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How Integrating Security and Building Automation Saves Time, Energy

By embracing the convergence of security and building automation systems, emergency and building managers are creating smarter, energy-efficient campuses.

With the common denominator of IP networks as their backbone, building automation, security and, in particular, access control systems are increasingly coming together. The myriad data these systems put forth, often through a shared protocol such as BACnet or SNMP, make it possible to create not only a safe building, but a smarter and more energy-efficient one.

The intersection of energy savings with smart building objectives can often ride on the information supplied by access control data. By knowing the occupancy of a particular building or sector within a structure, captured through entry and/or exit readers, it becomes possible to implement heating and cooling, lighting and fresh air ventilation controls based on the number and location of individuals.

With heating and cooling systems, the best savings come in seldom-used areas, where the HVAC system can operate in standby mode, rather than being subjected to a particular on-off schedule.

While such an operation isn’t recommended for a large-scale system — you wouldn’t want to heat up the entire building for just one person coming in on a weekend — it can be advantageous in areas where occupancy minimums are more easily reached.

Access control systems can be programmed to control lighting circuits based on occupancy. Once a card is presented to the reader, the system can then begin turning on the appropriate lights based on where that person’s office is located.

And unlike motion sensors, which can also be used to control lights, there is no minimum “on” times with a programmed system, so once a person logs out, the lights go off.

Ventilation is another component of the energy-saving capabilities tied to access control. While the amount of fresh air in a building is governed by building codes, it is usually expressed in the amount of fresh air per minute per person.

So, if the number of people in an area can be measured via the access control system, then the amount of fresh air can be adjusted, saving the expense of conditioning that outside air.

Deploying access control data can also serve as a planning tool for future building projects, either within the existing structure or when considering expansion or reuse of a property.

Having the details on occupancy — who is onsite, what hours is the building most used, are there areas underused or too crowded? — can become a tool for bottom-line decisions about property expenses.

Likewise, such information can be used in day-to-day planning, such as knowing how many people are likely to be at work so security details, parking attendants and cafeteria workers can be scheduled accordingly.

And at locations where shared workspace is becoming more prevalent, access data can also help when assigning desks or conference rooms to individuals and groups.

Because of the interactive nature of today’s access control systems, employees can receive necessary information through the same system that is logging their comings and goings.

Touchscreens have the ability to provide messages, whether they are alerts about an urgent matter, notices about training programs, changes in company policy or just updates on events, such as a campus-wide or department-wide meeting.

Readers can also become tools for booking rooms or, through the use of a built-in intercom, communicating with security personnel in an emergency.

Mobile apps tied to access control add yet another layer to building automation by allowing users to remotely unlock doors, receive mobile alerts and provide two-factor authentication for access to higher security areas.

Apps now and into the future will likely get cardholders even more involved with the buildings, allowing them to provide instant feedback and notifications.

Additionally, the integration of video enhances both smart building capabilities and security by making alarms visually verifiable, which increases the safety of occupants by better assessing their location and situation.

Video can help reduce false alarms and utilizing video analytics can provide further data on building usage trends.


Ricke Focke is Senior Product Manager for access control hardware, Software House, Johnson Control Security Products.

The above article originally ran in Campus Safety’s sister publication Security Sales & Integration.

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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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One response to “How Integrating Security and Building Automation Saves Time, Energy”

  1. Automation is the biggest trend in integration right now. Access control systems, for example, can be programmed to suit a variety of purposes. The goal is to find a good system that works for your needs.

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