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Blueprint for hiring a design consultant.

WHEN SELECTING A CONSULTANT to design a security system, security managers face several options. If the project only involves installing equipment and the vendor has already been selected, that vendor is probably the best source for design assistance. If no vendor has been selected, a systems integrator can provide the necessary expertise.

If the solution to a security problem includes multiple complex subsystems or goes beyond security equipment to include building considerations, however, an architect or engineer consultant can be invaluable. While architects or engineers may not know any more about security equipment than a vendor or a systems integrator, they are better equipped to address the range of technical elements involved in an integrated solution.

Selecting an architect or engineer can be difficult. A firm that has had experience with similar projects is the safest choice. Firms that lack in-house security experience or depend on outside consultants for their security expertise should be avoided.

If security is a major consideration, the primary architect or engineer consultant needs to be familiar with the relevant requirements to coordinate effectively with the security manager and other consultants. It is also beneficial if the primary consultant has worked previously with the outside consultants.

Another important consideration is to check whether the principle designers and project leaders are registered design professionals. These registrations are licenses to practice architecture or engineering. The United States and many foreign countries have registration laws that prohibit unlicensed people from performing most design functions.

Registered architects and engineers must convince governmental registration boards that they are worthy of the public trust through education, experience, examination, and continuing education. While being licensed does not guarantee competence, it provides credibility and establishes a basis for liability.

Registered architects will commonly use the designation "RA" following their name. Some architects use the initials "AIA," an abbreviation for the American Institute of Architects that shows they are registered members of that organization.

Registered engineers commonly use the initials "PE" for professional engineer. In some states, variations of the designation are accepted such as "SE" for structural engineer.

Once a firm is selected, a project manager commonly will be assigned to the project. A project architect and a project engineer may also be assigned. Project architects or engineers are the technical managers for the job. They are responsible for ensuring that all the architectural and engineering disciplines in the design team work together toward a fully integrated design.

If the project involves major building modification or new construction, an architect may lead the design group. If the work is primarily oriented toward security equipment or if it entails significant sitework or major structural modifications, an engineer may take on the lead role. In either case, the project manager is the primary contact for the security manager. He or she handles the project's finances, scheduling, and logistics and becomes a conduit through which the security manager can communicate with the designers.

No matter how large or small the project, the design team will approach the project in stages. While these stages may vary, the following steps are typical of how the design team approaches a project from inception to operation.

Studies and reports. In this stage, the team will identify what information is needed to proceed with the design. Types of information studied include the requirements for the design solution, conceptual solutions, and an assessment of the project's feasibility.

The security manager must work closely with the project manager and the project architect or engineer during this phase. The information gathered at this stage will serve as the basis for the entire project.

To identify all of the information needed to design an integrated security system, the architect or engineer will work with the security manager to define the security problem the system will solve. They will begin by identifying the assets of the system to be protected and the threats against which they must be secured.

Architects and engineers need to know the details of the threat to design a security system that addresses it. If the threat is forced entry, for example, the designer needs to know what tools are likely to be used in the attempt. Similarly, for terrorist threats, the designer needs to know what weapons may be used. If explosives are suspected, the designer must be aware of the size of bomb to expect.

Once the threat has been identified, the team can then develop the vulnerabilities the security system will be designed to mitigate. The architect or engineer will also identify any special concerns of the security manager and any operational issues related to the assets or the organization as a whole. Anything that might affect the design of the security system must be identified at this point.

Once this basic information has been compiled, the architect or engineer works with the security manager to develop the functional requirements for the proposed security system. These requirements will be used by the designers as they lay out the system.

The functional requirements key in on specific assets and address the vulnerabilities to them. By defining the security system's goal in mitigating the vulnerabilities, the functional requirements provide the system's performance objectives. They also address constraints as well as special criteria the design must consider.

Given the functional requirements, the designers will develop conceptual solutions. These concepts will be general but should illustrate the scope of the solution for the security manager. The concepts should include descriptions of major equipment and construction requirements as well as the staffing and procedures needed to implement the solution. Once the concepts have been developed, the designers will analyze their feasibility based on issues such as cost, impact on operations and labor relations, and facility limitations.

Narrative descriptions of the concepts, preliminary cost estimates, and a feasibility analysis should be submitted to the security manager in report form. This report should also include an estimate of the design work needed and how much it will cost. The security manager should review the report carefully to ensure that the proposed solution meets the functional requirements and is feasible from a cost and operational point of view. The security manager should coordinate with the project architect or engineer through the project manager if questions or concerns arise.

While the architect or engineer is responsible for providing a clear and complete report, the security manager should verify that required changes are incorporated into the report by reviewing each version. If any changes need to be made to the conceptual solution or the functional requirements, those changes should be made at this time, when they can still be made easily. Any changes made after the report is finalized may significantly affect the design cost.

Preliminary design. The first draft of a detailed design is based on the contents of the report done in the previous stage of the project. Approximately 35 percent complete, this preliminary design contains a more detailed look at the design concepts in the report. It includes initial site and floor plans as well as other drawings needed to indicate how the building will be laid out and how it will look.

