Below is an article written by Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune about the restoration of Oak Park’s historic Unity Temple. Blair gives a great summary of the Unity Temple restoration project and a brief history of the temple itself. Pentegra Systems began an audiovisual, security and data network design build installation at the historic Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL last year. To find out more about the integrated solution Pentegra Systems installed at Unity Temple, head on over to our Unity Temple Success Story page.

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Frank Lloyd Wright was never one to fret about meeting deadlines, sticking to budgets or roofs that leaked. So there is something fitting about the delayed, but altogether triumphant, restoration of Wright’s Unity Temple, the Oak Park landmark that is the finest public building of Wright’s Chicago years and home to one of the most beautiful rooms in America.

Instead of finishing on schedule last fall, the $25 million project is wrapping up just in time for the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birthday, June 8. The building’s Unitarian Universalist congregation will return for services June 11. A formal ribbon-cutting and open house are scheduled for June 17. It’s as though Wright himself had willed the timing to demonstrate afresh his genius at the very moment when public attention will be riveted on his legacy.

For decades, scholars and critics have remarked upon the striking contrast between Unity Temple’s exterior and interior: The former, made of exposed concrete, is monumental, monochromatic and seemingly impenetrable. The latter, a skylit room with multiple seating tiers, is grand yet human-scaled, enlivened by a rich palette of earth-toned colors, and as airy as the concrete cube is heavy.

Yet the restoration breaks down this dichotomy, revealing a strong aesthetic connection between the radically severe exterior and the warm, intimate interior — a new unity, if you will, for Unity Temple. The key step involves the return of robust interior finishes that once wove a thread of nature-inspired continuity between inside and outside. Without them, we now know, Unity Temple was simply not whole.

The practically-minded will be delighted to know that the restoration also delivers creature comforts like air conditioning that will prevent the heavenly interior from turning hellishly hot come summer. The exterior is even said to be leak-free. We’ll have to see about that, given Wright’s infamous track record of leaky flat-roofed buildings that forced their occupants to haul out drip buckets for what they referred to as “one-bucket,” “two-bucket” and “three-bucket” rains.

Success, it’s often said, has many fathers, and so it is with here: A team of consultants led by Chicago’s Harboe Architects has lavished exacting care on every aspect of this project, from the restoration of jewel-like art glass to the recreation of textured plaster walls. This high level of quality was made possible by $10 million lead grant from Chicago’s Alphawood Foundation, $1.75 million from the congregation and the rest from private donors.

Yet there’s a catch, as there always seems to be with Wright, who frequently lived beyond his means: The nonprofit that spearheaded the project, Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, still must raise roughly half the project’s budget. For now, a bridge loan covers those costs. The restoration itself offers the best advertisement for foundations and individuals to make up the balance.

From the first, financial constraints have shaped Unity Temple, which sits amid Oak Park’s thriving downtown at 875 Lake St. After the congregation’s Gothic Revival church burned in 1905, its leaders asked Wright, who was born into a Unitarian family in 1867, to design a new building on a prominent site along Lake Street’s noisy streetcar line. The budget, a mere $45,000, did not allow for expensive materials or elaborate ornament. So Wright, ever the innovator, fashioned his design from inexpensive poured-in-place concrete.

Victorians accustomed to embroidered surfaces must have been shocked by the monolithic abstraction of the completed 1908 building: A high-walled house of worship along Lake Street, joined by a foyer to a social hall and classroom building called Unity House. The passages to, and through, the sanctuary were equally radical. A circuitous route — the classic Wright trope known as the “path of discovery” — led from Lake Street to the entrance on a quiet side street. Inside, more turns took the worshipper from dark, tightly-confined ground-floor spaces that Wright labeled “cloisters” on upward and into the sanctuary’s spectacular explosion of space and light.

