RETAIL centres are tough. Not only are there large door numbers spread over vast areas and multiple levels, these sites are in large part open to the public and this increases the pressure on internal access control systems, policies and management strategies. Adding to the challenges at Como Centre are the presence of multiple lifts in multiple buildings, as well as multiple tenancies.
Como Centre is a large site, covering an entire city block. The central features include 5 tower buildings with high profile commercial tenants and a multi-level retail mall comprising boutique stores. Multiple buildings comprise a challenge on their own but at Como Centre there were other challenges to consider.
Seneschal was working in a legacy environment. There was an existing access control system that needed to be replaced and that meant running 2 systems in real time before, during and after the cut-over. There were also issues with legacy cabling and maintenance. Because the site had been developed and re-developed over the years a lot of cables had been cut – in essence, the legacy solution was a mess.
The overall situation Seneschal faced with this contract was a demanding one. Mirvac owns 3 large sites in Melbourne, including the Como Centre. Before this project, each of the sites had a separate access control solution and 2 disparate card technologies. These needed to be replaced in favour of a single enterprise solution that was future proof.
Mirvac chose not to embrace an integrated solution but installed 3 entirely different solutions at each of the sites. As part of this decision, Seneschal won Como Centre with Concept 4000. This adds a comprehension challenge to our story, because when we talk about the initial tender we’re talking about all 3 sites yet the installation we’re discussing here only took place at Como Centre.
According to Seneschal’s managing director, Mitch Mijatovic, the existing standalone access control solutions at all 3 sites had out-dated management software and there was no way of monitoring what was happening in the background on the sites.
“Say for example, if you had an alarm, as long as the system was functioning it would send the alarm and the Securitel STU would communicate that back to the control room,” Mijatovic explains. “But if the system fell over the STU kept operating and we wouldn’t know we’d lost the whole system on a site.
“In addition, a lot of the housekeeping alarms, tamper alarms and the rest just weren’t there. After pricing upgrades of the existing systems, Mirvac decided it would be cheaper and they’d get a more flexible, more capable and less proprietary solution if they removed their current access control systems at the 3 sites and started again.”
As Seneschal’s installation manager Graeme Downey explains, the legacy system at Como Centre ran everything right down to the tenancy level and this was unwieldy and hard to oversee.
“The tenants used to have a door controller within their tenancy – every tenant that had access control had a controller in their office. Mirvac didn’t want that. But the biggest issue with the legacy system was the server, it was old and dead.”
Because of the size of each of the sites and the complexity of the security operation, Seneschal put a lot of work into its proposal, going so far as to engage a consultancy firm to put together its plans.
“It was more complicated than it sounds. At Como Centre Mirvac had 24-hour security guards and some of the guards were doing maintenance so the system was a real mess.
“Mirvac was spending an absolute fortune on manpower and this was going to be an ongoing cost unless something changed drastically. So we engaged some drafts people and a consultancy firm and started putting together our ideas.
“In simple terms, they involved investing in upgrading electronics so as to automate all the buildings and to standardise systems across all 3 sites,” he says. “At Como Centre before this project nothing was automated and all the locking and unlocking was done by the guards manually.”
“Without a word of a lie our proposal was absolutely huge, it was like War and Peace, it covered everything from diagrams to marked drawings.
“First, we engaged a company to convert full blueprint plans to CAD drawings, and from there we mapped out what was currently in place and then we drew up our proposal, including all the details like reed switches. Then the proposal went through each page of the drawings and explains how it all works – and this for all 3 sites. So there was a significant amount of work that went into it.
“We spent something like $28,000 composing an integrated solution for all 3 sites with drafts people and consultants to put it all together.”
CSD’s Russell Blake got a chance to thumb through the vast original proposal which comprises around 500 A4 pages and he says it was clear Seneschal put a lot of time familiarising itself with Mirvac’s business.
“Looking through the document it was clearly evident that Mitch and his team provided Mirvac with a complete turnkey solution and did so in a way that was meticulously detailed,” Blake said.
“The proposal consists of an introduction, executive summary, works roadmap, business requirements, target security model, security conditions and technical recommendations, implementation path, budgetary equipment and labour pricing, and product brochures.
“Along with the proposal, Mitch had detailed drawings of each site made up. The report covers the nuances of each site – where each cable lies, where the reed switches are located, the exact positions of door controllers.”
