Fixated on Flexibility

Serving 37,000 students in nearly 65 facilities, the Buffalo School District is regarded as a premiere urban school system in New York State. Driven by the belief that all of its schools should be safe, equitable and flexible, the district embarked on a $1.4 billion, district-wide project to modernize its facilities and equipment. The project included a multi-phase performance of $20 million over 20 years for the district.

Delivering education equally to its students across all facilities is a primary goal of the modernization plan for James Williams, superintendent, and Sue Eager, director of plant operations. Additionally, officials wished to improve the district’s energy efficiency level and student and staff safety while addressing deferred maintenance.

Together, the district, its program manager and Johnson Controls developed a plan to renovate the city’s aging schools and improve security district-wide. The renovation project resulted in an Outstanding Achievement Award in Public/Private Partnerships for the city from the United States Conference of Mayors.

“This is one of just a few projects in the country where nearly every school in an entire district is being renovated,” Williams said. “Bringing an urban school district up to basic standards is an enormous task, but because if the positive financial impact of the performance contracting project, we are in a position to do just that.”

Looking at the Big Picture
The district’s schools range from very old to relatively new. A lack of funding had led to deferred maintenance and outdated equipment in some schools, creating an inequity in academic environments.

“Our challenge in this project was not only to make all the facilities aesthetically pleasing and comfortable but also to make them perform efficiently,” Eager said. “The needs assessment was integral to ensuring that we looked at our needs from both an academic instruction perspective as well as the physical plant.”

Working with the district’s program manager, a team from Innovation Services, a part of Johnson Controls, facilitated multiple needs assessment workshops with architects, teaching and administrative staff, community members and the joint school construction board. Participants identified and prioritized facility-related needs that would support an ideal learning environment. The structured, interactive process helped the team understand what was important to the various stakeholders and why. This information helped the team create consensus and alignment for the district.

“The process not only helped us define what we would like to see, but it also helped us determine what our needs actually were,” Eager said.

First Things First
Using a multi-phased approach, Johnson Controls focused on key instructional and operational needs first, which included lighting retrofits, HVAC equipment and controls upgrades, building envelope improvements, steam traps, insulation, pool covers and installation of a Metasys building management system at select schools.

The technology contracting solution provided a single point of responsibility for installation and integration of a Johnson Controls IFC-3030 fire alarm system and a P2000 security management system, IP video surveillance, HID card readers, clocks, bells, a public address solution, auditorium sound systems, temperature controls and a master antenna system for nine schools. Johnson Controls commissioned all the systems and provided training to school employees.

Johnson Controls also worked with design engineers to completely renovate one of the district’s grade schools and redesign it with the goal of achieving Silver certification under the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

The school serves as a model for the district’s future efforts in sustainable design.

Phases two and three included the expansion of the Metasys system, lighting retrofits, replacement of burners, boilers and steam traps, installation of boiler controllers and new interior storm windows at an additional 22 schools. In all, the Metasys system expansion allows for equipment monitoring and control at more than 50 schools.

“The benefit of this level of control is, first and foremost, energy savings, but it also provides more flexibility in how buildings and equipment can be brought online to meet academic programming needs, and it ultimately improves comfort within the learning environment,” Eager said.

“Having facilities that work handin- hand with academics helps us deliver equitable education district-wide,” Williams said. “The result is a positive impact on student achievement in all the schools we serve.”

An Emphasis on Security
Through a district-wide technology and security project, Johnson Controls set out to bring as much visibility of facilities as possible to the district’s administrative and security staff.

The project includes the installation and integration of nearly 4,000 video cameras in schools district-wide, which will be strategically placed to provide maximum visibility to major public spaces. A digital vision network system will be used for recording, archiving and retrieval of all activity captured by the cameras. The DVN system will include more than 220 recording devices upon completion.

The main offices at each school are equipped with 42-inch plasma monitors so camera activity can be viewed in real time. The monitors also can be used for visual identification of school visitors before they are allowed to enter a monitored door. A district-wide burglar alarm system is integrated with the DVN 5000 system. If an alarm is triggered, cameras automatically train on the door or window alarm point so the activity can be recorded.

As a large district, Buffalo Public Schools met some resistance to the surveillance system from a number of unions. The district must be sensitive to union agreements that make stipulations regarding privacy, while not limiting its teachers’ academic freedom. To assist the district, Johnson Controls reviewed all union agreements and is developing a comprehensive policies and procedures manual, which will clearly define how the system will and will not be used, provide camera locations and explain the purpose for recording there, and identify which cameras are monitored live.

Meeting Needs Beyond Equipment
Johnson Controls supports all installed equipment and controls under a service agreement, which includes an onsite building environment specialist. For Eager, the most important element is the comprehensive training provided by Johnson Controls and the ongoing resources available through the specialist.

“Putting new equipment and technologies in place is only one part of the process; using them properly is a another part that is critical to achieving savings,” Eager said. “As a district, we want to remain self-sufficient in the operation and maintenance of our facilities. Johnson Controls’ customized training programs have been critical to our success. And the onsite specialist continues to be a liaison of best practices as our staff transitions between installation and operation.”


  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    Perimeter Security Standards for Multi-Site Businesses

    When you run or own a business that has multiple locations, it is important to set clear perimeter security standards. By doing this, it allows you to assess and mitigate any potential threats or risks at each site or location efficiently and effectively. Read Now

  • New Research Shows a Continuing Increase in Ransomware Victims

    GuidePoint Security recently announced the release of GuidePoint Research and Intelligence Team’s (GRIT) Q1 2024 Ransomware Report. In addition to revealing a nearly 20% year-over-year increase in the number of ransomware victims, the GRIT Q1 2024 Ransomware Report observes major shifts in the behavioral patterns of ransomware groups following law enforcement activity – including the continued targeting of previously “off-limits” organizations and industries, such as emergency hospitals. Read Now

  • OpenAI's GPT-4 Is Capable of Autonomously Exploiting Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

    According to a new study from four computer scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, OpenAI’s paid chatbot, GPT-4, is capable of autonomously exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities without any human assistance. Read Now

  • Getting in Someone’s Face

    There was a time, not so long ago, when the tradeshow industry must have thought COVID-19 might wipe out face-to-face meetings. It sure seemed that way about three years ago. Read Now

    • Industry Events
    • ISC West

Featured Cybersecurity


New Products

  • EasyGate SPT and SPD

    EasyGate SPT SPD

    Security solutions do not have to be ordinary, let alone unattractive. Having renewed their best-selling speed gates, Cominfo has once again demonstrated their Art of Security philosophy in practice — and confirmed their position as an industry-leading manufacturers of premium speed gates and turnstiles. 3

  • Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden Door Controls is pleased to announce that, in response to soaring customer demand, it has expanded its range of ValueWave™ no-touch switches to include a narrow (slimline) version with manual override. This override button is designed to provide additional assurance that the request to exit switch will open a door, even if the no-touch sensor fails to operate. This new slimline switch also features a heavy gauge stainless steel faceplate, a red/green illuminated light ring, and is IP65 rated, making it ideal for indoor or outdoor use as part of an automatic door or access control system. ValueWave™ no-touch switches are designed for easy installation and trouble-free service in high traffic applications. In addition to this narrow version, the CM-221 & CM-222 Series switches are available in a range of other models with single and double gang heavy-gauge stainless steel faceplates and include illuminated light rings. 3

  • Compact IP Video Intercom

    Viking’s X-205 Series of intercoms provide HD IP video and two-way voice communication - all wrapped up in an attractive compact chassis. 3