It’s Easy Being Green,” “Got Green?,” “Green Saves the Planet”— Ecologically-friendly products have come a long way since the early 2000s, when every other newspaper headline touted the novelty of the movement by quoting Kermit the Frog. It didn’t take long for the security industry to join the green revolution, but green security now is so much more – the value of eco-conscious security is extending to cost-savings and efficiency-boosting, not solely reputation.
In the 2012 Energy Efficient IT Report from CDW, a survey of 760 IT professionals across five industries showed a strong increase of interest in “green” initiatives, with 43 percent citing them as the top driver for data center consolidation – up from 34 percent the year before. And, on average, 32 percent of the respondents’ data center purchasing is green.
A majority (54 percent) of the survey respondents have or are developing strategies to manage power demand and consumption, and 75 percent of respondents with one of these programs have reduced IT energy costs in their data centers.
However, despite the strong evidence for adding green initiatives to their annual strategies, many of the survey respondents say that they still face significant barriers to implementing their eco-friendly, cost-saving plans. Fifty-six percent of respondents cite that they have too small of a budget to kick-start the movement toward energy-saving methods. Half of respondents say that upper management prefers to devote funding and priority to investments in other areas of the organization.
However, for security executives, the argument for green buy-in might actually be easier.
Many eco-friendly products today aren’t merely eco-friendly. The fact that they are low-energy or made from environmentally conscious material might be an added bonus when compared with the fact that many products are helping security to reduce costs all-around and increase efficiency – what you look for in every product. Sometimes, though, green just does it better.
In St. Charles, Mo., Assistant Fire Chief Richard Oney was inspired by the mass notification and emergency call boxes on campus at the local Lindenwood University. More than once, area residents or travelers would pull up to a fire station during an emergency, needing help, when no one was there.
“We could be out on a call; we could be anywhere,” says Oney. “And there’s nothing we can do for them if we don’t know they’re there.”
Now, even if no one’s home at the fire house, people in crisis can now still call for help over one of the two call boxes installed at the city’s fire stations. Connected straight to police dispatch, there would be no concern about having no one answer the phone, plus, with such clearly marked towers as the Eco Tower they’re impossible to miss.
And why did he go green?
“Weight, price and a quick install time,” says Oney, who had just finished personally carrying the second Eco-Tower into his conference room, with only the assistance of one other officer to balance the 10-foot-high post. “With the footing, connections and getting all of the internal settings right, it only took three hours to install,” he says. “It was a one-person job.”
Oney has many options for more of the 45-pound aluminum towers around town in St. Charles, especially at all other first responder stations, other public facilities and maybe even senior centers. There have even been discussions about placing similar call boxes along some of the popular running and bicycling trails that cross through the area.
“If they were the normal steel towers, the ones where a whole team has to install them, I’d have a very hard time selling it,” Oney says. “But these give us a lot of options.”
Another eco-friendly security experiment, this time across the country in Fresno, Calif., involves security equipment that is not, on its own, green, but lends itself to create cost- and energy-saving benefits across the California State University, Fresno campus.
Bulldog Stadium in Fresno has recently been outfitted with new, very expensive artificial turf, just in time for the new football season. This had officials concerned about the security of their investment, but the options before them – increased patrols, additional lighting – were expensive.
Working with Schneider Electric and Pelco in a beta-testing program, Fresno State Chief of Police David Huerta had two thermal imaging cameras installed at the 41,031-seat stadium. The cameras themselves aren’t “green,” but by installing them, the university can drastically reduce the amount of lighting needed in the stadium, saving on energy costs and reducing environmental impact.
Fresno State, located within California’s Central Valley only 60 miles from Yosemite National Park, prides itself on its commitments to environmental sustainability. One top achievement so far includes the nation’s largest solar-energy, shaded parking installation on a college campus.
Bulldog Stadium will be no exception, and it’s not only the green initiative that’s getting bragging rights from the installation. In the face of budget cuts across California State University system, Huerta’s campus security department gets to drastically cut costs by eliminating the need for regular patrols at the stadium.
“We don’t have to swing by three, four times a night,” says Huerta. “We don’t have to drive over, park, unlock the gate, drive in and inspect the grounds. We can just monitor the field, day and night, through the cameras and send officers when there’s a physical intrusion alert.
“This lets us redirect our officers to other checks and needs around campus,” he adds.
This immediate return on investment helps Huerta keep his department running at its most efficient, divvying up his officers’ patrols to areas where they are needed most.
“Also, because the thermal cameras really don’t need any light to detect intruders, we turn down stadium lights at night, reducing our hours of artificial light,” he says.
And although at this point – six months into the “experiment,” as Huerta calls it – determining the savings from turning the lights down isn’t a possibility, the ROI from using the cameras’ analytics to verify alarms and reduce officer patrols has proven the system’s value already.
“To date, every alarm trip has resulted in a person found inside the stadium,” Huerta says. “We haven’t had any vandals yet, but it’s good practice to catch athletes in the stadium who just don’t know they aren’t supposed to be there at a certain time.”
Similar to Oney in St. Charles, Huerta is looking into the possibility of adding similar technology around the agricultural research fields at Fresno State.
“A lot of our campus is farmland – lots of dark, open areas with experimental crops,” he says. “We’ve had issues with people, students included, just walking in and picking fruit. We also have a lot of large animals and farm implements that need protecting.
“Eventually,” he says, “This could add lots of value and save money and resources all around campus. It’s a good security asset that we’re still experimenting with, and it’s a good addition to a strong security department.”
As Kermit the Frog should have said, it pays off to be green.
This article was previously published in the print edition as "Going Green to Save Green: Cutting Costs with Eco-Friendly Security."