How to Read Blueprints For Security Projects

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 20, 2014

Reading building floorplans is a fundamental skilled needed for professional security projects. 

Floorplans can be large, detailed and intimidating to the inexperienced.

Understanding blueprints can be the difference between bidding the project accurately, losing a job or worse, or winning it by omitting critical costs. It can also result in avoiding or making painful errors during installation.

In this note, we introduce the way plans are structured, identify the key details impacting surveillance designs, and review where in floorplans the most important data is displayed.

Using Plans for Security Designs

In the sections below, we review the six keys for making best use of blueprints for security designs:

  • Understanding the Plan Set
  • Security Specific Sheets
  • Estimating Distances
  • Reading Common Symbols
  • Reading Design Schedules
  • Understanding Riser Diagrams

At the end of the training is a quiz to reinforce the lessons taught.

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Comments (9)

Great article, Brian. For commercial projects, there are some additional drawing types that are also very useful for the security/surveillance integrator to know about:

-Civil drawings: these show the overall site plan, parking lot layouts, and changes in grade.

-Landscaping drawings: these show the locations of trees and shrubs that can block lighting and obstruct camera views.

-Building Section drawings: these illustrate cross sections of the building at various points and can be useful in identifying changes in ceiling heights that can impact camera and motion detector placements.

-Reflected Ceiling Plan drawings: show the location of everything on the ceiling (HVAC vents, light fixtures, sprinkler heads, etc.) and can be used to verify that your intended device mounting locations aren't in conflict with other stuff on the ceiling. Also useful in determining ceiling heights.

-Door and Opening Schedules: Show each door and window proposed for use on the project, including door type, size, and the hardware set that will be used. These drawings are usually supplemented by a door hardware schedule that is located in the project manual. Very helpful when designing access control or intrusion detection systems.

I think the symbols vary per region. I don't believe I have ever seen the SIA symbols used in the past 13 years. I have seen variations of the sample as-built diagram version of symbols quite a bit as well as others.

Great Job: Brian

Most specifications, plans that i have reviewed are not that well written and leave out a lot of details. Very Basic

listing outdated products or substandard products

Plans usually one sheet , notes one sheet ( depends on size of project )

What agency is requesting , what level of security is requested, and what direct specified products are requested.(proprietary)

Some require backgrounds, security clearances to view the Plans.

And more and more requirements for Comfidentialty in the process.(need to know) Must be on the list for review

Some use thier own symbles and notes (Very Generic ) Not Sia or industry standard.

Most indicate the designer has no clue as to what the end result should be or look like. Not really sure as to what detail they are really requesting

More often we are seeing consultalting companys do the designs, plans, spec's which have improved over the years as the industry is updating to higher levels of professionalism in this discipline.

A lot just ask for RFP so they can learn what is out there and learn from the factory reps what should be in the specification.

Have had many that looked like they were copied from others work and did not remove some of the notes for other projects.

Brian,

Great article. To the comment about the SIA/IAPSC symbols, they have been last updated around 2000. The IAPSC is in current dialogue with the SIA and is assembling a committee to update the set as the last set is missing a lot of new products developed and need be be more network centric. Use of those symbols is better than not because you are forced to capture the technology and mount details which might otherwise be overlooked and lead to change orders. In fact, we have added a third superscript for connectivity as well which makes the floor plan very informative.

Agree with Mike Silva's comments as well.

Brian, coming from the design and consulting community for security and fire alarm, you might reference NFPA 730, Guide for Premises Security and NFPA 731, Standard for the Installation of Electronic Premises Security Systems. Also NFPA 170, Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols. These NFPA standards can be quite useful.

Gary

Seacliff Security Consulting, LLC

Hello Gary:

Thanks for the tip! Here are links to purchase those standards from NFPA for member reference:

I'll take a look and add references to / update the post above. Thanks again.

FYI, you can register on the NFPA website and get free online access to these standards.

http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=170

Great article.

I would be interested in hearing what people have seen/liked in terms of documentation for electronic door security hardware. I have seen everything from showing every single device (electrical strike, card reader, power transfer, maglocks, jbox with homerun etc.) shown at the door. But i have also seen drawings with a simple "door type #" at the door, with reference to a schedule. I have found that the former leads to more mistakes as it is too hard to make mass drawing changes when the architect changes the hardware schedule last minute.

What is the most effective way you have seen this documented? From the perspectives of 1. clarity for the contractor, 2. minimizing work input/doubling up of work that the architect/DHW provider has already done, and 3. minimizing risk associated with last minute HW changes.

Without question, it seems more prudent to dump details into a schedule and just ID the door number on the general plan.

The RFI process generally makes a big mess of plans, but at least if everything is constrained to one sheet or schedule, clarity is possible.

Otherwise, like you mention, changes and updates might be accidentally forgotten on some doors and leave a huge mess behind.

Unfortunately, getting the A&E to coordinate well with the Division 8 guys (Doors & Hardware), the Division 27 (Communications), and/or Division 28 (Security) vendor is a total fantasy on many jobs. I have never cracked how to do this in a foolproof way, so I'm interested in hearing feedback too!

In the more than 25 years I have been designing integrated security systems, I have tried lots of different approaches to this, each approach having its own pros and cons.

Currently, we show all security devices (including electric hardware) at the doors on the security plan drawings. We also create details for each door "type" using an interior elevation drawing showing all the devices on the door and which contractor is to provide it. We also produce a security door schedule that summarizes the devices on the doors and provides any specific operating sequences that may be required. All of this is coordinated with the architectural drawings, architectural door schedule, and the hardware specification section.

The picture below shows one of our typical door type details. On some projects, we may have as many as 40 or 50 different door types.

Example of Door Detail

Good coordination between the security designer, the architect, electrical engineer, and the hardware consultant are critical during the design process. This is one area where hiring a good independent security consultant can really add value to a project.

I have found that the key to success is to have someone taking a proactive role in this coordination. I have found that if no one steps in to take a lead role, the coordination won't occur and problems during construction and change orders will inevitably be the result. When we are hired to do a design, we take on this role because no one else seems to want to do it.

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