By Tim Neary
With a larger student population than any other university in North America and more than 200 facilities spread across three campuses, the University of Toronto is a vast and diverse institution, rich in history and culture.
In addition to being internationally known and recognized for its research and teaching, the university is now a model of security, thanks to careful, coordinated planning and integrated technology.
By Tim Neary
Protecting a single building and its occupants is never an easy task.
So for the University of Toronto, improving security was a significant
challenge. With nearly 12 million square feet of space, the university
had a lot of ground to cover. Plus, the volume of people created an
extra layer of complexity; the university serves more than 70,000
students and has nearly 14,000 faculty and staff members. About 50,000
students attend the St. George campus, the university’s main campus, in
downtown Toronto. The university also has locations in Mississauga and
Besides its notable size, many of the university’s buildings are
historic and provide a monument to the university’s past, dating back
to the 1820s. University efforts have helped preserve the aged and
artistic quality of campus buildings, but until recently, the security
systems on campus were also firmly rooted in the past.
A patchwork approach
For years, individual buildings and university departments each took a
different path when it came to security, creating a disparate,
difficult-to-manage environment. Any semblance of a campus-wide system
consisted of a small number of alarms running on a copper wire back to
the university police station. Otherwise, buildings and departments
forged their own way, leaving campus police completely disconnected.
“The previous measures were rudimentary at best,” says Dan Hutt,
manager of campus police services at the University of Toronto. “We had
a decentralized security operation, with everyone doing what they felt
they should. And those efforts didn’t always sync up.”
One of the primary problems with this approach was the number of
different alarm companies involved on campus — each with their own
nuances. When it came to response time, for example, the standards
varied from company to company. While one vendor might respond within
an hour, others could take as long as four hours. And the alarms that
did reach university police came with little information about source
and cause. As a result, all alarms warranted a critical response and,
many times, valuable police resources were wasted.
“Reacting to all alarms blindly is not an efficient way to manage
campus security and ensure safety,” Hutt says. “We needed a common
security platform and process for responding to and maintaining alarms
and security equipment.”
A major overhaul
The inefficiencies culminated in a security overhaul, beginning in
2002. Sparked by both the police department’s move to a newer building
and a collective desire within the university to update its parking
garage monitoring system, the university investigated options
surrounding security upgrade work. The police department also helped
the university usher in a new era of security on campus, as it sought
to establish a centralized monitoring system in place of the previous
The university chose to make the change with Honeywell — and for
one-third of the price it would have paid to replace the hardwired
points of its old system and then gradually upgrade over time. The
project centered on creating a more uniform approach to safety and
security. To this end, the university installed Honeywell Enterprise
Buildings Integrator (EBI) a management platform that integrates core
building functions, including security, life safety and HVAC equipment,
for simplified monitoring from a single location.
EBI serves as the backbone of the new security system and is managed by
the police services department, with the department’s new central
station on the St. George campus serving as the technology hub.
As part of the revamp, the university also installed Honeywell Video
Digital Manager (DVM), a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system and
component of the EBI platform. DVM helped the university achieve its
original goal for the parking garage — converting analogue camera
signals to digital feeds, and eliminating the need for time-consuming
and cumbersome video tapes.
And because of the initial success with DVM, the system now includes more than 140 cameras spread across the St. George campus, with an additional 50 cameras in buildings on the
university’s Scarborough campus. In addition to DVM, the integrated
security system includes approximately 340 card readers that regulate
entry into specific areas on the St. George and Scarborough campuses.
The readers are integrated with DVM and tied into EBI, serving as
“trigger points” for alarms and surveillance updates. When an alarm
goes off, for example, the system brings up live video of the specific
location, including floor plans and maps, allowing campus police to
quickly isolate sources of alarms and respond to issues faster and with
the appropriate personnel.
Unlike the previous technology jumble, the Honeywell system allows
university police to view and manage all alarm signals internally. In
addition, it has helped the university — specifically Hutt and his
police colleagues — achieve a mix of proactive and reactive security
measures, reducing response time from hours to minutes.
“We’ve gone from simply monitoring CCTV systems to having a very sophisticated and smart security system,” Hutt says.
The new system also provides the flexibility and specificity required
to match the needs of different parts of the campus as well. For some
buildings, access control is primarily used to monitor after-hours
access only, and the facilities otherwise remain unlocked during normal
operating hours. Conversely, campus labs and other facilities with
expensive equipment require higher levels of security and have more
stringent access guidelines and control measures.
While campus dormitories currently do not fall under the scope of the
access control system, the university may bring the entrance doors onto
the system in the future — a simple task given the flexibility of EBI.
Another benefit: the access cards can be programmed to fit varying
security credentials, as broad or granular as necessary.
For example, the police department can issue a card that grants access
to one of the research labs only from noon to 2 p.m. every day.
Eventually, the university plans to provide all students, faculty and
staff with a card. The cards will be tailored to the individual, and
they will determine access rights throughout the campus.
An essential service
In addition to a more unified security platform, the university
benefits from comprehensive service coverage with Honeywell. As part of
the coverage, the company has three onsite technicians at the St.
George campus, and one technician working full-time at the Scarborough
campus. The technicians monitor and maintain the EBI, DVM and access
control systems around the clock, and they make sure all the equipment
is up-to-date with the latest software patches and technology
“Honeywell handles all installations and commissioning,” Hutt says.
“And when warranties run out, the company provides ongoing maintenance.
We know they’ll keep everything functioning.”
Along with keeping systems up and running, the service agreement has
helped save on administrative time and resources. Specifically, working
with Honeywell to manage multiple systems and tasks under one
comprehensive contract has enabled the university to reduce paperwork,
including purchase orders and invoices. The coverage also saves time
previously spent obtaining quotes for upgrades and repairs, which often
slowed work that needed to be done. With the agreement, the university
faces greater cost certainty as well, because all labour and materials
— including emergency work — are covered.
Currently, 40 per cent of the University of Toronto facilities are on the Honeywell platform. All new construction and renovation work includes the installation of
additional cameras and card readers. The university plans to eventually
incorporate all existing buildings onto the security system — a task
that will occur as funds continue to become available, says Hutt.
Tim Neary is Director of Fire & Integrated Security, Honeywell Building Solutions.