It was — and is — an extraordinary gathering place, in which space flows freely, liberated from the convention of the box. Yet there’s a profound sense of order and repose, as if one had come upon a light-dappled glade. The intimacy is palpable, courtesy of tiered balconies which ensure that no seat is more than 45 feet from the pulpit. Sunlight filters down from a grid of skylights, creating an effect that Wright compared to a “happy cloudless day.” Instead of turning its back on the minister to exit, congregation members pass through doors cut into walls on either side of the pulpit. In theory, at least, one enters as an individual and leaves as a member of a community

“Unity Temple is where you will find the first real expression of the idea that the space within the building is the reality of that building,” Wright remarked in 1952, seven years before his death.

But like many Wright buildings, Unity Temple challenged the patience and finances of its occupants. Even after a 1973 renovation covered the failing original exterior with a layer of “shotcrete,” a pneumatically-applied concrete, cracks and chipping persisted. Naturally, the building’s many roofs leaked. Seepage from the building’s internal drains, which were concealed in interior columns, weakened its concrete bones. When a large chunk of the ceiling fell in the middle of the night nine years ago, “it was a wake-up call about the instability of the building,” recalled the Rev. Alan Taylor, Unity Temple’s senior minister.

The restoration team has done meticulous work, beginning with the exterior, where portions of the 1973 shotcrete have been removed and replaced with new swaths of the material. Along with new roofs, restored art glass and enlarged internal drains, the new shotcrete is supposed to create that rarest of conditions in a Wright building — a structure that doesn’t leak like a sieve. “The system is good. It’s been tested,” said Gunny Harboe of Harboe Architects, who worked on the project with colleague Bob Score. (The building’s sagging eaves were fixed in 2002.)

Replacing the shotcrete also presented an aesthetic challenge. Unity Temple’s exterior is not a simple flat gray but a richly-textured aggregate of cement, sand and pebbles that range in color from white to brown to flint. Getting the right blend was like finding the elusive mix for a perfect cocktail. Contractors had to do some spots two or three times before the work was pronounced satisfactory.

The outcome largely avoids the pitfalls of a patchwork, although close inspection reveals slight variations in color. Yet time, weathering and the curing of the shotcrete should eventually blur those distinctions. And it will be no great sin if some of them remain. Unity Temple’s exterior has always had a certain mottled look. One of Wright’s prime tenets was to build “in the nature of materials,” which meant respecting their inherent properties. New in-ground night lighting will showcase the handsomely refurbished exterior and its decorative concrete columns.

The real revelations, though, are inside, where all interior surfaces have been returned to their 1908 appearance. That may not sound dramatic but it’s a major shift when you realize that multiple coats of paint, even modern latex paint, had been slathered onto the original walls. That rendered them flat and textureless, which was not what Wright intended.

Drawing on historic photographs and microscopic paint analysis, the architects and Philadelphia’s Building Conservation Associates re-created three types of textured plaster walls (rough, semi-rough and smooth) and Wright’s earth-toned color palette (pale yellow, green and brown). Contractors applied glazes over the plaster, giving them their color and a luminous sheen appropriate to a sacred space. The outcome is subtle but striking, especially within the sanctuary.

From the skylight to the ground floor, the freshly-remodeled interior walls have a new sense of texture and motion, restoring a lost layer of visual richness. Just as important, the interior now engages in a quiet but unmistakable dialogue with the building’s textured-concrete exterior. Inside and outside are opposites yet part of the same whole, a yin-yang relationship that makes tangible Wright’s elusive gospel of an “organic architecture.”

“No one’s seen it that way in a long time,” Harboe said.

To their credit, the team of designers has addressed a host of practical issues without aesthetic sacrifice.

Shallow trenches were dug in the concrete walls, then covered with plaster, to allow for the rewiring of electrical fixtures. LEDs were installed beneath the sanctuary’s skylights to give worshippers in the top seating tiers improved lighting as they read from prayer books. Mechanical systems were deftly inserted in the four hollow columns that support the building. Geothermal wells — nine of them, descending 500 feet beneath the front lawn — will provide the air conditioning the building has long lacked. New theater lights will improve Unity Temple’s ability to host performances.

A comparable assortment of formal and functional improvements are being made to Unity House, though they were not complete when I toured last week.

