Greater Alarm Co. in Irvine, Calif., designs and installs a security system for a 17-story luxury a

How do you transform a senior housing complex—once owned by schmaltz bandleader Lawrence Welk, no less—into elegant ocean-front apartment homes for some of Hollywood’s most privacy-starved elite? That was one of the questions facing Irvine Apartment Communities (IAC) of Irvine, Calif., when the company acquired the 17-story 1221 Ocean Avenue Towers in Santa Monica, Calif.

IAC turned to Greater Alarm Co. in Irvine, Calif., to design and install a security system that provides a high level of privacy and safety for its well-heeled residents (monthly rents range from $6,000 to $12,000) without detracting from the building’s luxurious décor.

The building resembles a luxury hotel and boasts one of the most sought-after locations in the Los Angeles area. Across the street is the beach and one of Southern California’s most recognizable landmarks, the Santa Monica pier. Around the corner is the Third Street Promenade, an upscale outdoor shopping district complete with movie theaters and first-rate restaurants.

Resident amenities include a concierge service, rooftop pool, conference room with teleconferencing capabilities and fully equipped fitness center. The components of the complex’s security system are networked into a Lenel 64NT central control server. They include HID Corp. electronic access control and a Radionics intrusion alarm system monitoring the ground-level perimeter of the building. Each of the 116 apartment units is also equipped with its own intrusion alarm system and moisture sensors in the laundry area. Constructed of concrete and steel in the early 1970s, the building posed a number of challenges for the Greater Alarm team.

The security system’s equipment, except for the CCTV system, is connected to a six-wire communication bus. The main server is located in the leasing office. Security personnel stationed in the main lobby also have a workstation to monitor alarms, but they cannot access the resident database available on the server.

Greater Alarm Co. Beats Out the Competition

Even before the security system installation went out to bid, Greater Alarm was involved in the project. IAC approached the dealer to assist in the security and fire alarm system designs. A major goal for the security system was to tightly control access. Work on the installation began in January 1999.

Earthquake Rattles Apartment Complex

Back in January 1994, the senior housing complex, known then as Champagne Towers, suffered major structural damage when the Northridge earthquake rocked and rattled the greater Los Angeles area. As a result, the building was evacuated and stood vacant for years. After Irvine Apartment Communities purchased the high-rise from the Welk Group, IAC took over the earthquake retrofit project and set into motion the complex’s transformation. At the project’s conclusion, Greater Alarm had devoted 2,200 man-hours to the security and fire alarm system installations. The final price tag for the security system was $226,419. The bill for the Gamewell Flex 650 fire alarm system installation, including some change orders, was $248,322.

Security and Privacy Are Made Priorities

To attract residents who wouldn’t scoff at paying $6,000 to $12,000 a month in rent, IAC realized resident security and privacy had to be primary concerns. To reach the floor of their own apartment, residents present their HID Prox Pro key fob to the access control reader in the elevator. Residents don’t have access to any residential floor other than the one where they live. A resident on the 15th floor, for example, cannot direct the elevator to go to the 10th floor.

Installing the Addressable Fire Alarm System

Greater Alarm also designed and installed the building’s fire alarm system, a Gamewell Flex 650. The system is analog addressable with dual-messaging capabilities. Because the building was originally constructed nearly 30 years ago, when fire codes were more relaxed, the dealer again had to confront the limits posed by exceptionally small conduit raceways. The system includes voice evacuation speakers, wall-mounted strobe lights, photoelectric analog addressable smoke detectors, damper controls and duct detector monitoring in the central HVAC units, fire door controls, magnetic door holders and elevator recall.

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