According to Mijatovic, as part of this enormously detailed proposal, Seneschal adopted an open book policy with all costs, labour rates and unit costs exposed and all margins negotiated. Mirvac loved this idea so much they started by awarding Seneschal the manpower contract at Como Centre.
“When we started at Como we said, ‘You don’t need two guards 24 hours a day’. I think Mirvac’s initial manpower cost was several hundred thousand dollars a year. They had 2 x 24 plus an additional guard, so on day shift they had 3 guards.
“So we went to the client and said we have a better way of doing this and it will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This is what you need to do, this is your initial capital outlay and this is your payback period.
“I went through the whole scenario so it would make sense their CFO,” explains Mijatovic. “This proposal said: ‘If you outlay $300-400,000 here is your payback period, and this is what you’re going to save moving forward’. We scoped the 3 buildings to establish how they worked and planned virtual servers so Mirvac could access the integrated solution from head office in Sydney.”
And there were certain prerequisites the new system was required to meet.
“Mirvac had a list outlining what we had to achieve with the new system,” explains Mijatovic. “One thing was that it was not an option to replace the cards, not because of the cost, but because of the inconvenience of trying to get around the staff of 200-300 tenants and swap all their cards over. That was just never going to happen. The second issue was that the system itself had to be properly monitored.”
With the final proposal on the table time passed as a result of internal issues at Mirvac, and finally Seneshcal was awarded the Como Centre project in 2011.
Concept hardware installed at Como Centre includes 10 Intelligent 4-door access modules, 20 zone expanders, 3 LAN power supplies, 38 door access modules, low level interfaces for 13 lift cars and 10 LAN isolators. In terms of outright numbers the system comprises 73 doors and supports 2000 cardholders.
The retained legacy reader technology is BQT iClass and MiFare cardholders have been able to retain their legacy cards. Managing the system is Inner Range’s Insight software, which is ideal for a single site like this one.
Once the Seneschal proposal for the Como Centre had been accepted by Mirvac, Graeme Downey began to go around the Centre, fitting off and commissioning the Concept gear, cutting over and then door by door, de-commissioning the old system.
All the while, as is often the case with installations as complex as this one, there was strong support from Inner Range and its distributor, Central Security Distribution. The key element in the process was transferring the .CSV user list from the legacy solution across to Concept and it was initiation of this process that really got the installation started.
According to Josh Mills CSD’s Victoria branch manager, the legacy user database was extracted by Seneshal and imported into Insight as a CSV file.
“Of course some programming had to be refined in the process, but at least the bulk of the time-consuming programming had been done by the CSV file,” Mills explains.
“So that was really the start of the process, we got the CSV file, we got the information, we could start the process of how we were going to migrate the system across. CSD was able to help Downey exporting the legacy system’s database into the new Insight database with help from Inner Range.”
According to Mills, the process involved cabling the LAN and getting all the panels up so the 2 systems were running side–by-side for a month. At the same time, the team tested the LAN and continued bringing the new door controllers onto it so the system was stable prior to the process of cutting the existing system over.
“We had to make sure the LAN would run without any issues, we had a few issues with voltage drop across the LAN and things like that but we fixed those one panel at a time. Once it was all working we were able to cut everything over without any issues,” Mills explains.
“All the single door controllers in the old system were daisy-chained, so we would have one day where we would cut over 10 doors in the one hit. What we would do is come in and start work at 4am and smash through 10 doors. Working this way it only took 3 days to cut over all the old system’s doors.”
According to Downey, apart from the voltage drops there have been no other serious hiccups.
“The system is running without an issue,” he says. “It’s all very fast and there’s no issue badging cards. It operates within a second, the door clicks and unlocks. We had a few site code issues with the legacy BQT readers, getting them to work, but they’re all fine now. Adam Dyson, a technician from CSD, came out to site and helped us by fixing a few little programming things. Adam was really good to deal with.”
Reliable monitoring of the system was another key element of this solution.
“It’s important to mention that the new Concept system is running the Inner Range Multipath STU at the Como Centre using multiple paths to communicate alarm events to the control room,” Downey says.
“The way the system is configured, Ethernet is the primary path, GPRS is the secondary path and PSTN Dialler is the last option. These are reporting using IRFast protocol instead of Contact ID because the Contact ID mapping is too small for such a large site and it wouldn’t be able to report all of the alarms individually.”
Given the capability of Insight software, it’s natural to wonder whether or not there’s integration with surveillance systems at the Como centre but Mijatovic says while it’s been considered, there’s no budget yet.