What a change has transpired since 2000, when the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois (now Landmarks Illinois) placed the deteriorating Unity Temple on its annual list of the state’s most endangered structures! Today, Unity Temple is a landmark renewed, an enduring statement of Wright’s genius and a vivid reminder that his brilliance extended far beyond the Prairie Style houses for which he is best known. There can be no better way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth than to see and experience this revived masterpiece.

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Please visit www.pentegrasystems.com for all of your audio and video needs or give us a call at (630) 941-6000 for more information.

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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Are you using Video Conferencing yet?

It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:

Productivity:

Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.

Money Saver:

In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.

Employee Satisfaction:

Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.

Improved Communication:

You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.

Sharing:

Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.

Build the Best Staff:

As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.

 

Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.

 

Call us today at (630) 941-6000

Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com

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Outdoor Security Cameras NEED Surge Protection

Video surveillance is designed to protect, but how do YOU protect your video surveillance? Accidents can happen that can affect your surveillance system both indoors and especially outdoors. You are putting your cutting edge technology outside and exposing it to the elements. Sure, outdoor cameras are designed differently than indoor cameras specifically to be able to function outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t take extra precautions. Although designed to “weather the storms,” there are still parts within the cameras themselves that are susceptible to surges and transients (What are transients? Read more here). If your system experiences a power surge your signal will become disturbed and more than likely disable your equipment altogether. Bottom line is: your system needs surge protection.

You plug most of your household electronics into a power strip at home so they don’t get fried during a thunderstorm. You wouldn’t want to lose that expensive HD television you just bought. The same principle applies to your surveillance system which is a much, much larger investment.  Installing surge protection on your surveillance system is a little more complex than simply plugging your TV into a power strip. Typically, your surveillance system is connected to your building’s electrical service panel, whether that be directly or indirectly. AC power, data lines and coax cables are ALL equally vulnerable to surges and/or transients. If a bolt of lightning were to hit one of your cameras, that one surge can go from that one camera all the way into your building affecting your indoor equipment. Your entire system can be compromised without surge protection. Surge protection devices need to be installed on every component you have that is connected to any wiring entering or exiting your building.

The following components of your surveillance system require surge protection devices installed:

Surveillance Cameras

 

-Analog

-Network

 

Head-End Equipment Rack

-DVR

-NVR

-Switches

-Routers

 

Any type of surge that hits your surveillance equipment can not only damage said surveillance equipment, but any electrical equipment or device that is connected to your building’s main electrical service panel. It is best practice to also install surge protection devices on the electrical service panel itself in addition to any of your other equipment including indoor cameras, lighting, HVAC, etc. You can’t afford to have Mother Nature knock out your security, protection and peace of mind for an extended period of time. If you surveillance system is down it is not doing its intended job of monitoring for public safety, traffic, property loss and crime prevention.

 

Need help? Pentegra Systems is has got your back if you need assistance in determining the best surge protection devices for your current surveillance system.

For more information please visit us at

www.pentegrasystems.com

or give us a call at

(630) 941-6000

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Advantages of IP Video Surveillance Over Analog

If you want to protect your building, employees, assets, etc. (and why wouldn’t you?), video surveillance at your facility is a definite must-have. The majority of businesses and organizations out there already utilize CCTV surveillance systems to monitor everyday activity both during work hours and beyond, but the reality is many are still using analog camera systems.  IP (internet protocol) is the current trend when it comes to video surveillance. An IP surveillance system in the simplest terms is a digital video camera system that can both send and receive a signal through a computer network. An analog camera only sends its feed directly to a DVR (digital video recorder). There are several benefits to using a high definition IP camera system that analog cameras just do not offer.

