Access Control Goes Green

Feb 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Carol Carey


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Up until three years ago, all of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's buildings (some 40 in the United States) used standalone, hard-wired security systems for access control and CCTV. As a result of a major upgrade, security at buildings across the country is now managed over the Fortune 100 company's local and wide area networks.

Access control, CCTV and alarm management have been integrated into a Software House C-CURE 8000 system that delivers greater efficiency, economy and ease-of-use. The system is also used at the company's 10-story, 500,000-square-ft. Boston headquarters to integrate lighting with security functions.

Steven L. Porter, chief electrician for Liberty Mutual, who designed the system, acknowledges exceptional teamwork among the facilities and security departments and the company's integrator, Surveillance Specialties Ltd., Wilmington, Mass. Integration of the lighting function into the security management system has resulted in a savings of energy costs of about $5,000 per floor, Porter says.

The lighting system

At Liberty Mutual's Boston headquarters, built in 1937, security officers have traditionally turned off main floor and lobby lights during their evening rounds at about 11:30 p.m. When the management asked Steven Porter if he could find a way to save energy, he first looked into the possibility of purchasing separate lighting components for the floors. “I estimated that we'd need about 20 such components at a cost of $10,000 each,” Porter says. “It wasn't a very cost-effective solution.”

Instead, Porter came up with a solution that costs approximately $200 per floor for parts and uses Liberty's own labor force to implement. He has designed a series of electrical and lighting boxes with relays that are connected to the C-CURE system's apC/8X access control and alarm-monitoring panels. There are 20 such panels installed at the headquarters.

“Each of these cabinets has eight outputs used for card readers, alarm points and door panels,” Porter says. The outputs are also used to integrate the CCTV system with access control through a matrix switch and for a lighting system he designed that is integrated with the C-CURE software.

Through a low-voltage cable, Porter has connected the apC cabinets to a series of electrical boxes and lighting control panels containing relays. The lighting relays switch the lights on and off at certain times and places. The lighting specifications have been programmed into and are accessible through the C-CURE software.

Creating the system involved purchasing electrical boxes and relays and making certain the system met national and local fire and electrical codes.

“The relay is an electrical device that opens and closes and acts like a light switch,” Porter explains. “We got into the C-CURE program and created time specifications to program when the lights will go on and off.”

Why was such a program needed, and has it been effective? Porter believes it has and states that the company's facility manager and security director are enthusiastic about the system and its results. “Both are pleased with how the system is working,” Porter states, noting that the security and facilities departments have a close working relationship at Liberty and communicate daily.

Lighting design improves security, energy costs

With the new, automatic lighting system, lights are being shut off earlier and more consistently, Porter says. “We have more control over which lights go on and off after business hours and on weekends,” he notes. “If an employee comes in to work on the third floor, for instance, only those lights will go on, and they will automatically time out. Previously, a greater area of lights may have been turned on. When the employee leaves, the lights will go off according to the pre-set internal time clock.”

Porter notes that the employee can override the automatic setting if necessary. While it is initially set up so that the automatic settings can be overidden manually, this process will soon become automatic as well.

“Plans are to control the after-hours lighting through the employee's ID badges, which are proximity cards,” Porter says. “We intend to have this done within a few months.”

The badging system currently allows employees access to the building's turnstiles during business hours. The turnstiles are manufactured by Gunnebo Entrance Control Co., Benicia, Calif. After hours, outside doors and doors to many departments are locked, and access is only granted through the HID proximity cards. Soon, the prox cards will also allow for lights to be turned on after hours in an employee's particular area.

As a result, employees will not have to wait until they reach their floors to turn their lights on after hours; the lights will be on when they reach their offices, having been activated by their ID cards.

“Emergency lighting stays on at all times in the building,” Porter says. He contends that the new system will provide a greater sense of safety and security for employees working after hours.

Access control system upgraded

Three years ago, Liberty Mutual upgraded to a Software House C-CURE 800 Model 40 access control system. The system was further upgraded this fall to a C-CURE 8000. “We now have more than 1,000 readers on the system across the country,” says Scott Sickles, senior account executive for Surveillance Specialties. “On the newly upgraded system, we can have up to 2,500 readers.”

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