How To Design Green AND Secure Buildings
The secure and the environmentally-friendly almost always conflict when designing a building. But experts at an "intelligent building" seminar demonstrated how security features can actually help make a structure green
By Bill Brenner , Senior Editor
March 05, 2009 — CSO —
Put a security guy in a room with an environmentalist and ask them to design a building. Wait five minutes and you'll hear fists pounding tables, chairs hitting walls and a steady flow of profanity.
The problem? Green features are often seen as a vulnerability to the security professional while security features are often considered ugly and wasteful to the designer who wants to make a structure green.
But it doesn't have to be this way, according to a group of experts who gathered in Woburn, Mass., Wednesday for a seminar on intelligent building design. A main focus of the event -- hosted by integrated building management systems vendor TAC -- was to demonstrate how the secure and the green can exist in the same space and even compliment one another.
In the current economic climate, marrying the two can also be a cost saver, said Mo Hess, TAC's global segment manager for security. [See: Cost-Cutting Through Green IT Security: Real or Myth?]
"Security performs a lot of the functionality that building automation does to control energy consumption, such as turning lights off and on, controlling thermostats and notifying you when a door or window has been left open," he said. "The same technology used for access control and security can also be used to measure and conserve energy."
Environmentally-friendly access control
For example, he said, surveillance cameras installed to monitor who is coming in and out of a room can also be used to measure light levels and notify building managers if a light is burning too brightly or if something has been left on. Access control can be used to keep tabs on energy consumption just as easily as it can be used to limit an employee's access to certain IT systems and corridors, Hess said.
To drive home the point, seminar organizers began the track of security presentations with an overview of new buildings planned for the University of Massachusetts' Amherst campus. The university's $640 million capital improvement plan for new research buildings and other structures are full of green features. But when pressed by attendees, UMass facilities planner Thomas Huf admitted the plans were lacking in terms of security controls.
"We don't have a central security design at this point," Huf said.
Two representatives from Applied Risk Management (ARM) then got up and described how the designs could be tweaked with security in mind. [See: Protecting Joe's Office]
Turning conflicts into solutions
ARM Senior Technical Consultant Roger Rueda listed examples of where the security guys and conservationists tend to clash. Security pros lean toward the brightest lighting possible. Conservationists see overly bright illumination as light pollution. Rueda said there's a middle ground to be had. For example, at night when there are fewer cars in the parking lot and fewer people coming and going, large sections of the parking lot can be blocked off so everyone is parking in a smaller area. That reduces the amount of lighting needed to monitor the parking lot because instead of illuminating the entire area, only a small section has to be watched. That allows the security folks to do their jobs while saving energy and reducing light pollution.