Quickly Expanding University Overhauls Security Plan
Over the past eight years, George Mason University, located in the heart of the Northern Virginia Tech Corridor in Fairfax,Va., has opened nearly 30 new facilities and renovated countless others to bring its physical plant to more than 170 buildings. Home to more than 30,000 students who pursue degrees among its 80 undergraduate programs on its 670-acre residential campus, GMU has invested several hundred million dollars into the construction of new facilities that include student residence halls, research buildings, a hotel/conference center, retail outlets and faculty/staff housing.
One common thread for all of GMU’s facilities is the need for physical security and access control. When the university decided that it needed to update and replace much of its access control and video surveillance system, it turned to Munster, Ind.-based RS2 Technologies and to local Virginia company S3 Integration, an RS2 dealer/integrator.
The decision to change to an RS2 system was made by a group of GMU personnel, but the primary players in the decision-making process were the “tag team” of Jim McCarthy, director of physical security, and Danny Anthes, senior manager of information technology for Auxiliary Enterprises.
RS2 Northeast Regional Sales Manager David Bensky and S3I Senior Account Executive Brian Piccolo helped McCarthy and Anthes and their staff design a system that met GMU’s requirements for utilizing as much of its existing hardware as possible, integrating it with the latest locks, cameras and other equipment; doing so in a user-friendly (but more powerful) access control system; and eliminating the training hassles and recurring software maintenance fees that had been a few of the less desirable facets of the old system. “Clunky” was how McCarthy described the previous system.
“It was a huge training issue, as it would sometimes take two hours to train people how to use the most basic parts of the old system,” he said. “When we added that to the cost piece, such as the licensing, which was getting ridiculous, it was a no-brainer to go with RS2. We calculated our ROI on the RS2 system to be about one-and-a-half years.”
Speaking from “the police side,” McCarthy also liked the RS2 system’s integration with his CCTV system and the functionality and ease of use of its interactive map feature. The access control system is integrated with an exacqVision video management system (VMS), which was also handled by S3I.
At the time of the system installation, GMU had a mixture of more than 500 analog and IP cameras operating on 14 completely different types of legacy DVRs. Through the efforts of S3I’s Piccolo and RS2’s Bensky, all the integration objectives were achieved and GMU got a scalable system that has grown — and will continue to grow — along with the university. “We continue to announce the construction of new buildings and we’re aggressively renovating older buildings, which includes installing access control,” McCarthy said.
In the past few years, McCarthy has been involved with more than a dozen different construction and renovation projects, so he needed a system that would be robust enough to keep up with GMU’s growth plans and that would be scalable, open, and intuitive enough to be easily used by security professionals at the university level. (The pace of construction at GMU dictated that the university started a “Building Patriot Pride” section of its website to keep employees and students apprised of construction projects, including construction-related traffic issues. The section currently has 44 pages of postings and alerts.)
Both McCarthy and Anthes feel that, during complicated installations of the type they managed at GMU, communication between the university, the integrator and the access control solution provider is one of the key ingredients for a successful project. S3I coordinated the integration of RS2’s Access It! Universal access control software, a combination of hardwired and wireless IP locks (more than 3,000 combined sets) from ASSA ABLOY and Allegion (formerly Ingersoll Rand), and the exacqVision VMS. GMU is now running the same system (RS2’s Access It! Universal Enterprise Level solution) across five different campuses.
Piccolo, who was familiar with RS2’s extensive portfolio of educational installations, which includes college/university installations ranging from small to very large campuses at such institutions as Rockhurst University, the University of Pittsburgh, Purdue University, Loyola, the University of Texas – Brownsville, Anderson University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Valparaiso University, and many others, felt good about recommending this solution. Piccolo added that, in addition to being able to provide a cost-effective, open platform solution using cutting edge technology, RS2 was an easy and friendly company to work with. “That was important to us and it certainly was important to GMU.”
The bottom line for both McCarthy and Anthes, however, was that the security system that they have installed, with the help of RS2 and S3I, would give parents a level of confidence that their sons and daughters are protected not only in their residence halls, but everywhere on campus.
“GMU prides itself on providing great security for our students,” McCarthy said. “The university has shown that it is willing to spend the money that is needed to provide the best security available. Don’t get me wrong — we don’t waste money. We’re cost-effective. Whenever possible, we try to do some of the installation work ourselves. But, when we spend our security budget, we want the best value for it. That’s what we got with RS2 and S3I.”