 

Here are a few key advantages to using an IP camera system:

  • Accessibility: If you are connected to the internet, you can access your surveillance cameras anytime, anyplace. IP video surveillance allows users to views the feed from their cameras from any computer or mobile device that is connected to the web.
  • Resolution: Grainy and blurry videos are a thing of the past. High definition IP cameras allows for unbelievable zoom-in capabilities with cameras now topping 30 megapixel resolutions eclipsing even the most advanced analog camera. IP cameras also offer HD 1080p and even 4K resolution. When compared, any analog resolution basically looks out of focus.
  • Storage: No more disks or VHS tapes. With IP video surveillance, all footage is stored digitally. You can save and store as much footage as you wish if your hard drive permits it or you can store it in the cloud, which is becoming a more and more popular option.
  • Video Sharing: You can not only view your footage from any device, but you can also send that video to anyone anywhere in the world. This cuts down investigation time in crucial situations.
  • Low Maintenance: The digital age keeps doing away with excessive equipment. An IP video surveillance system cuts down the costs to the owner without the need of time-lapse video equipment, tapes, cataloging, etc.
  • Flexibility: Every analog camera needs to be connected directly to the DVR. Multiple IP cameras (that are in the same general area) can be connected to the same single switch which is connected to the NVR (network video recorder) by one cable. You can also connect switch to switch to further amplify your amount of cameras and area being monitored. This reduces the amount of cabling when installing the system and also allows for more cameras to be connected seamlessly.
  • PoE Switch: An IP video surveillance system that uses a PoE (power over Ethernet) switch enables your Category 5e or 6 cables to not only run the signal from your cameras, but also power the cameras as well. This eliminates the need for an additional power supply. Also, new IP cameras can reside on an already existing network.

 

If you are one of those out there still using an analog system, don’t worry. Converting and/or phasing from an analog system to an IP system is easy to accomplish and it doesn’t involve you losing all of that expensive equipment your invested in several years ago. If you are interested in converting to an IP system or are interested in installing a brand new IP video surveillance system, please contact us at Pentegra Systems and one of our security sales engineers would be happy to discuss your current situation and devise a solution to solve your problems.

Visit us online today at

http://pentegrasystems.com/what-we-do/security/digital-video-surveillance

or give us a call at (630) 941-6000

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Advantages of Leasing Technology

It is 2015 and let’s face it technology has become a necessity in almost every aspect of your life. This is a harsh truth to some people, but so is the fact that if you want the best technology it sure doesn’t come cheap. Is your business in need of network equipment? How about a video wall in your lobby? Chances are you can be looking at a substantial investment. What if you just don’t have that sort of money when you need it most? Leasing technology quickly becomes a pretty appealing option.

SAVING You Money

Let’s say you are the facilities manager at your company and you need to look into buying a video surveillance system to monitor the grounds. To acquire a proper system fitting both your needs and your wants, your system has a price tag of $60,000. Your company definitely needs this system, but just doesn’t have that money to spend right now. By leasing this surveillance system your company can get the exact system you want and need today and pay it off over a specific time frame with a pre-determined monthly cost. Plus, more than likely there will be no down payment to begin with. You can spend that total of $60,000 over the entire lifetime of you using it opposed to dropping that serious amount of money all at once. By leasing this technology, you conserve your capital. By not buying the system upfront, you free up that money you would have spent otherwise. This way, you not only get your video surveillance system, but now have additional money to spend in other areas that also need it.

Keeping You Up-to-Date

In today’s world your brand new cutting edge technology could become outdated by tomorrow. You buy a brand new phone and within months, or weeks now it seems, an even newer phone comes out with much better features that is miles ahead of the one you just purchased. We have all been there. Being stuck with outdated technology is just a common burden that cannot be avoided. Leasing technology gives the buyer the option to update their current equipment when their current lease is up giving them the freedom to periodically have the most up to date products on the market. When your lease agreement comes to an end you simply pick from the current options available and begin a new lease agreement. Plus, since the technology you are leasing will never be outdated, you are also saving yourself the expenses of necessary repairs. If you are stuck with technology that you bought up front, the longer times goes on the more and more that equipment will need to be repaired and maintained, thus saving you even more money.