“Como Centre is using standalone DVRs,” he says. “Mirvac didn’t have the funds to do the whole project as we proposed straight away. Personally, I want that integration between CCTV and access control so it all operates off the one screen. With Insight you get floor plans with icons and cameras views popping up – ideal for remote management in real time or for investigations.”
Every big site has its challenges and, according to Downey, at Como Centre getting the lifts right was the biggest one.
“And that was because the lift control side of Concept is designed to run one building with multiple lift shafts when the floors are always in sequence – in other words when level 1 is level 1 no matter what lift car you’re in… all the way up to 120 floors,” he says.
“But Como Centre is different. There are multiple buildings that don’t share the same levels, so level 1 in one building is different to level 1 in another building. The challenges start when you don’t want someone having access to level 1 in each building if they aren’t meant to have it.
“To resolve the issues we had to create level 1 in the first building and designate level 1 in another building as level 11, and in the next building level 1 became level 25 and in the next building level 1 became level 40. To get that to work – to tell a lift car that it had to start at 11 instead of 1 – you had to tell a lift to skip 10 floors but by doing that you are actually telling it to skip 10 relays.
“Getting the system to work like this meant we had to offset it and that was the trickiest part of the job. The alternative would have been sticking a control panel in the base of each building and having completely different programming for each building – that would have been much more expensive,” Downey says.
“Now the hard part is documenting the system configuration so if some new technician comes in at some time in the future trouble shooting they won’t just say, ‘I know what this program is and the original installer has the relays wrong’ and changes them all, with the result that none of the lifts will work.
“Before commissioning I went to CSD Mulgrave and Adam Dyson and I went through the programming and we fully tested the template on his bench equipment and figured out how to get it to work. The size of the LAN itself is quite big, that’s why we’ve had to use LAN power supplies…there’s more than 3500m of LAN cable.”
The size and complexity of the system and the site’s multiple buildings demanded the use of LAN isolators in each lift shaft giving optical isolation of LANs – this breaks earth loops and extends each LAN’s potential length.
“In each lift room there’s a LAN isolator but we also have them between long LAN runs – some LAN runs at Como are about 400m long and run between buildings and car parks,” Downey explains.
“Having a LAN isolator at each end means that if something happens on the LAN or there’s a short circuit it doesn’t bring down the whole system. We also re-used some of the existing cabling, so we used the LAN isolators for that because while we tested it thoroughly, we don’t know with 100 per cent certainty that the legacy cabling is a perfect cable run.”
The Concept solution run by Insight software at Como Centre is offers powerful and flexible performance. A true integrated access control and alarm solution, it’s future proof and there’s plenty of potential for integration if this is required later on – particularly video surveillance. And should Mirvac decide to standardise its 3 sites, Inner Range’s next generation Integriti control module and management software are perfect for the job.
The next stage proposed at Como Centre is a CCTV upgrade and Seneschal has suggested first integrating the XPIP system from CSD and later on incorporating a high-level integration between CCTV and Insight Professional.
Mijatovic has some pretty strong views about the Concept product and they relate in large part to the strength of the local support and the opportunity that’s available to influence system functionality. He says there’s simply no other access control solution on the Australian market that gives integrators like Seneschal the sort of support Inner Range and CSD give.
“From my point of view, Concept is a great product but it’s not just the product that’s important here,” Mijatovic explains. “There’s simply no other solution on the market where I can walk into the manufacturer’s office if I’ve got an issue and sit in front of Inner Range’s managing director Vin Lopes and say ‘Vin, I need the system to do this’, or ‘Vin, can you assist me with special pricing’.
“You can’t do this with other brands – you just can’t. In my opinion, other products will only give me the performance they’ve been designed to give, manufacturers or distributors won’t or can’t enhance performance for specific projects…the system is what it is, take it or leave it. Those companies are just marketing a product, not supporting the market.
“I do like Concept, because I like doing things that are little bit out the box, a little bit different – that’s what we’ve done at Como Centre,” he says.
“We’re not your mainstream security company, we want to be able to come up with solutions. When people have real issues we are able to ask ourselves ‘how do we make all this work?’ That’s what our forte is. I think this gives us the edge with those large projects.”
It wasn’t just Seneschal that came away happy with the access control system at Como Centre.
“Mirvac was really pleased with what Concept 4000 could do and how it interfaced with multiple systems,” Mijatovic says. “And as a solutions provider, that’s the most important thing for us and our clients.”
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