The preliminary design also contains lists of the major equipment to be included in the system where it will be located and system block diagrams to show how components interrelate. The plan includes utility requirements and preliminary details on components such as security doors and windows.

The preliminary design package is not limited to drawings and equipment lists, however. It also frequently outlines the major procurement specifications that will be included in the final design documents. Specifications are instructions to construction contractors that detail what needs to be built and how to build it. Specification outlines are provided primarily to coordinate the various design disciplines involved in the project.

The preliminary design package should also contain a design analysis, which is a narrative and computational record of how the design was performed. The design analysis includes major assumptions and design descriptions, such as how the design meets the functional requirements. Finally, the preliminary design package should include a detailed construction cost estimate.

The security manager must review the preliminary design package carefully since changes can still be made easily. After this point, changes will require significant design effort, resulting in costly expenditures of time and money.

The design drawings should receive special attention. Also, the narrative portions of the design analysis should be reviewed carefully to verify that the functional requirements are met and that the assumptions used in the design are consistent with company operations and policies. The security manager should examine the cost estimate to ensure that all expected major components are included ahead of time.

If elements of the preliminary design package are unclear, the project manager should ask the project architect or engineer to explain them so the client understands. Any problems with the preliminary design package should be communicated to the project manager and resolved by the project architect or engineer. The design should not be allowed to enter the next stage until it has been approved by the security manager and corporate management.

Final design. The final design will result in a detailed package that can be used for contractor bidding and construction. It will include detailed site and building plans, individual building components, equipment layouts, final equipment lists, and schematic diagrams. The final design package should include construction specifications, a more detailed design analysis, estimated construction schedules, and a final cost estimate. Final design packages may also include test and acceptance procedures.

The new element at this stage is a complete specifications package. Since the specifications constitute a formal contract between the owner and the construction contractor, their accuracy is imperative.

Specification packages contain many sections, each pertaining to a different component of the design. The beginning of each section includes a general description of what is to be built. Generally, the specification details are not of concern to security managers. Their review should focus on ensuring that specifications are included for all major components and that the descriptions are reasonable.

The project architect or engineer should thoroughly explain any unclear points. He or she should also be asked to explain provisions that specify how the contractor will operate during construction, including where the contractors can go and when, where they can park their equipment, and other operational constraints.

Coordinating closely with the project architect or engineer through the project manager will ensure that all concerns are fully addressed. Any changes or contract corrections made after this point are likely to result in expensive construction change orders.

Bidding or negotiation. Even though the design may be complete, architects or engineers still have a role to play in the project. Typically, they act on the client's behalf in selecting a contractor to build the project.

Another option is to hire a specialized architect or engineer firm to act as construction manager. That firm can advise the client either to advertise to receive bids by prospective construction contractors or to negotiate with one or more contractors to arrive at an agreeable price.

The architect, engineer, or construction manager deals with the contractors directly, answering questions and ensuring that their bids or negotiating documents meet the contract requirements spelled out in the specification package. The architect, engineer, or construction manager then selects the best contractor for the job based on the client's criteria and submits that choice for the client's approval. Finally, the contract is signed and construction begins.

Construction. Design architects or engineers continue to provide an important service during construction. They can answer technical questions or resolve disputes with the contractor. They can provide construction quality control to ensure that the project is being built correctly. This function may also be handled by a construction management firm.

The design firm will alter the design if conditions change during construction. For example, the original design may be inadequate or the client may request a modification. The design firm is best qualified to integrate these changes because they are familiar with the overall design and its objectives.

The role of the security manager should be limited during construction. He or she can observe the progress, but should never speak directly with the contractor in a way that could be construed to be an order.

Any problems that the security manager has with the construction or the contractor should be directed to the architect, the engineer, or the construction manager. Anything the contractor is told to do must be within the scope of the contract or that directive may become the basis for a construction claim, which can be very expensive. Because they are familiar with the design and the contract, architects, engineers, or construction management firms are the best ones to determine how the issue should be resolved.

Operation. The last part of a security system design in which an architect or engineer can be invaluable is in the operational stage. This stage includes the critical start-up and training phases. Because they are familiar with the overall design, an architect or engineer may provide unique insight into operational issues. Asking the architect or engineer to oversee the start-up and training is a good way to ensure that these steps are progressing appropriately.

Designers can also assist in getting the bugs out of the system and administering any warranties associated with the equipment. They can supervise maintenance and assist with upgrades and changes to the installed system.

Both maintenance and system changes or upgrades can significantly benefit from the participation of the people who are most familiar with the entire system. In general, the architect and engineer can provide expertise that spans the entire system and can coordinate with all of the related vendors to ensure smooth operation.

As security projects become more complex and cost efficiency becomes a critical element of those projects, the security manager needs to ensure that the people providing system design services are qualified to do so. Increasingly, registered architects and engineers are being asked to provide integrated solutions to today's complex security problems. Through prudent selection of architect and engineer consultants and through effective participation in the design and construction process, the security manager can ensure that he or she is authorizing efficient security expenditures.

Curt P. Betts, PE, is a security engineer and a structural engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Protective Design Center in Omaha, Nebraska. He is chairman of the ASIS Standing Committee on Security Architecture and Engineering.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:hiring security system designers
Author:Betts, Curt P.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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