Other Advantages

When tax time rolls around, the IRS lets you deduct the full cost of all newly purchased assets in the previous year. This does not only mean equipment you purchased upfront, but it also includes equipment you leased. Select lease structures are 100% tax deductible. The entire cost of you leasing your equipment can often be reported as an expense item when its income tax season and could potentially give you a larger tax deduction.  Also, when looking to take out a lease on equipment or technology, most financial services can turn your transaction around in one day’s time. Depending on the size, the much larger transactions are often given high priority. Financial Services not only make the transaction smoother, but also save time and resources making it as hassle-free as possible.  In addition, depending on your type of organization, you can qualify for additional benefits. For example, School Districts have an even greater advantage when leasing due to tax-exempt and flexible payment lease programs that lower the costs of ownership even further down. Schools have tight budgets as it is, they can’t afford to buy equipment upfront in most cases, so in addition to the money leasing will save them additional programs will also save them even more. Faculty, staff, students and parents can definitely appreciate a school with the most up to date technology without the large financial burden of paying for it all at once.

In the grand scheme of things, leasing technology makes the most sense, especially for education and government customers. Municipalities and schools definitely need up-to-date technology and just can’t consistently afford or be as efficient by purchasing that equipment outright when compared to leasing it. Leasing gives you more money to work with now which is crucial in today’s economy. The advantages of leasing become extremely beneficial not just when it comes to affording the equipment, but also using it given you will always be using current technology that will rarely need repairs, let alone replacing.

 

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Ways Video Surveillance Can SAVE You Money

Anything of real importance needs to be protected. Something of value cannot simply go unmonitored because anything bad can and most likely will happen, eventually. You wear a helmet to protect your head. Your money is protected by being put in a bank. Automotive insurance protects both you and your vehicle in case something goes wrong on the road. As little or as significant as these measures are, these measures need to be taken, but all these measures come with a price of their own. When it comes to security, sure it will cost you, but like making any other decisions in life, there are positives and then there are negatives. You make a substantial investment on a quality security system, a pretty large chunk of change, but just imagine how much money that system will save you down the stretch and in how many different ways. Here are the basic methods in which video surveillance can really become extremely valuable for your company very quickly and SAVE you money.

Obviously, the first method is loss prevention. A security system that utilizes cameras can monitor potential robberies, vandalism, etc. A fully functional video surveillance system can drastically lower the possibility of such crimes happening on your premises. If criminals are aware of the system in place, they are less likely to perpetrate the crimes. You may have a facility housing an extensive amount of extremely expensive equipment and items that you plan to use on six or seven-figure jobs. Can you possibly afford to have any of those items damaged or stolen, I don’t think so. How much would it cost to replace those items? What damages could be done to your facility alone during a break-in? Suddenly, the idea of purchasing an extensive security camera system isn’t that bad of an idea.

Another useful way to utilize your video surveillance system is for monitoring purposes. Sometimes instances and errors can happen in the workplace environment. To ensure the quality of your products and services, a video surveillance system can come in handy to record errors made during operations and be gone back to for reviewing purposes. Are your employees using the correct components on the assembly line? Is your outgoing product being packaged safely and securely? Take a minute and think of how much money these errors can cost you. How much would it cost to replace those components? How much money and resources would it take to ship the damaged products back to your facility and fix them or replace them altogether? The dollar amount adds up pretty quickly.

Video surveillance can not only record company procedures, but it can record employee conduct and behavior. For example, a restaurant can monitor whether employees are keeping up with sanitary regulations, such as washing their hands, with surveillance. A good video surveillance system can keep track of your employees at all times. What are they doing? Where are they going? Where have they been? An access control system uses access cards to gain entry into secure areas of your facility. A certain card can unlock a certain door. A video surveillance system can work with your current access control system by recording who actually is entering that door or gaining access to that specific area, all captured on video keeping an extra eye on your facility at all times. Not only can surveillance record criminals intruding your building, but it can also record potential criminals already inside of your building, such as your own employees. For example, you own a computer company and all of the high value components such as processors and memory are in a separate, more secure section of the warehouse where only select individuals can gain access to. One day, a few items went missing. The value of having surveillance in that area has just skyrocketed.

