Total Building Automation

Integrating multiple systems can help building owners stay secure and “green”

The CCTV coverage of important areas is critical. These areas vary depending on the building’s use, but there are several areas where CCTV is important no matter the application — including dock areas, high-value goods areas, the lobby and receptionist, the perimeter of the building and the parking garage or parking lot.

Other sensitive areas within the building that might be covered by CCTV include elevator landings or executive office areas, if the building has a single-company occupant. Connecting the CCTV, security and access control systems allows automated camera coverage for people movement into areas of concern. It could be a door alarm sensor or badge reader activation where the video would provide additional security for someone entering or leaving the parking garage, for example.

CPTED for Automation

Although it requires no electronics, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is another functional area that should be part of a totally automated building. CPTED automates the building by facilitating authorized people flow and restricting non-authorized access via physical layout and barriers.

Lobbies, for example, provide an excellent application to incorporate CPTED, as it can be designed to focus everyone to the receptionist desk. This can be accomplished by situating the elevators beyond or behind a receptionist’s desk, therefore ensuring that a person must pass the receptionist’s desk to gain access to the elevators.

Additionally, placement of walls, plants, and the shape of the reception area can help accomplish this in a very subtle way. The receptionist or control center operator can also use electronic hardware such as an elevator recall, panic button, intercom, CCTV monitor, etc., at their desk to aid them in controlling access.

Fire Systems
Fire alarm systems are normally considered as life safety systems and not part of a building automation system; however, the fire alarm system can provide automation from a safety standpoint. For example, when a fire alarm system activates, access is allowed and restricted depending on the desired flow of people out of the building. Elevators are immediately sent to a “home” location and will not function again until the fire alarm condition is over.
Automated revolving doors often require breakaway leaves that the fire system activates, which release the doors. If electronic “hold open” fire doors are incorporated, then they are released by the fire alarm system activation, which allows them to close to control people flow. During the fire alarm activation, access into stairwells must be “free” to comply with regulations. Areas of high population density (500-plus people), such as a movie theater requires an override of the building music systems or the theater audio system by the fire system.

Mastering Building Automation
Building automation is more of an art form than a science. It requires flexibility, learning the capabilities of each system, understanding the various system architectures and knowing how to make them operate to accomplish your total building automation philosophy. The number of possible subsystems is not limited to the ones discussed in this article — there might be public address systems, pager systems, car park management systems, intercom systems, and more.

The level of automation and integration of each subsystem depends only on cost constraints and your imagination.

Robert Pearson is a registered professional engineer and a member of the National Standing Committee for ASIS International. He teaches on integrated security systems and corporate security management at the The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He is also a consultant for the Strategic Oil Reserve and manager of electronic security systems for Raytheon Company.