Security with added benefits

With many public sector buildings operating well into the evening, hosting out-of-hours clubs, societies and meetings as well as 24-hour services, premises are often left open and vulnerable for longer periods of time, with many after-hours visitors coming from the wider town or county community. Often, the absence of reception staff at these times often means that even unwanted or unauthorised visitors are able to come and go as they please, placing both buildings and valuable equipment at risk.

In addition to this, the use of such buildings for longer periods of time can lead to rocketing utility bills, something that most institutions will want to minimise in these periods of economic uncertainty and reduced budgets. At the same time, being able to demonstrate environmental credentials is an important priority for any public sector organisation wishing to demonstrate corporate social responsibility to its constituents.  

Recent developments in technology within the security industry can help to deal with all of these concerns with a single solution. In fact, many public sector organisations often fail to realise the crucial role that their security provider can play, not only in reducing the risk from theft and vandalism, but also in helping to drive energy costs down while addressing environmental concerns.

Access control has long held a valued place within the public sector, helping to monitor the flow of authorised personnel around the premises while playing a vital role in health and safety and visitor registration. Now, access control and visitor monitoring systems can also be utilised as part of intelligent solutions that work alongside Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) to help public sector organisations save money on their energy and heating bills.

A BEMS can typically control up to 80 per cent of a building’s energy usage, so it’s clear to see how using access control to optimise the system to suit the variable usage and occupation of a building can streamline energy usage.

In such systems, data gathered by access control and visitor monitoring systems is used to inform the BEMS of the nature and function of the people occupying a heating zone. Knowing what roles are being fulfilled by individuals operating within a heating zone also allows the BEMS to make adjustments and lower the amount of fuel consumed. This information is applied by the BEMS to heat-loss algorithms to determine the minimum amount of heat to be applied to a particular area, reducing the amount of energy consumed and avoiding unnecessary wastage. For example, a small group of employees performing largely sedentary activities will require more heating than a large group of manual workers conducting more physical activity in a relatively small area.  

Identifying patterns in visitor behaviour can stop the unnecessary heating of unoccupied heating zones, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions. This works intelligently, using past data to assess when a certain area of the building is likely to be occupied, activating heating in time for visitors’ arrival and reducing temperature or turning off the heating entirely during periods of inactivity. This can be particularly useful for public buildings, where operations and activities adhere to a regular schedule which is easily ‘learned’ by the BEMS to assess the timing and level of heating required to adjust the systems accordingly.  

In addition to integration with BEMS, access control systems can also be integrated with other essential security measures including intrusion detection, video surveillance and CCTV analytics. Traditionally, these systems are set up separately—with their own hardware, software, installation, oversight, service, maintenance, administration and training. However, with budgets in the public sector tighter than ever, an integrated system will enable organisations to save money and ease the burden of administration through reduced supplier liaison.

A real-life example of successful integration of security systems in the public sector occurred when a BSIA member was chosen to deliver an integrated security solution to West Lothian Civic Centre, a £53 million complex for all public service provision in and around Livingston, Scotland.

The civic centre is home to the police, council, Crown Office, Fire and Rescue Service, Community Health and Care Partnership, Sheriff and Justice of the Peace Courts as well as the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration Service. Consequently, a system combining high security with ease of access was required.

The civic centre selected a BSIA member to develop a solution that met the diverse needs of the 1,000 employees who would be working together under one roof. Employees and visitors needed the freedom to move around the complex easily and safely in close proximity to secure areas designed for court and police custodies. As a result, the BSIA member provided a remote access control system consisting of 240 doors, barriers and entry points and 170 CCTV cameras, which monitor all buildings, car parks and perimeters. A video intercom and intruder alarm system was installed along with a fire alarm system with 1,000 smoke alarms across the complex.


In a separate example, a BSIA member worked with the UK government communications headquarters during its relocation to new premises. The new site had been under development for a number of years under the government’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and would involve a large-scale integrated electronic security project on a site greater than that of the former Wembley stadium.

The security solution is a fully featured, cost effective access control and security management system, providing the required network capabilities for an installation of this size. The system is a scaleable enterprise system, capable of coping with unlimited cardholders and configurations. The system includes instantaneous CCTV coverage; door alarms and ‘event to action’ alarms which utilise on-screen mapping; and centrally controlled software providing a user-friendly interface and the implementation of lost, stolen or unauthorised cards made immediately identifiable. By integrating a number of security functions in this way, public sector organisations are able to streamline their operations and save money by reducing the number of suppliers that they deal with.

When considering an integrated security solution that brings together multiple systems and functionalities, expert impartial advice can be of great benefit. Using a security consultancy from the outset can help organisations avoid rogue suppliers, saving both time and money. Working independently, security consultancies act as a guide to the many products and services on the market and provide unbiased recommendations based on an assessment of the individual requirements of their clients. Acting as an extension to your workforce, security consultants bring expertise and experience to assist businesses within the public sector. Their support is provided only when their services are needed, meaning that there’s no need for a long-term financial commitment. Conversely, while it may appear cheaper initially, sourcing security without independent advice can cost significantly more in the long-term, a factor worth considering when planning any future investment.

With many public sector organisations experiencing variable occupation within their buildings and operating across larger and more diverse campus areas, using intelligent access control and visitor management systems to regulate energy consumption and streamline operations is the logical next step to cutting costs and reducing environmental impact.

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Supplier Profiles

Schneider Electric

Schneider  Electric  is  leading  the  Digital  Transformation  of  Energy  Management  and  Auto

Tiger Turf

Founded in 2000, the UK division of TigerTurf designs and manufactures artificial turf for sport