems that control who are allowed where and when can be integrated with other systems such as human resources, time and attendance, or cash-balance systems for college campus or parking facilities. Smart cards and radio frequency identification (RFID) devices can also be added to manage and track assets in a hospital-like environment. These systems can manage opportunity.

New mass-notification systems technology uses public monitors and workstation computer screens to provide text messages instead of using audible messages over a public address system. The mass notification system alerts building occupants when an emergency arises and tells them specifically what they should do about it. The better systems use the building or security network and only occupy a small amount of bandwidth when needed. Designing for the public monitors is a consideration. Not only mass notification but also good security systems can be integrated into your project easily during the design phase; adding later may spoil a particular look or feel.

Security has many times been an afterthought or specified as "by owner" without receiving the upfront attention it deserves. "By owner" is fine because owners know their needs better than anyone else, as long as the design gets incorporated into the building process. In our experience, the owners do not necessarily want the public or the multitudes of contractors to know the details of their security plan. The roughs are as far the construction plans should go because often the wiring is the most costly part. The finish part of the security system design can be done offline with the architect and owner, remaining confidential. As professionals, we all want the best outcome for our customers. Engineering good communication, observation, and control systems in from the beginning improves the quality of the delivered product.

Dave Shelton ([email protected]) is president of D/A Central Inc., a Michigan-based security systems integrator in business since 1957. He graduated from the University of Miami in marketing and Wentworth College of Technology in mechanical engineering. He is Certified in Homeland Security (CHS) with the American College of Forensic Examiners and is a Professional Associate (PA) with the American Institute of Architects.

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