Using your Existing Camera System to Inform Building Upgrades
By Meredith Berman (04/17/2014)

With the many renovations occurring around the country, owners with an existing camera-monitoring system will be happy to know they have a head start on planning their new spaces. Employing their cameras to work as behavioral agents, owners can create person-flow studies that will quantitatively and qualitatively inform their renovation needs. Most importantly, the results of these preliminary studies make it easier to communicate these needs to an owner’s selected design team.

Building intelligence is the practice that analyzes the flow of movement within and around a building to determine the effectiveness of its layout (building intelligence can also refer to the integrated HVAC and utility systems in a building that make it run more efficiently). In these self-conducted studies, cameras work double-time to be both security devices and behavioral trackers.

The commercial world has embraced this concept with full enthusiasm as building-intelligence studies link directly to firms’ profitability. Many retailers have installed cameras to track their customers’ buying habits and movements in their stores. They track any number of behaviors that will help increase effectiveness and answer questions such as:

• What type of person is attracted to certain displays? Which displays are ineffective?

• Do customers appear lost in the store? What is it about the layout that’s confusing?

• How many people enter the store from each door and why?

• In what area do most shoplifting instances occur?

Each of these answers for a store will help inform changes in layout, product mix, security system placement and pre-determined metrics deemed important by the firm.

This concept is easily applied to corrections renovations. Using an existing camera system, a facility can measure the effectiveness of any layout in their facility by reframing what a camera can do for them. While cameras certainly track incidences, they are also the proof and starting point for an owner to decide what they want and why.

A simple example is a public-facing video visitation room located within a facility. A county might track how many people enter the room during a given period, which stations they’re likely to gravitate towards, and why and how they are distributed throughout the room.

A study might find that people don’t sit at stations next to windows since outside light washes out the screen. In creating the future design, the owner would elect to have a solid wall or windows at heights that don’t affect viewing ability. A study might also find people tend to spread out in the room to feel a sense of privacy.

Perhaps that means altering the desk space and room footprint. Further, a study might discover that actual traffic is less than anticipated since many video visitation providers now provide in-home access. The owner may decrease the number of video visitation units and space allotted to them, saving money in the renovation.

These same concepts can be applied in any space in a facility — most useable perhaps in recreation areas, high-traffic hallways, kitchens and troublesome pods.

Like the renovation itself, planning the study well will determine the usability of the results. Several starter concepts will grow the consideration set to create an effective body of evidence:

• High-Low Traffic – Observe where traffic is most congested and least congested and if those levels create problems. Would wider hallways or different pod arrangements alleviate altercations or unwanted communications during inmate travel? Are lesser-traveled hallways safer or more dangerous, and why?

• Unused Spaces – Determine how much space you actually need by determining why spaces go unused. Is it a distance issue? Lighting? Functionality? Don’t plan on adding square footage to your new facility if you can reformat unused space that exists now.

• Overused Spaces – Are spaces overused because of their proximity to crucial areas? Examine traffic flows to determine what building resources are better placed elsewhere, or even duplicated if the population is large enough.

• Security – Have their been an unusual number of accidents occurring in camera blind spots or in the same areas repeatedly even if they’re monitored? This pattern should inform either or both the physical layout and camera placement in the new renovation. Perhaps a lack of light or a narrowing wall creates an ideal situation for incidents to occur.

• Staff – Meet with staff to discover what needs they believe could be met by an improved building design. Monitor the behaviors that exist in those places and determine how an improved layout would help change those behaviors.

Using the existing resources in a facility, owners can clearly communicate the unique challenges to their facilities and where changes need to be made. Every organization runs differently and oftentimes building layouts don’t accommodate everyday operations. Only an organization with an intimate knowledge of its everyday nuances will be able to completely inform its design team. From there, designers will use the information to create buildings that work for the staff in the most intuitive way possible.

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