What if one of your employees had an accident? What if your employee slipped and fell off a ladder trying to get an item off the top shelf? Your company is liable for any accident that may happen. Video surveillance captures the entire accident for evidence purposes. More importantly, video surveillance can prevent false claims. An employee can claim they slipped on a newly washed warehouse floor and then say there were no signs to let he or she know the floor was wet. Video surveillance can prove whether or not the appropriate signage was displayed to let personnel know the floor was wet and use caution or if that employee actually did fall or not at all. Any employee could potentially try and pull a “fast one” on you and video surveillance provides the evidence that gives you an advantage to potentially avoid any legal fees or litigation that may come along with this sort of situation.

There are a slew of ways to utilize a video surveillance system in your facility. It won’t only save you money, but it can also save you time. For example, it’s 2:00 am and your phone rings waking you up at home notifying you that the alarm has gone off at your facility. Using your home computer, tablet or other device you can remote in and view all of your cameras at your own home and see what is going on. Sure, the alarm could still have been triggered by something serious, but in many cases it does in fact turn out to be a false alarm. If that is the case the surveillance system really came in handy. Do you have any security staff on payroll? Having a video surveillance system in place could eliminate the need of keeping actual security guards in house saving you even more money instantly and in a number of ways; a surveillance system could be more beneficial and catch happenings that an average security guard may just miss completely.

If you were to crunch some numbers real quick, the choice would be simple. If your business needs an extra set of eyes for whatever the reason may be, a quality video surveillance system should be in your future. There is far too much value in being able to see what is going on in and around your facility for you not to have one. The future is unpredictable and as the saying goes “anything can happen.” You need to be prepared for when anything does indeed happen.

To learn more about Video Surveillance visit

http://pentegrasystems.com/what-we-do/security/digital-video-surveillance

for more information.

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Notifying the Masses

The safety or your children is the greatest concern a parent can have. Parents need the reassuring feeling of knowing where their children are at all times and knowing they are safe. Parents are well aware they cannot keep an eye on their kids at all times, however. Children need to go to school. They need to get an education. Your children need to go somewhere for the majority of weekdays to learn. Do you, as a parent, trust your son or daughter’s safety at school? You should since all schools keep safety and security as an utmost priority every single day to ensure the well-being of not just students, but faculty alike.

In the event of an emergency, every school needs to be able to take action no matter the threat. Every person within and around the building needs to be notified of the emergency in addition to notifying the proper authorities outside the building to respond to the emergency as soon as possible. A mass notification system in schools is the most crucial aspect of safety and security of students and faculty. Mass notification notifies the masses in all areas surrounding the emergency.

 

There are several levels of notification that this system provides:

The most important area of notification is that of the immediate emergency. The area that is most directly affected needs to be notified immediately. Audio is the primary source of notification whether it be a siren alarm or a voice recording relaying instructions and to follow proper protocol. For the hearing impaired, strobe and LED lights are also used in addition to the alarms so they are visually noticeable to everyone around the area.

Those directly outside the facility are the next ones that need to be notified. At this point external speakers and public address systems are utilized to make crucial announcements and alerts regarding an emergency. These sirens or alerts will send out the proper warning for surrounding parties to take proper precautions.

Another element to an effective mass notification system is the ability to send out both text messages and e-mails to concerned parties both on and off campus. This useful tool not only helps alert people on the outside to stay away but could also be used to tell emergency contacts about the current situation.

In addition to mass notification to students and faculty, the proper help is also notified whether it is the police department, fire department, etc. Through the use of emergency call buttons integrated into the mass notification System, the response times are reduced dramatically.

One last piece of the life safety system in schools is the use of digital signage. Digital signage is becoming more and more prominent in schools around the world. These displays inform the students and faculty of important schools events, bulletins and news. However, in the case of an emergency these displays can be overridden to display messages notifying students and faculty of what is going on. For example, if there was a tornado warning in the area, the displays would let everyone know and to take the proper precautions to remain safe.

 

Through the use of new technology, schools have more ability than ever to keep their campuses as safe as possible. Fact is, when an emergency occurs everyone needs a helping hand no matter how serious or life threatening it can be. A mass notification system brings the power of connectivity to an entirely new level through the use of audio recordings, strobe lights, alarms, e-mails and text messages, mass notification spreads incredibly fast to warrant aid that much quicker.

