Case Histories

Sept. 1, 2001
SAFETY: Handheld computers help safety officers comply Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., was in the market for a system to inspect safety and fire-prevention equipment in more than 400 buildings all over campus, including labs. Main considerations were ...

SAFETY: Handheld computers help safety officers comply

Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., was in the market for a system to inspect safety and fire-prevention equipment in more than 400 buildings all over campus, including labs. Main considerations were a system that would maximize productivity, and save time and money. The university has 9,100 employees, 54 safety employees, 100,000 pieces of safety equipment and nearly 10.5 million square feet of space.

Most of the university's inspections cover safety equipment such as sprinklers, fume hoods and safety showers. The TaskMaster system from Tiscor and handheld computers from Symbol Technologies empower the safety staff to efficiently track and find information.

The devices have question sets, guiding the officer through a series of questions. For example, is the door secured? Is the fire extinguisher intact? Other questions prompt answers about temperature and gauge readings. While the barcode scans some information, the question sets prompt officers to answer specific items and thus track more information if necessary. Each site can tailor the question sets to be detailed or simple to fit their needs.

“The system saves us between 20 and 30 hours per week in manpower by eliminating our manual data-entry process,” says Terry L. Freund, supervisor, fire protection systems.

The handheld devices can send information to a PC in several ways, including via a specially designed cradle, or remotely via a standard telephone line or snap-on modem. In addition, a wireless solution is available. The department relies on the system to produce three daily reports, which regularly help the university prove compliance and pass its annual Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) inspections.

SECURITY: University secures campus with handreaders

The University of Georgia, Athens, has been a pioneer in adopting biometrics; it has been using two-dimensional hand geometry since 1972. When it was time to replace the school's old handreaders, administrators evaluated various biometrics technologies, such as facial, hand, fingerprint, iris and signature devices.

The university needed an access-control system that was fast, easy to use and foolproof. And to provide a safe, secure campus, the school wanted to identify students entering residence halls and athletic facilities, and limit dining-hall access to students who paid for a meal plan. The university chose HandKey HandReaders from Recognition Systems.

“We could rely on a person for access control, but the biometric device is more accurate, faster and more cost-effective,” says Donald Smith, program coordinator of UGACard support systems.

The first readers were installed in the university's food-service area. Students can choose to enter their ID number using the handreader's numeric keypad or by swiping their magnetic stripe card. Based on the success in the food-service area, the university installed a similar system to control access to the Ramsey Center, a recreational sports facility. Then for its housing facilities, the school tightened security by replacing magnetic stripe-only readers with handreaders and requiring that a student's ID card be used.

The university found it easy to adapt the readers to the various applications in the three areas. For housing, some outer doors are controlled by a weather-resistant HandKey, and standard indoor readers control access to the residence wings. At the Ramsey Center, two of the outdoor HandKeys control outer doors, and others inside the building control entry at turnstiles.

ACOUSTICS: Showplace auditorium leverages funding for Texas school

A few years back, Silsbee High School in Silsbee, Texas, needed a new auditorium. On-campus events had to be held in the gymnasium, which meant uncomfortable seating, makeshift lighting and sound, and echoing acoustics. The only alternative in the community was a cramped auditorium in a former high school (then a middle school), which was built in 1950 and offered a minimum of outmoded technical facilities.

Actually, if the truth be known, Silsbee needed a whole new high school. But it was the enticing prospect of a new auditorium — built to serve the needs of both students and the larger community — that became a key factor in the overwhelming approval of a bond issue to fund a $24 million campus. The new 220,000-square-feet Silsbee High School was opened last fall with 930 students.

The proposed 1,380-seat auditorium, the “crown jewel” of the $2.5 million, 25,000-square-foot Fine Arts Complex, needed good acoustics. Conscious of the special problems involved in acoustic design, the school hired an acoustical consultant, who met at length with school administrators. The side walls and ceiling were shaped to create useful sound reflections from either the stage or the sound system, with a measured amount of absorption added to the back wall to dampen excessive sound energy. The arched ceiling structures also improved acoustics, with a mixture of hard and absorptive ceiling panels used to create balanced reflective patterns.

