Inside the Van Andel Research Institute
 
Inside the Van Andel Research Institute

Aug 1, 2001 12:00 PM

The success of a networked solution for fire detection, access control, CCTV and video badging

When its doors opened in May 2000, the Van Andel Research Institute took a major step toward achieving its stated mission to become "one of the world's pre-eminent medical research institutions." An independent medical research organization, Van Andel Research Institute is dedicated to scientific investigations that will lead to significant improvements in human health, with a focus on cancer research. Its scientists are working to expand the understanding of how cancer alters cellular functions, and to apply the knowledge to develop life-saving therapies and cancer prevention techniques.

As the base of operations for this important effort, Van Andel Institute has constructed a dramatic new complex in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich. Van Andel Research Institute is the medical research arm of the Van Andel Institute, for which the new building also serves as world headquarters. Protecting its people and premises are fire and integrated security systems from SimplexGrinnell.

In scientific research facilities of this kind, access control is particularly important. Consequently, the research institute's system uses more access points than typically found in comparably-sized manufacturing or business facilities. Access restrictions are in place to protect many sensitive areas where chemical reagents and solvents, radioisotopes, experimental cell lines or potentially biohazardous materials are handled in the ordinary conduct of research. Access to certified "clean labs" is also strictly limited, and floor-by-floor card access extends to the operation of the building's elevators. In addition to protecting personnel, security applications safeguard Van Andel Research Institute's investment in state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation and its wealth of research data.
BENEFACTORS AND VISIONARIES

The Van Andel Research Institute was created through the generosity of Jay and Betty Van Andel. Jay Van Andel co-founded Amway Corp. in 1959. Amway's success has spawned a remarkable public legacy for the citizens of western Michigan. The Van Andel Institute complex is the latest in a stream of construction projects that have transformed downtown Grand Rapids over the past two decades. The Van Andel family has been at the center of the city's renaissance, guiding the creation of a new convention center, a sports arena, a public museum, and expansions of its hospitals. Now, just north of the institute, old factory buildings are being converted to residential units that are expected to attract some of the incoming staff.

It took just four years for Van Andel Research Institute to progress from its founders' vision to reality. Site selection, design and construction of the facility were completed on an exceptionally fast track. In parallel, the institute started recruiting top-flight biomedical investigators, offering exceptional opportunities and freedom to pursue their research goals. Attracting scientists from around the world, the institute is seeking to propel the growth of bioscience as an important component of west Michigan's economy. It is one of the newest research institutes in the "post-genome sequencing" era.
A STRUCTURE SUITED TO ITS PURPOSE

It was in May 1998 that groundbreaking took place for the 162,000-square-foot, $60 million Phase 1 construction. Completed in just two years, this initial structure occupies a 2.7-acre site. With 56,000 square feet devoted to laboratories and laboratory support, the building provides ample space for the institute's 200 scientists and related research personnel, and also houses executive and administrative staff.

The six-story structure, the work of internationally renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, is an impressive achievement. Curved glass canopies illuminate cascading laboratory levels, providing appealing, efficient workspace in a building that makes a handsome addition to the Grand Rapids cityscape. Highlighting Vinoly's spatial plan is the open laboratory environment and extensive common areas designed to foster professional interactions that fuel progress of the research. The structure also features a 275-foot-long hall on the main level that can seat up to 800 people, a 350-seat auditorium, conference rooms, and a winter garden.

As construction moved forward in the fall of 1998, SimplexGrinnell was invited to bid on the project by the electrical contractor, Contech. Plans developed by the electrical engineering consultants, Burt Hill Kosar Rittleman Associates of Butler, Pa., specified locations for discrete components of the access control, CCTV and fire alarm systems and outlined related requirements. The integrated security solutions proposed by SimplexGrinnell met the specifications and specialized needs of a research facility.

The decision to award the project was based on SimplexGrinnell's ability to install, service and support its systems. Dealing with a single-source provider simplified the construction project and resulted in a more fully integrated solution.
MAXIMIZING TECHNOLOGY

According to Kevin Denhof, chief of security at Van Andel Institute, "Harnessing technology to streamline our operations is an underlying principle at the Institute." At the heart of the security program is a security management information system that handles every feature of building security and access control, including motion sensors and door alarms for intrusion detection. The system runs multiple applications linked to a common database and controlled from a single platform that monitors safety and security conditions and maintains cardholder records.