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The Difference Between Consultants and Integrators

Imagine this scenario. You are the owner of a medium sized business whose sales have been on the upswing for the past several years. Due to this increase in business, your company is in the process of expanding into a brand new facility to support the increased operational demands that accompany your business success.  Your new facility has ample office space to house your growing workforce, and includes huddle rooms for ad hoc collaboration and a large conference room for formal presentations. Even your warehouse space is drastically larger than your previous location. You are now faced with a dilemma and you need answers. What technology systems will you need to best support the way you do business? What are your options for audio and video systems, telephones, internet connection, security, etc? Where do you start? These are decisions that need to be made not only in a timely fashion, but they need to be made correctly for the overall well-being of your business. At this fork in the road, there are two directions you can go: seeking out the help from an independent consultant or enlisting the services of a design-build systems integrator.

Independent Consultant:

Whenever someone is faced with an issue in life, they tend to seek out help or advice. They tend to consult someone on what they should do next. That is where independent consultants come into play in the technology field. A consultant is there to steer you in the right direction when you have very little to no knowledge of what steps to take. These consultants are skilled at strategically evaluating current and future needs. They have no particular affiliation to a product line or relationship with a contracting company and as a request will provide an unbiased opinion. Independent consultants can conduct a feasibility study after visiting to your site or start with a “blank slate” when designing for a new facility, and in either case formulate the design direction. Independent consultants are typically part of a larger architectural and engineering team charged with designing a new facility or renovating an existing facility, and will ensure the technology systems are integrated within and coordinated with other elements of the facility design. Independent consultants act as the Owner’s advocate, refining the technology systems’ design to best balance the Owner’s concerns, including technology scope, system complexity and level of user expertise, and costs. The design process typically culminates in a set of documents – drawings and specifications – that are used to solicit bid proposals for each trade division that are required to construct the facility, and consultants often have the opportunity to recommend a list of prequalified  systems integrators that  can best execute the scope of work.  The independent consultant method serves best to establish a defined scope of work on which multiple systems integrators may bid, resulting in bid proposals that may be compared directly to each other in an apples-to-apples way.

Design-Build Systems Integrator:

When Owners are looking for a more cost-effective option, they seek out the alternative.  Known as a Design-Build process, it utilizes the design knowledge and expertise of the systems integrator, themselves.  For the Owner, the initial process of selecting a systems integrator is the most difficult, and requires a targeted effort on their part to be successful.  How do I find the right integrator?  What integrator has the appropriate expertise?  Can the integrator design multiple types of systems for my facility? All of these are important questions to ask, and the Owner must ask these and other questions in order to receive answers that establish a level of comfort and trust in choosing an integrator that will deliver success on every aspect of the project scope. So, what exactly are the answers an Owner should expect from such an integrator?  Owners should ask for – and contact – an integrator’s references for similar projects, which is likely the best indicator of how successful they will be on your project. A systems integrator should have a detailed process for assessing the Owner’s systems needs and should compile those needs in a written narrative describing the design of each system in conceptual form, and then review and refine the design and associated costs with the Owner toward arriving at a final design and cost that best meets all of the Owner’s needs and concerns.  Integrators should be capable of working with multiple applications and system types that interoperate with one another, typically through the data network, of which the integrator must also have design expertise. They should also have a good track record of working with other vendors and trades on a project in a harmonious way.  Integrators must have the personnel and internal resources to make the project a reality from concept to completion, including industry certified design engineers, standards-based CAD departments, certified project managers and highly trained shop and field technicians. A systems integrator designs and builds systems for Owners by combining both hardware and software from multiple vendors to assemble multiple systems in a custom way, which when performed correctly can lower the overall cost of the design and installation of these systems by achieving an economy-of-scale typical of a single integrator approach.

As you can see, both independent consultants and systems integrators more than serve their own respective purposes in the world of technology. Which method would you choose when making decisions about the technology in your new space?