A system with components made by companies of the Harman Professional Group was installed in the auditorium. The console is a 24-channel Soundcraft K2, the 22 power amplifiers are from Crown, and the four multipurpose digital-signal processors are by BSS. All audience loudspeakers are from JBL Professional's premium Venue Series.

“It's just tremendous,” says H.C. Muckleroy, former superintendent. “The sound, the lighting, the whole spectrum is really something to experience. We've had a lot of folks come by already to see it, and they can't believe we have something like this in a school our size.”

PARTITIONS: Dividers allow school to maintain flexibility

When Selinsgrove Area Middle School in Selinsgrove, Pa., was built in the early 1970s, the open classroom concept was gaining popularity. Over the years, enrollment has increased and the school no longer embraces the open-classroom philosophy.

This left the school with a classroom design that did not meet the needs of the students and staff. The faculty still valued open settings for large-group activities and projects. But they also wanted to be able to teach in self-contained settings.

The school was using portable chalkboards and bookcases to separate learning areas, but the staff found those inadequate. Officials considered installing collapsible floor-to-ceiling dividers, but that would have necessitated an entire redesign of the ventilation system.

Seeking greater flexibility, Selinsgrove decided to install dividers from Screenflex Portable Partitions. The dividers enabled the school to separate learning areas and partition large classrooms in a variety of ways, shapes and sizes.

Buoyed by the success of the dividers, school officials also are considering the purchase of partitions with door panel attachments so the school can close several rooms that have never had doors.

WINDOWS: Windows complement neighboring areas

For the 2,600 students who choose to live on campus, Drexel University, Philadelphia, offers seven residence halls. Offering a safe, comfortable and relaxing environment, North Hall was designed to accommodate the changing needs of the student population while supporting Drexel's program objectives.

The five-story building houses 500 upperclassmen in six stories of four- and six-person suites. The facility is flush with natural light thanks to the hall's many windows. Wausau Window and Wall Systems engineered a system for the building where both fixed and operable components are designed with uniform, beveled sightlines.

To blend in with the surrounding area's Victorian and Federal-style homes, the window systems feature a beveled exterior face to replicate traditional putty-glazed steel window profiles for a classic, academic architectural style. At the same time, the windows offer durability and meet requirements for air infiltration, water resistance, life-cycle testing and structural integrity.
Circle 303

SECURITY: Key-control system improves security

At Air Academy High School on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., an electronic key-control system is improving security and simplifying key control without introducing inconvenience. The high school, a four-year public institution, was built in 1957 and is a part of Academy School District 20. The 250,000-square-foot campus is on a five-acre site on the academy grounds and serves about 1,600 students, including some whose parents are stationed at the Academy.

The facility has 37 exterior doors, which made it difficult to have an effective security program. The problem was compounded by too many uncontrolled keys in circulation and the lack of a comprehensive key control plan.

So, the school uses e.Primus applications from Schlage as stand-alone programmable units that are non-hard wired. In some applications, particularly for perimeter security in buildings where a system is in place, it can also be hard-wired. The units use an electronic key, which is a key fob that resembles a standard key blank except for a proprietary computer chip that simply makes contact with the lock's port to activate the lock. Each e.Primus key has its own electronic serial number that cannot be duplicated or compromised, and every lock contains a miniature computer, programmed to accept only the electronic serial numbers determined by a system administrator.

These numbers can be changed quickly and easily at any time using a laptop computer. Keys can be added or deleted electronically whenever needed.

At Air Academy High School, the electronic locks are installed on perimeter doors and on interior doors where there is a need for extra security, such as computer rooms, laboratories or school record rooms. Other areas will be secured as budget allocations allow. For occasional users, such as students in athletic programs, it is easy to issue a key that expires after a specific period.

“For outside activities that occur after school, we've programmed a couple of keys that we can give to a student who needs to use the locker room or bathroom. The key only works three or four hours in the afternoon and only for certain areas, and if they aren't returned, we just delete that key,” says Shirley Collins, facility manager.

ENERGY: Individual thermostats improve performance

The University of Miami (UM) in Coral Gables, Fla., is a four-year independent university founded in 1925.

