A Cut Above

New Florida university among world’s most technologically-advanced schools

Every university security official must dream of a fully converged solution that ties together as many campus functions as possible: surveillance, access control, HVAC, fire and IT.

That dream recently came true for Bryan Mehaffey, vice president of technology and system engineering at Ave Maria University. The school is the first new Catholic university built in the United States in more than 40 years—and it’s among the world’s most technologically advanced campuses.

A Unique University
Ave Maria University, located in southwest Florida, opened its doors on Aug. 27, 2007. The university is the product of founder and chancellor Thomas S. Monaghan’s dream to build an institution of higher education faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

After more than five years of planning and construction, and four years of operating from a temporary campus in Naples, the university made its permanent home on a 908-acre campus in a new town named just for it: Ave Maria. The campus has 500,000 square feet of facilities, with plenty of growing room. It serves nearly 500 students and 200 faculty and staff.

Monaghan recognized the need to put technology first for today’s students.

“Kids today are looking for high-tech solutions,” he said. Safety is a huge factor as well, especially considering the fact that Ave Maria sees more than 1,000 visitors a day. “In the wake of some of the tragedies that have happened around the world, moms and dads want to know their kids are safe.”

Once ground broke for the new university, there were only 20 months left for construction in order for classes to begin on time. Another challenge arose when Mehaffey decided to incorporate IT operations and facility operations into one group, and to combine the university’s IT infrastructure, fire, security, HVAC and building control systems on a common platform.

After considering proposals from Honeywell and Siemens, officials chose Johnson Controls as Ave Maria’s technology partner. The school successfully converged 23 systems on a single IP network.

“We learned quickly that this was an approach most architects and engineers were not accustomed to,” Mehaffey said. “But it was obvious Johnson Controls understood our vision and knew exactly what we wanted to do.”

Convergence at its Best
At Ave Maria, Johnson Controls oversaw the design and installation of an IP backbone, as well as all the technology that resides on the network. LonMark, an open data protocol, allowed equipment from multiple vendors to be installed and integrated on the same infrastructure. As a result, unnecessary networks and cabling were avoided. This innovation also makes Ave Maria’s campus future ready.

The systems in use include Johnson Controls Metasys® building management and P2000 security management systems, Cisco data equipment, Notifier fire panels, GE lighting, IClass smart cards, HID proximity readers, HVAC components, a Maximo maintenance management system, an AVI A/V distribution system and servers.

According to Johnson Controls, Ave Maria saved approximately $1.5 million by avoiding unnecessary and redundant cabling included in the first campus design. The university also will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from reduced utility costs.

“Picking one contractor to do this project saved an enormous amount of not only money, but something more costly—time,” Mehaffey said. “That’s because we were able to reach out to one partner, consolidate all of the project management, mobilization and overhead costs into one platform.

“We manage the entire campus operations with just seven full-time employees, which is pretty lean when you consider the alternative of as many as 24 people.”

All of the systems on campus are managed from the network operations center. Operators use the Metasys system to monitor, control and largely automate the campus’s chiller plant, heating and cooling, indoor air quality, laboratory air flow, lighting and lavatories. The system also is responsible for power management and asset tracking. Other systems monitored from the center include Internet, e-mail, fire panels, digital video monitoring, and security and access control via the Johnson Controls P2000 system. And, because all the systems are Web enabled, operators can monitor and control them from their smart phones.

Ave Maria officials also implemented a One Card system, which gives students, faculty and staff individually tailored access to dormitories and academic buildings, including labs and computer rooms. It also acts as a library and debit card for the cafeteria, the bookstore, copying and printing.

Ready for Anything
The converged systems’ open architecture will make expansion easy as Ave Maria grows over the years. Officials expect the university to include more than 5,500 students one day. According to Mahaffey, that will be no problem.

“I feel the university is as future-ready as it could possibly be because of what we’ve accomplished with Johnson Controls’ help,” Mahaffey said.

This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Security Today.

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