Denhof values the system's ability to handle the individualized employee access programming required at Van Andel. "Researchers enjoy 24-hour access to their own work areas and other precisely defined locations," he says.

The security management system is fully integrated with a CCTV system, also provided by SimplexGrinnell. The CCTV system consists of two dozen surveillance cameras that can be individually controlled at the console.

The facility's card access system interfaces with more than 50 proximity readers. While the building was under construction, Van Andel opted to upgrade its card access with video badging, which stores nearly 400 cardholder images in the system memory. Employee badges are printed directly onto access control cards, thereby eliminating the need to carry an extra card.

For high functionality in limited space, the video badging database is crosslinked with CCTV at the console in the main entrance workstation, which allows immediate image verification without additional apparatus. "We have a lot of time and thought invested in access control," says Denhof. "The system is not labor-intensive, and it's very user-friendly. Everyone understands how to use it and why it's needed."
FIRE DETECTION AND ALARM SOLUTIONS

The Simplex 4120 Network fire alarm system installed at the facility features Simplex TrueAlarm smoke detectors and nearly 300 visual strobe devices and speakers for voice evacuation. The network is configured to provide distributed intelligence among five panels, or nodes. "Peer-to-peer" communications allow each control panel to communicate its status to the others via a "token ring" network.

The system's smoke and heat sensors can be observed from multiple locations, not just within their respective nodes. Authorized users activate a feature that views all network-connected point information, and can make programming adjustments from a single location.

A Windows-based Graphic Command Center (GCC) depicts Van Andel's entire system. This high-level workstation speeds emergency response by graphically pinpointing the location of any alarm in the network and displaying detailed procedures for the operator. The security command location also houses the main 4120 Network display, firefighters' control and a fire alarm control panel.

TrueAlarm analog smoke detectors provide very early fire protection and are engineered to eliminate false alarms. Denhof attests to the false-alarm-free performance of the detectors, adding that alarm events logged to date have legitimately needed to be documented. The detectors allow adjustment of sensitivity levels.

The 4120 Network has direct control over a number of the building's air management functions, and interfaces with the fan damper control. It also monitors the automatic sprinkler system, as well as CO2 and water-based fire suppression.

The facility's voice evacuation system incorporates custom pre-recorded messages and also offers the capacity for live voice transmission through the annunciators, which enables security command personnel to communicate situation-specific instruction.
CUSTOMER NEEDS IN FOCUS

System installation at Van Andel was managed by Scott Leonard and installation supervisor Lee Tate of the SimplexGrinnell Grand Rapids office, located two miles away from the site. The proximity of the SimplexGrinnell district office and its expert technicians proved advantageous during installation, and will similarly help with ongoing services.

No construction project is problem-free. Lee Tate worked closely with Denhof to adapt to building modifications that emerged during construction and affected the placement of system wiring and components. "We kept pace with Van Andel's aggressive construction schedule," Leonard says.

SimplexGrinnell installers interfaced directly with other contractors, in particular with the automatic door manufacturer to perform secondary wiring at the job-site. Tate also accompanied the fire marshall on each inspection. Before declaring the CCTV system complete, installers assisted Denhof in fine-tuning the line-of-sight for each surveillance camera to his satisfaction.

Once the systems were installed, debugged and commissioned, SimplexGrinnell Security Professional Services implemented a training program for VAI's security personnel.
SMOOTH EXPANSION

Denhof points to the expandability of the systems as another consideration. Now nearing its full complement of 250 researchers, the Phase 1 construction will nearly triple in size when Phase 2 is completed in just a few years.

The Phase 2 expansion to 400,000 square feet will add labs, conference facilities and parking. It was important that the systems installed in Phase 1 be able to grow with the facility and its changing needs. The installed security management and 4120 fire alarm network technologies have the capacity to handle projected growth without requiring expansion or replacement of the "head-end" systems.


 
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