JCI Replaces 15-Year-Old Access Control Solution in Iowa Tower

By Ashley Willis

DES MOINES, Iowa — When the Employers Mutual Casualty Co. (EMC) corporate office building was built, it featured a state-of-the-art security system. Fifteen years later, the 20-story building requires an upgrade for its access control, fire alarm and building automation systems. With card access being the weakest link of all the systems, EMC officials relied on its integrator Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) to install a solution by HID Global.

EMC had a Westinghouse card access system in place prior to the installation. However, in order to fix issues with the system, the integrator had to call overseas for support, JCI Security and Fire Branch Manager for Iowa Troy Marshall tells SSI.

“The only support was out of Germany, where someone could actually help us over the phone with technical questions,” he says. “Westinghouse was a great system, but the fear was that if the system went down, EMC would be without its security system.”

Thus, it was necessary to find a robust system that would support EMC’s entire corporate campus of six buildings, two parking lots and one parking structure in Des Moines. An additional building in Ames, Iowa, also required protection.

As one of its vendors, JCI chose HID Global products for the upgrade, including the P2000 security management system integrated with iCLASS/Prox cards. JCI also installed 160 R40 readers in the buildings and 12 iCLASS R90 long-range readers for parking garages.

As JCI installed the readers, EMC made new badges for 1,800 employees. Some employees had to carry both their old badge and new badge during the changeover; however, it didn’t disrupt the installation process, says Marshall.

Because of the Westinghouse system’s wiring from the reader to the controllers, Marshall’s team had to call in Des Moines, Iowa-based Baker Electric Inc., an electrical contractor, to help with pre-wiring for the new system.

“The system we put in was more of a home run architecture,” says Marshall. “Each reader went back to the control panel individually, so we had to work with Baker to get wire in place so we could switch out a panel and switch out the associated readers.”

Marshall chose Baker Electric because the company was already familiar with the buildings and existing system, so it was easier to perform the changeover. However, Marshall notes that just because an electrician has building knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily make that company the best choice for an installation.

“It’s critical that the electrician has a good understanding of low-voltage wiring,” says Marshall. “You need an electrician that has the size and ability to manage the work on their own. The electrician also has to have a good understanding on what a security system is, what its intent is, and the criticality of keeping it running day in and day out.”

JCI also encountered challenges installing readers inside the elevators when converting signals. Fortunately, HID Global’s technical support team offered the integrator tips on how to work through the challenges.

Prior to the start of the installation, which began in mid-2010, JCI provided a weeklong hands-on training to EMC Control Center Supervisor Scott Gooch on the new system. EMC’s daily operators of the system also received training on the new solution, says Marshall.

“We trained them as we were building the system so they understood how the system was built and how to manage and operate it going forward,” he says.

In all, it took JCI eight weeks to complete the access control system upgrade. There are currently plans in place to upgrade the IFC fire alarm system and a Metasys building automation system.

“The two systems are currently integrated together,” says Marshall. “In order to create an upgrade path for each system individually, we have to remove that integration and tie them back together after the upgrade. It would have been too hard to do both upgrades at the same time and keep fire coverage in the building.”

EMC also plans to replace its DVRs with a Milestone platform system in the coming weeks.

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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