Security Technology Value Engineering: Mistakes to Avoid

By Sean A. Ahrens  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Watch Construction Documents for Value Engineering Changes

Security directors and facility executives alike have had to deal with a common C-suite mandate of late: Do more with less. This is especially true during the design of a facility, as an organization works to fulfill the operational and functional requirements for the building within the expected budget or guaranteed/gross maximum price.

Unfortunately, the economy has far-reaching impacts on the construction of a building. This economic climate has put stress on the banking and credit markets, reducing the potential for project funding. The cost of steel, copper and other materials could dramatically increase as a result of global demand, presenting a further challenge to the security system budget on proposed or construction-in-progress buildings. In these instances, organizations may be required to reduce functionality under a value engineering process to make the numbers work and still construct the building.

Value engineering is a way of reducing the expected costs of a project. In a value engineering process, priorities are identified and used as the basis for systems and device deletion or substitution. Now more than ever, organizations are turning to value engineering to minimize costs while meeting basic needs for the functionality of their buildings.

Security is especially susceptible to value engineering because it is perceived as a cost center, not a profit center. Cutting the budget for security on a project can bring risks, especially now. A declining economy has historically correlated with a rise in the crime rate. The best explanation is that otherwise law-abiding people turn to illegitimate acts to support the lifestyle they were accustomed to before the economic decline. As a result, facility executives should be vigilant and cautious about sweeping and broad modifications in the value engineering process that could hollow out the security plan for buildings that are planned or are currently in construction. Although the cost of security technology is initially expensive, the return on investment in the reduction of criminal occurrences is something that could have far-reaching cost-saving benefits.

When challenged with a directive to cut costs, use total cost of ownership and return on investment to substantiate the need for the envisioned security systems on a project.

In some cases, security technology permits an organization to reduce labor requirements. Eliminating technology will often mean relying on security staffing to bridge the gap. Demonstrating payback in those cases can be fairly straightforward, but other times the economic return is harder to show. For instance, the use of access control allows an organization to have more control over the lock/keying infrastructure. Integrating access control can have substantial cost saving because, for instance, it precludes the need to re-key should someone lose the master key.

Nevertheless, there is often payback or return on investment in security technology. Consider the time it takes to review an incident on an analog security camera system. That review may require hours and possibly days. New digital camera recording technologies allow security investigators to review footage from multiple security cameras simultaneously, rather than individually. This equals ROI because the level of effort or manpower can be reduced, thereby allowing more work to be done over the course of a year than would otherwise be possible.

The Onion Approach

When considering value engineering options, think of the facility as an onion. That is, each layer of the onion presents compartmentalization opportunities through technology and architecture. Therefore, in a value engineering exercise, changes to the security plan should begin at the exterior of the facility and decrease as they move toward the asset that is being protected, with supplemental protections provided at the asset location. This approach limits the security compartmentalization within the middle layer. However, the security goal should always be to delay access to an asset as long as possible, thereby increasing the opportunity for detection.

One of the biggest expenses in a security program is access control. Removal of access control can often have great effects on the functionality of the building. But sometimes access control becomes a sort of status symbol. In those cases, the access control equipment should be removed as part of the value engineering process to minimize the impact on the primary layers of compartmentalization. Drawings should be carefully evaluated, and all non-essential access control that is politically motivated (e.g., access control readers on individual offices) should be removed.

Facility executives should be careful that modifications to the technical security program do not weaken other areas. For example, suppose a high-rise building’s security is concentrated on the core, which includes the stairwells and elevators providing vertical access to the floors above. In that case, removal of access control from either the stairs or elevators/vestibules would limit the ability to control access to floors above. If security is concentrated in the lobby or access points to these vertical circulation routes, then both stair and elevator access control must be maintained, because they complement the holistic security program.

The value engineering process can affect security even if security technology is not cut. Architecture could also change —  doors could be removed or public areas reconfigured — so it is very important to monitor architectural value engineering changes that could impact security, which many times are not communicated to the person who is in charge of a security function. For example, it’s a mistake to assume that the device placement that has been signed off on early in the process is actually what is being built. Facility executives should react quickly to modifications to architecture and security device placement, which could affect the security program in its entirety.

The biggest architectural change to watch for is a modification in how people enter and leave the building. Consider a project with a large second-floor patio with two exterior stairs and an entrance into a high-value area within the building. What if, during value engineering, the second set of stairs were to be removed from the patio? This means there would no longer be two ways to egress the patio, as required by life safety code. In order to maintain compliance to the life safety code, it has to be possible for people on the patio to go from the exterior of the building to the interior to leave the building in an emergency. As a result, in this example, the doors to the patio could not be locked because they would now be part of a path of egress. With the patio being at the second level and easily scaleable, there would be a real concern with the security of the first layer in the onion because of the exterior door that could not be locked because of architectural modifications that created a life-safety code requirement.

On another project, the owner wanted to consolidate cabling, and decided to use IP cameras instead of analog cameras. Although security costs were reduced minimally, the total cost of ownership was far greater for the IP cameras. The cost of purchasing and installing the IP cameras did not include all the costs required to ensure functionality/redundancy of the digital IP system comparable to the previous analog one. As a result, a redundant network, routers and the large storage hard-drive capacity required by the IP cameras needed to be added at a later date.

Keep Your Cool

When facility executives are confronted with value engineering, they should not become irritated, agitated or otherwise argumentative about the process. To do so will only detract from the goal of getting what you need.

Keep in mind that the guaranteed/gross maximum price is set by people who use predictive software to identify building costs. The cost estimator is not adding up the cost of every device. Most likely, that person is calculating the cost for the security system as part of a total square-foot cost for the entire building.

Facility executives may be able to use that fact to their advantage.

When systems or devices are eliminated in a value engineering process, suggest that they are not deleted but instead become add/alternates. The estimator excludes the cost of the systems or devices denoted as an add/alternate and therefore produces an estimate that is within the overall budget. The bidding contractor then provides a separate price for those add/alternate items.

In many cases, the contractor’s bid will be below the estimated cost of the base system. Remember that the estimator never wants to underestimate the cost of a project. As a result, initial cost estimates are often high. If systems or devices are eliminated in value engineering, they will not appear on the construction drawings and will not be bid on. If the bid comes in lower than expected, it will be too late to put the eliminated systems or devices back on the drawings. But if they are add/alternates, they remain on the drawings and are subsequently bid separately. If the bid comes in lower than estimated, systems or devices shown as add/alternates can be put back in very easily.

Using add/alternates in this way is an opportunity to evaluate the actual costs for the systems/devices needed, rather than delete them based on a cost-estimator’s guess, which may not take into account all of the facets of the process.

As it relates to security and value engineering, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Facility executives need to be cognizant of the potential for important security systems to be eliminated in order to come under budget. By being vigilant to drawings and unnecessary systems, presenting security systems in terms of ROI and total cost of ownership, and using adds/alternates to get around eliminations of security devices, facility executives can make sure they get an effective and functional security system within budget.

Continue Reading: Protecting the Security Budget

Security Technology Value Engineering: Mistakes to Avoid

Watch Construction Documents for Value Engineering Changes

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  posted on 5/19/2009   Article Use Policy

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