2004 Installations of the Year: The Industry’s Most Intelligently Integrated Systems

What do a $38 million public school where security staff can wirelessly monitor and control the building’s security functions, and a 5,989-square-foot custom home outfitted with more than 20 plasma and LCD televisions have in common? The dizzyingly lofty level of superior design, innovation and seamless integration it takes to capture Security Sales & Integration‘s (SSI) 3rd annual Integrated Installation of the Year Awards.

Announced as the biggest among many winners during SSI‘s SAMMY Awards ceremony in Las Vegas March 30, Pittsburgh’s The COMM Group and Greater Alarm of Irvine, Calif., edged out a pack of other talented security contractors to be saluted with special plaques for, respectively, the Best Integrated Commercial/Industrial and Residential Installations of the Year.

Established by SSI in 2002, these awards encourage the electronic security industry’s pursuit of excellence and elevate the profile of deserving companies.

Challengers are judged according to innovation; systems design; integration of at least three electronic systems (access control, burglary/intrusion alarm, CCTV, fire alarm/life safety, home automation, perimeter protection, etc.); seamlessness of installation; uniqueness of application; and end-user satisfaction. This year’s awards were sponsored by Dedicated Micros and DSC.

In its winning installation, The COMM Group designed and integrated access control, CCTV, intercom, fire alarm systems and more for the Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA) in Pittsburgh. Greater Alarm garnered its second residential honor (first was in 2002) by installing home theater, audio, intrusion, computer networking and CCTV systems for a six-bedroom, seven-bath residence in Southern California’s Coto De Caza region.

Both projects demonstrate intensive attention to detail, and outstanding design and skill. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these installations so special.

2004 Commercial Installation of the Year:
The COMM Group Unleashes Its Uncommon Skill

The COMM Group (TCG) is a designer and integrator of building systems and facilities networks that was formed in Pittsburgh in 1997 through the consolidation of three businesses: Pittsburgh Communications Corp., Netcomm Technologies Inc. and Wes Comm Inc. In 2002, BPS Systems Inc. became part of TCG, which opened another office in Akron, Ohio, in 2003. In March 2004, TCG was acquired by Chantilly, Va.-based ISR Solutions, a privately held electronic systems integrator.

TCG specializes in turnkey design, engineering, installation, documentation, maintenance and support services in the areas of CCTV, access control, fire alarm, theatrical sound, telecommunications and data network systems. The company’s major clients include the U.S. Postal Service, Pittsburgh Int’l Airport and Penn State University.

The Pittsburgh Public School District (PPS) can now also be included on that list thanks to the super job TCG did in meeting the needs of its Creative and Performing Arts School (CAPA).

Operational, Ambient Features Help Integrator Land Job
Located in the heart of the Cultural District in Downtown Pittsburgh, CAPA is the PPS’s newest “gem.” The $38 million, seven-story facility houses hundreds of students, staff and visitors entering its doors daily.

“This was a new school that was built in downtown Pittsburgh,” explains Sales Engineer Mike Farrell. “The school itself is unusual for several reasons. First, it was made possible by donations by certain philanthropic sources. Second, the school is unique because it focuses on creative and performing arts. Third, it is located in a traditionally commercial high-rise building environment.”

The challenge presented to TCG was to create an overall scheme incorporating design, installation and operations in accordance with PPS’s comprehensive security plan, and be able to blend it all with the ambiance of the building.

“The most valuable of all the assets that needed to be protected by this project were the school kids,” adds Farrell. “In addition, the teachers, staff, and the building and its contents also had to be safeguarded.”

Charles Urso, an electrical engineer with LLI Technologies and the end user’s design representative, says, “The goal was simply to create a safer environment for the children of Pittsburgh. Protection of city property was a secondary goal.”

With the intent of giving the job to the lowest bidder, CAPA awarded the project to TCG in January 2003. It didn’t hurt that TCG had worked with Pittsburgh’s public schools for a number of years.

“This was a bid job in which The COMM Group, which already had an existing business relationship with LLI and the customer, was contracted immediately,” continues Urso. “This installer was very helpful in delivering the technical side of this complex project.”A completion date was set for August 2003, before the start of school. TCG’s portion of the project would wind up consuming more than 400 man-hours. The entire job totaled about $1 million.

TCG’s Pat Rorke, Michael Havey and Nick Simcic took on the installation and programming of the CCTV and access control systems. The fire alarm system was assigned to Michael Bieda for the design and engineering portion, while Doug Whitacre assumed responsibility for the installation and programming.

School Project Incorporates a Multitude of Systems, Capabilities
Along with controlling access into the school through specified portals, the plan involved monitoring exits through a number of other doors within the building, integration with a CCTV system, digital video recording, fire alarm peer-to-peer interfacing, cigarette deterrent interfacing and the use of a mobile wireless solution.

“Integration of the system was extremely important to the customer and made sense on a project of this size,” contends Urso. “In particular, the camera and intrusion systems are useful in helping the city provide a safer environment for the children of Pittsburgh, as well as protect city property.”

TCG worked with electrical and design engineers to develop specific plans and drawings based on Lenel’s access system. The integrator incorporated ID credentialing, badge designing, alarm monitoring, alarm maps, fire alarm, paging and video recording with PELCO’s cameras and matrix switcher.

The system includes several PELCO LCD monitors and a keyboard located in the security command center room. This allows just two security guards to confidently monitor and control 15 HID proximity readers, 60 Sentrol door alarms, 50 Detection Systems motion detectors and 242 cameras located both in and outside of the facility.See page 44 of the July issue of SSI for a complete list of this installation’s equipment.

Alarms Displayed Via Graphic Map, Call Up CamerasCAPA’s top-of-the-line system is one not normally found within a public school. The Lenel system is a common platform with a standard Ethernet network configuration. This allows for the implementation of several enhanced features in a modular format, such as a wide-area network (WAN) for remote monitoring of buildings throughout the school district and the ability to interface with a student attendance package using open database connectivity.

“The district standardized on the Lenel/Pelco equipment for ease of operator interface, the ability for future expansion and upgrades, and the integration of multiple systems,” says Farrell.

In a typical access control system, entry access to a facility is limited. The CAPA project called for a more unique solution in which exit activity needed to be controlled as well. Thus, the building is secured after-hours by way of arming/disarming the system with the HID proximity/keypad reader. The Lenel system is set up to also

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