 

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The Low Bid: MORE meaning behind the LESS number

  In the world we live in today, everyone wants more for less. Part of that comes from the mentality to save as much money as possible for the future while still managing to purchase whatever it is that suits your fancy in the now. The other part of wanting more for less is that some people are well…just plain cheap. This doesn’t only go for the everyday average Joe strolling into a Target; this also goes for the world of business as well. When attempting to secure a job for either yourself or your company, the number a contractor ultimately bids can say quite a bit, no matter how large or, even more so, how small the number may be.

Some bids may be incredibly high and some bids will be suspiciously low, this is what you need to watch out for. The high bids generally indicate that the contractor included the best materials available and most likely has quite the positive reputation to be justifying such a large final amount. The old saying, “you get what you pay for” works both ways, after all. The low bidder, though, is a little bit more complicated to figure out. Sure, a low number is extremely enticing when purchasing anything compared to all of the other higher priced items on the market for roughly the same goods or services. It is far too easy to initially assume that a low bid submitted by a contractor is the lowest possible number they can fathom in order to simply pay their bills and gas-up the truck. Sometimes, yes, this is indeed true. However, there is likely more to the story. Just because the bid is lower than the rest, by any size margin, does not mean by any means you are getting the best value for your money.


Although the most affordable no doubt, the lowest bidder isn’t always the right choice. Sure the price might be low, but this could potentially have severe repercussions on the job and the job schedule once work begins. The most common truths behind a low bid are fairly obvious. First and foremost, the contractor submitting the lowest number might severely lack in the experience department.  If contemplating awarding this contractor a project, be sure to do some digging, research the company and call all references, if any were submitted. The use of cheap unreliable materials is another fairly common issue with low bidders. Contractors buy the cheapest materials in order to make the most money off the fairly small number they submitted. This might be great from the contractor’s point of view, but you see it quite differently. If the contractor can cut those corners, those are most likely not the only corners they are willing to cut when it comes to your project. The other most common mistake when examining low bids is the contractor makes a mistake, such as missing something, due to a misinterpretation of the spec and/or plans, thus omitting portions of the project. Chances are if the number is unreasonably low, the contractor omitted, whether purposely or accidentally, key requirements in order to have a more attractive final number. The last thing you need is a cheap contractor who also misunderstands the overall project at hand. Bottom line, you don’t save money if you aren’t getting exactly what you want or what you need. It goes without saying that every bid you receive should be gone through thoroughly before making the decision of who gets awarded the contract. Three important factors when selecting a job after all is final price and whether the contractor has a complete understanding of the project and is the contractor capable of delivering the project as specified?


The lowest bidder’s intention is to get your attention. They understand how tight money can be and they try to capitalize on it. The benefit of the low bid should be the low price, period. However in many cases it is the exact opposite. The low bid has the potential to turn into the Achilles heel of any potential project. The handful of reasons stated above along with many others end up costing the customer MORE if they selected the lowest bidder than some of the other higher bids submitted. In addition to the money spent on the initial agreement, you will have to go back and spend more money, time and resources correcting all the mistakes and mishaps that went wrong stemming from the low bidder. In addition to the costs incurred from incompetent low bidder, the other harsh reality is that future deadlines are missed pushing back every other trade involved in the project, prolonging the entire operation even further.


Whether the job is constructing a new facility, installing technology within that new facility or simply landscaping the shrubbery outside the office, being able to decipher a great deal from a potential disaster can mean everything. Plus, mistakes that come along with low bids don’t take effect right away in most cases; the repercussions rear their ugly heads further along in the timeline of the project at typically the most inconvenient times, either further along in the construction or more likely when you are actually using the facility or systems after the construction has already been completed. Contractors ultimately just want the job, it isn’t their fault if you award them the contract and get unexpectedly surprised then extremely disappointed by the terms you “agreed upon” within the contract. The lowest bidder is definitely not always the correct way to go. 

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Community Unit School District 300

Community Unit School District 300

Read The Success Story

Founded in 1948, Community Unit School District 300 is located in the Fox River Valley in Chicago’s far northwest suburbs, headquartered in Carpentersville, IL. A constant population growth has expanded D300 by adding more than 20 new schools over the last six decades. Currently, District 300 ...

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