Building security

Managing fit-out work in high-security facilities

Monday, May 26, 2014

What special considerations must be made when managing construction in high-security facilities?

High-security environments are facilities where the occupant’s operations are highly sensitive in nature. To minimize risk, they are typically monitored 24/7 by security staff, other personnel or electronic means. These include government ministries, airports, police services and payment processing and currency management operations. This is also true for single-tenant buildings such as nuclear facilities, courthouses, jails and government buildings.

Fit-out work in high-security facilities comes with the following special considerations:

Security

To visit the facility, each person involved in the project must receive a criminal background check and clearance approval through a profile screening service, which is ultimately verified through the Canadian Police Information Centre database. Facility management service providers may have their own system. Infrastructure Ontario has its own security screening program for contractors, consultants and service providers, led by the Ministry of Government Services. Security is required at all times.

Communication

Drawings can’t leave the premises and photos are not allowed, making co-ordination of work extraordinarily challenging. Without the ability to email this information, many more face-to-face meetings take place, usually on-site. Proactive planning with all stakeholders needs to be considered, during all stages of the project.

Advance notice

Ability to visit a facility requires a minimum of 24-hours’ notice. For some buildings, a minimum 48-hours’ notice is required. Each person who will be on site requires profile clearance. Requests must be submitted on a floor-by-floor basis, and sometimes area-by-area. Company and employee names for everyone — the general contractor’s staff, trades, designers, engineers — must be provided. A list of approved personnel is effectively written in stone, so a company’s internal coordination of personnel is key. Approval must come from building management.

Visibility

On-site security guards must be able to see everyone, 100 per cent of the time. This means security is required to accompany all site staff wherever they go, including on washroom breaks. If the washroom is located in common areas of the building or away from where construction is taking place, protocol requires all site staff to stop work and take a collective break.

Different sets of security policies

For drain downs, smoke bypass, sprinkler work and other activities where the scope of work affects the base building, there are often two different sets of security policies: one for the client and building manager, and the other for the facility management service provider.

Daniel De Monte is the president of Flat Iron Building Group Inc., a Toronto-based boutique construction firm that has been specializing in general contracting, construction management and design-build services for more than a decade.

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