High-Tech Facilities Are Well Prepared
October 01, 2002

By Staff
Appeared in Building Operating Management/FacilitiesNet

A second point is also obvious: High-profile high-rises are at greater risk of terrorist attack than other types of office buildings, even other office towers. For prominent buildings, extensive security precautions are often justified — and, in many cases, already have been taken.

But for most office buildings, even most high-rises, the lesson of Sept. 11 is far less clear. Is a major overhaul of the security system justified? Most building owners and facility executives have concluded that the answer is “no.” Even in those cases, however, there a number of things that can be done to prevent or minimize threats or actual harm to people and property. At the top of the list is making sure the current security system is operating at its full potential.

“Most facility executives think security protection is something you design and implement and then you can forget about,” says Freidenfelds of Sako and Associates. “Well, security systems are dynamic. They have to be maintained and adjusted as conditions change.”

The most pervasive changes in the industry involve security procedures and access control. For instance, some owners now enforce a long-ignored requirement that visitors go to a central location or guard desk for passes or badges before entering.

Controlling Building Access
Not surprisingly, procedures and security systems for loading docks, mailrooms and alternative entranceways into high-rise buildings have become a major focus. For example, many experts say the trend is to limit or eliminate internal delivery of packages unless vendors are screened or internally cleared. Otherwise, uniformed personnel or tenants themselves deliver the packages.

Other changes have to do with technology. After the terrorist attacks, long lines formed when security personnel were attempting to stop everyone coming into a building. One solution that has drawn a good deal of interest is optical turnstiles, which can handle thousands of people in the morning rush effectively and efficiently, says Terry Gillick, vice president of Syska Hennessy Group.

Optical turnstiles are especially popular for high-rise buildings, says David Aggleton, president of Aggleton and Associates. They will grant access to 45 to 60 people per minute per unit and cost about $20,000 to $30,000 per lane, he says. By comparison, standard mechanical turnstiles cost about $6,000 per lane. Optical units take up a lot of room, so lobby space can be an issue.

Owners and security professionals are also reporting greater use of card systems, especially proximity cards.

Andy Nick, principal with Taconic Investment, owns a 2.8-million-square-foot office building in Times Square. Tenant interest in security led him to install an integrated card access system that controls entry into the building, elevators, package-control centers and anywhere else access is needed, he says. A tenant who forgets his or her badge has to go to the visitor station to get into the building.

The attacks of Sept. 11 have driven other changes. For example, there is increasing interest in making tenants’ and owners’ access control systems compatible. “We are starting to see a lot more cooperation between large tenant security systems and building owner systems,” Gillick says.

CCTV systems are another focus of attention. Measures range from inexpensive tweaks — making sure CCTV cameras are provided with sufficient light or are properly positioned — to the installation of additional cameras in public areas, such as garden and reception spaces.

No Entry
Aggleton says he’s beginning to see a preference for messenger drop-off centers with entrances separate from the main entry lobby; there, internal personnel with security clearances can pick up the packages and deliver them. And, increasingly, food deliveries are received at the ground level only, and tenants are required to pick them up.

Although the building envelope is also receiving attention, major changes are not in the offing for most facilities. “There was a lot of talk initially about redesigning systems and envelopes, but everyone found out the costs were incredible,” says Steve Paulson, a vice president of national operations for Grubb and Ellis. If major work is needed on the building envelope, it is being incorporated into long-term capital plans.

One thing being done today, where owners believe there is a significant risk, is to install protective films on windows, Aggleton says. The application of so-called blast film helps contain flying glass in the event of an explosion. It can be relatively expensive, but not as expensive as replacing glazing with polycarbonate, an option being explored by some owners.

Before Sept. 11, most owners would not have considered the rooftops of their buildings to be security risks. However, some owners now believe HVAC systems on their roofs are vulnerable. As a result, some owners have secured access to their rooftops.

Down on the ground, the site for the building also offers some relatively inexpensive steps that building owners have been implementing. Barriers of various sorts are being installed to limit access to the building. Usually not aesthetically pleasing if simply plopped down, barriers can be worked into the landscape, Cizmadia says.

“Building owners are starting to look at integrating the landscape and site into the security design,” he says. Fountains and berms can keep cars and trucks away from the building. Different colors of pavement or the placement of plantings can help provide direction to visitors and create a sense of control. “The owner should use whatever is at his means to control the perception of access and security,” he says.

To determine what will provide the appropriate security response, building owners have to really consider each facility on its own merit.

“The national firms are not issuing any nationwide changes that I know of,” says Bogle of Ernst and Young. “Everything today in security is building by building. What’s an appropriate response? It depends. Is a building in an urban area? Is a building prominent? What is the tenant base? If none of these are a concern, then I see people relying on standard operating procedure with the appropriate tweaks.”