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Security's Sweet Spot

WHEN PHARMACEUTICAL GIANT Novartis decided to build a global headquarters for research operations, the company chose the life sciences hotspot of Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massachusetts General Hospital, and major life sciences companies. In fact, Novartis decided to place itself at the figurative heart of Cambridge—Central Square—by renovating a landmark early 20th-century factory that once made Valentine’s Day candy. By bringing together the architects, project managers, and security architects and engineers at the design phase, Novartis ended up with a building that not only won awards for adaptive reuse but also hit a security sweet spot.

Novartis, a global healthcare company headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, has offices and facilities in 140 countries. Its divisions manufacture branded and generic drugs, vaccines, and over-the-counter medications. The empty candy factory would become the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research, focusing on drug discovery and development.

The former New England Confectionary Company (NECCO) was built in 1927 and produced a steady supply of candy wafers and famous sugar hearts printed with phrases such as “Be mine.” In 2003, NECCO moved out of the factory for a new home in Revere, Massachusetts. The NECCO property included two structures—the candy factory, which would become Novartis’s labs and offices, and a power plant that once ran the machinery, which would become an “amenities” building housing an auditorium and a cafeteria. To this would be added a new 400-space parking garage.

The interior architects, Stubbins and Associates, were given a client brief that envisioned the space as an inviting, open, transparent environment where scientists from MIT and Harvard would be drawn in to collaborate, and where Novartis’s own team would mingle so that experts in various scientific disciplines would share ideas rather than remain behind the closed doors of their own laboratories. While the building’s protected status as a local landmark meant that exterior changes could not be too drastic, there was more flexibility for the interior.

As the architects envisioned it and as it was later built, the interior ultimately became a vast glass-enclosed, six-story atrium with four glass elevators and winding staircases. These led to open balconies on each floor that include break areas. Even the conference rooms—known as “bubble rooms”—are glass sided. While this extreme transparency made surveillance easier, it did raise a challenge with regard to access control.

The TECHMARK Division of Good Harbor Consulting, LLC, a Rockland, Massachusetts, security-integration company headed by Managing Principal Richard P. Grassie, CPP, was hired for the project. The lead security designer was Francis Gallagher, PSP. Grassie, who is also chair of the ASIS International Council on Security Architecture and Engineering, explains that security had to be designed to keep Novartis’s researchers and experiments safe while not impeding their networking.

“We were brought in just after Novartis had selected the architects, the construction management, and the project controller. This was in the early stages of the schematic design,” says Grassie.

According to Michael E. O’Dowd, the company’s director of security, “This was an opportunity to start with ground-up infrastructure for security since the NECCO building was pretty much stripped to the bricks. We built in security just like the electrical or IT infrastructure.”

Through each phase of design, Grassie says that his team “worked in lock step” with the future occupants, architects, and other systems engineers to plan the access control layers in the laboratory building and to mitigate physical security issues on the perimeter, the garage, and a courtyard behind the buildings.

Equipment selection was not an issue with the project, as Novartis had established a preferred system. “The security management system that Novartis had standardized prior to the building coming on line essentially handled 99.9 percent of all the requirements,” explains O’Dowd. The access control, alarms, and CCTV are unified in the Pro-Watch System, by Honeywell Integrated Security of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and are used in Novartis’s other facilities around the world.

Layers of control. Entry is controlled at each step of the way. First is the garage. The new parking garage includes three underground levels and two above-ground levels. Employees must use their access control card to raise a mechanical arm to enter the garage during regular working hours and to control a mechanical gate after hours.

Once out of their vehicles, employees use the same card to gain entry to the facility through two sets of access-controlled revolving glass doors on either side of the atrium. The Tourlock doors are by Boon Edam B.V. of Edam, the Netherlands. They permit entry for authorized users who have used their proximity card at a reader before stepping into one of the doors’ wings, states O’Dowd.

The doors prevent tailgating, he says. “If you try to go through with two people, the door will actually back you out so you don’t become trapped, but you cannot go through,” he explains.

The doors are fully integrated with the fire alarm system. If an alarm sounds, the doors allow people to flow out unimpeded.

Once in the atrium, employees must use their access control cards to ride one of the four glass elevators or access the staircases. The cards are created and distributed by security personnel located in an office in the atrium. Honeywell access control and data management software allows O’Dowd to create and delete cards and, based on details provided by supervisors, to set individual access privileges. The data management software provides audit-reporting capabilities.

When staff reach one of the upper floors, they pass through the landing areas and must again use their access card to enter the main open areas of the laboratories. With in these open spaces are more restricted areas, such as those in which sensitive experiments are conducted. Grassie says that “once we got beyond the lobby, we started working with the project manager and the representatives of the various [internal] areas…to determine how they wanted to control their space. For example, they might have requested that they be able to control their lab around the clock and they wanted each individual office to be locked. Then we worked with the architects and the program manager to come up with the recommended types of systems to meet their requirements.”

Because of their versatility, Schlage Computer-Managed Locks were widely used. O’Dowd explains that “these standalone locks have a proximity function, as well as a PIN function, and a key function,” allowing for the use of various credentials or a combination of credentials. Other high-sensitivity areas were protected with hand-geometry biometric readers.

Visitors. One of the sets of revolving entrance doors at the ground level also functions as the visitors’ entrance. There is a security call box on the wall adjacent to the doors with signage telling visitors to press the call button. This rings the atrium reception desk.

Visitors are asked who they have come to see, and once the information provided is confirmed, the reception desk attendee can use a remote control to activate the door and a prerecorded voice over a speaker tells the visitor to pass through the revolving door. After hours, when the reception desk is closed, officers in the security command center can view the visitor on CCTV, then activate the revolving door via the access system.

Alarms and CCTV. O’Dowd laughs when asked about the number of alarm points in the buildings. “Thousands,” he replies. These include intrusion detection, infrared, and glass-break sensor alarms on the ground floor, and forced-door and door-left-ajar alarms on the upper floors.

There are more than 200 color analog CCTV cameras around the facility, although these are about to be transitioned to IP-based cameras, says O’Dowd. At the time that the original analog system was installed, the close cooperation between Grassie’s team and the architects and engineers allowed cabling to be run alongside that of the electrical infrastructure for a savings of both cost and effort.

To maintain the open and inviting look of the interior, many cameras were set into recessed housings. Grassie worked closely with the architects to build cameras into the façade and choose the optimal locations. “It’s not covert, but it is discreet,” he says.

CCTV analog feeds go to matrix switches while the cameras that have already been changed to IP send their digital feed to a video server. The security command center is located just off the atrium and adjacent to the security services office. It is staffed by two officers who watch feeds around the clock on large flat-screen monitors. All security and critical alarms (such as those monitoring laboratory freezers) also report there.

“It was an outstanding job—converting this building from a candy factory to a world-class biotech research headquarters. And because security was brought in at the design phase, it was seamlessly integrated into all aspects of the facility,” says Grassie. The results have been as sweet as the confections once made on the premises.