The UM facilities management staff attributed its excessively high energy costs in student housing facilities to the lack of residence hall room HVAC control systems. Each room has a fan-coil, which provides conditioned air for the residents.

Recognizing the technology available and determining that HVAC control would provide superior management over the pneumatic system, the school studied a digital control system. Considerations included fan as well as heat-pump run-time reductions. Functionality and central plant issues also were crucial.

The university contracted with an engineering firm to provide an energy-savings analysis study on the performance of the pre/post SensorStat DDC from Senercomm. Mahoney Hall was the site of the study, using data gathered from rooms with the device. The system is installed on interior walls and functions as the guestroom thermostat. It interfaces with any HVAC system and replaces existing high- or low-voltage AC/DC thermostats or improves upon existing controls. It monitors the status of entry doors (open/close) plus motion detected by its flush-mounted infrared sensor to positively determine if the room is occupied or unoccupied. Once determined, the automatic setback features will engage the preprogrammed energy and comfort control functions.

Beyond the system payback, annual energy savings of more than $28,000 are anticipated for the life of the equipment, in addition to savings on reduced maintenance, labor, and wear and tear on the equipment.

The university installed thermostats in two student housing facilities totaling 656 residence hall rooms. Installations in additional rooms are being considered for 2002.


Lockers provide advantages for “green” campus

Ball State University (BSU), Muncie, Ind., was established in 1899. Over the past century, the college has grown to encompass more than 60 buildings on 1,000 acres of land. It now enrolls almost 19,000 students.

As part of its commitment to environmental stewardship, BSU has initiated a master plan to develop the entire campus as an arboretum. This is a long-term process involving many incremental steps. Already, the university has increased the number of trees on campus, established an award-winning recycling program, and installed bike lockers for campus residents.

Bicycling is a critical element of the university's overall mission to improve the environmental and aesthetic quality of the campus. More bicycling means less green space sacrificed for automobile parking, as well as less air and noise pollution.

BSU administrators recognized that secure bike parking would be crucial to the success of any bike program. Cyclists need assurance that their bikes will be protected against the elements, thieves and vandals. Unfortunately, their first attempt at providing such assurance failed when the wood/plastic lockers the school installed did not meet aesthetic or performance standards. They literally fell apart — exposing bikes to damage and theft.

BSU elected to replace the lockers with Cycle-Safe composite lockers. The program has been a great success.

“Both the staff and students have reacted positively,” says Eva Newnam, assistant director of housing and residence life for business services. “The staff is very happy with the look, sturdiness and manufacturing of the lockers, and the students like the look and security much better than the old ones we were using.”

Lockers are installed outside student-housing complexes, where they are available for a yearly rental of $40.

CABLING: University System Standardizes Communications Cabling

Elise Angiolillo is the head of telecommunication services at Florida Atlantic University, in charge of overseeing telecommunications planning and operations for the seven-campus university system, which intends to grow from its current 23,000 students to 46,000 in 10 to 13 years.

“FAU has 10 new buildings going up, and four refurbishments of existing buildings, on campuses that are spread out over approximately 120 miles of Florida coastline,” says Angiolillo.

Telecommunication Services is responsible for all voice and data cabling for the university. With all of the construction projects underway, the department came up with a cabling standard it could use as a blueprint. They chose AMP NETCONNECT Enhanced Category 5 high-performance unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cabling from Tyco Electronics.

“The capacity of the cable is such that it can serve voice, video or data. We don't have to install a lot of different cabling to serve different applications,” says Angiolillo.

One recently completed cabling project — the Tom Oxley Athletic Center — illustrates FAU's communications cabling standard. The Oxley Center, on the Boca Raton campus, is the university's new facility for football players and student athletes. The two-story structure houses athletic department offices, computer lab, training rooms, athlete's lounge, recruiting lounge, locker rooms and academic hall.

FAU's communications standard calls for each office or workstation to have a faceplate with four RJ-45 jacks, plus two blanks (for future growth). RJ-45s are used for both voice and data.

“For the Oxley Center, we decided to consolidate everything into one telecommunications room (TR). There are two floors, but we brought all cabling into one closet on the second floor, to minimize the costs, in terms of electronic equipment,” says Michael Gallanta, project manager for the Oxley Center.

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