November 3, 2017
A security system provided by Hikvision USA Inc., the North American leader in innovative, award-winning video surveillance products and solutions, was installed by Denver-based A-1 Security Systems to meet all requirements set forth by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) and to ensure comprehensive security at the newly retrofitted building for 14er Gardens in Boulder, Colo.
In 2017 Evan Anderson, owner of medical marijuana company 14er Gardens, sought out the security expertise of Sofia Aguilar, sales manager and partner at A-1 Security Systems in Denver. The two had worked on previous projects together and Anderson was about to embark on a brand-new, complex building retrofit in Boulder that had been in the planning stages for nearly two years.
A-1 excels at these types of projects, mid-sized commercial with access control and surveillance needs, and Aguilar has designed and installed hundreds of Hikvision security systems at growing facilities throughout Colorado since moving from Texas in 2008 to join A-1 as a business partner. Aguilar is a member of the national board of the Electronic Security Association and a board president for the state chapter of the Colorado Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.
Aguilar worked closely with Anderson and his team to design a custom, high-end Hikvision security system that deployed a total of 95 cameras for indoor and outdoor surveillance and used Hikvision’s Pro Series NVRs for storage.
All of 14er gardens are indoor facilities that meticulously control growth quality of the plants. “Outdoor growing facilities do exist,” said Anderson. “But they don’t deliver the consistent product quality every month of the year. Our approach is more of a manufacturing model, versus an agricultural endeavor.”
He adds that his top two most important contractors on a job are the HVAC, due to the volume of lighting required to control the climate, and the security contractor, who is critical to securing his product and overall operation.
Requirement: Comprehensive, High-End Security System that Complied with MED Regulations and Provided Ease of Remote-Viewing
A-1 received a set of project plans and was asked to design a comprehensive Hikvision security system with high-end cameras and NVRs that met the MED storage requirements for 40 days of on- and off-site recording.
Aguilar calls what she does an “art,” and said this project offered her the chance to apply her creativity to design a comprehensive surveillance system to protect Anderson’s investment.
“It’s advantageous for growers to buy or build-out larger facilities to increase production. With that comes the demand for high-end, large-scale security systems with impeccable visual quality,” said Aguilar. She adds that growers who’ve used low-end systems often experience higher rates of break-ins, and if a camera has poor image quality it means lack of clear facial features in video images to help identify culprits.
The Boulder project began with the complete gutting of an existing two-story building that had previously been used as office space. Renovations included the re-pouring of all concrete with a total construction investment “that cost three to four times what we paid for the building,” said Anderson.
Anderson’s venture into the marijuana industry in Colorado began in 2008, before regulatory standards had been established. “We installed comprehensive security systems before it was ever required,” he said.
Anderson has worked with the MED to establish best practices and guidelines for securing these types of facilities. Initially, Colorado planned to establish a central monitoring station to link IP cameras from all marijuana growers throughout the state. A third-party consultant was brought in to evaluate this proposal and due to the sheer size of the industry, determined the model would use about ten percent of the state’s total bandwidth. Following that assessment, the Colorado regulatory model for security shifted to a requirement that growers keep 40 days of on-site and 40 days of off-site video recordings per camera, although most entities keep more than that on hand, said Anderson.
“Hikvision systems and A-1 security became the standard we use to operate. The Hikvision system offers a better platform that is more affordable then prior systems we used,” said Anderson. With Hikvision’s iVMS-4200 app, Anderson can access footage on his smartphone and PC, and easily show officials what is happening at a moment’s notice.
Solution: Indoor Dome Cameras, Outdoor Bullet Cameras, Pro Series NVRs and Hikvision iVMS-4200 Platform for Remote Viewing
“I was an art major with a minor in photography and worked in commercial photography for several years. My mantra is to fill the frame with the image you want,” said Aguilar. “My pet peeve is not using enough cameras to provide good facial recognition or worse, using great megapixel cameras and dumbing them down because the NVR is not powerful enough to handle the camera’s best quality.”
Aguilar recommended multiple 32-channel Hikvision NVRs that are not at full capacity, in the unlikely event that a hard drive fails the remaining recorders will continue to work. “I can honestly say the Hikvision recorders have never failed,” said Aguilar. “Being a Hikvision Platinum dealer, A-1 offers a five-year warranty. We feel confident in the system we install without concern that we will need to return to a site just to repair a broken recorder.”
A-1 installed the Hikvision Pro Series DS-9632NI-I8 NVRs, a 32-channel model with 48 terabytes (TB) of internal storage, providing increased throughput and larger capacity to meet MED storage requirements. Aguilar stacks the NVRs and uses an external server, which requires slightly more investment, but offers the client greater bandwidth to stream large amounts of data more quickly. In Anderson’s case, this is critical since the state of Colorado can ask to see recorded footage with little advanced notice.
A total of 95 security cameras were used to complete the system, with about half used indoors and the other half placed outside of the facility for perimeter, outdoor entrance and parking lot surveillance.
For indoor coverage, A-1 installed Hikvision’s DS-2CD2135FWD-I 3MP Ultra-Low Light Network Dome camera to cover all rooms containing product and all exits and entrances, which is an MED requirement. This dome camera is actually designed as an outdoor model, which Aguilar selected for indoor use because of its vandal-proof rating, weather resistance, and clear imagery during day or evening conditions.
“We can turn off the IR feature in the growing area but leave it on in the hallways and other areas where it can help with image quality (trim, drying, packing, vault, etc.),” said Aguilar. “Weather resistance means no need to worry about chemicals, nutrients, misting or watering, and it is a very hot, humid environment. These are live plants that require all these things to survive and thrive like hothouse tomatoes or tropical plants. And the environment is either very brightly lit or pitch black, mimicking an outdoor environment.”
In the grow rooms, lights are placed vertically and each room has rows of product with a three foot space in between for people to walk while tending plants. A-1 placed indoor cameras at the end of product rows and at accessible wall areas to provide 360-degree coverage.
The building exterior was secured using Hikvision’s DS-2CD2T55FWD-I5 Outdoor Network Bullet camera featuring 5MP of resolution, 120 dB Wide Dynamic Range and Digital Noise Reduction. Aguilar “likes the 5MP varifocal models for parking lots. I install them in crisscross fashion to provide blanket coverage with the capability to zoom in on parking lot entrances.”
Video surveillance covers every square inch of the facility, greatly improving operational efficiency. “The system is great! I can watch my guys at all times from anywhere,” said Anderson.
Surveillance cameras record non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week since MED requirements do not allow motion-activated recording.
To install the system, A-1 had to overcome challenges associated with an older concrete building that was “built like a bunker” with an architectural accent bar along the roof perimeter. The constraint required them to pipe and core drill through exterior concrete and run wires through conduits or O-rings that were hammer-drilled into the seams every four feet.
Result: Comprehensive Security System with Ample Storage, Managed on a Mobile Platform
The entire Boulder facility is run through a mobile platform. “This project involved a new level of detail and control compared with our previous projects and is a fully-automated monster,” said Anderson. “At our last facility, we had seven growers. The Boulder facility is four times as big as the last one and we only need two growers due to extensive automation.” 14er moved from physical-based labor to web-based controls.
The Hikvision iVMS-4200 platform helps 14er with automation by providing better integration, reduced cost and user-friendly remote viewing. “Older systems were built more for an IT or security systems expert, not for clients to have a convenient system they could easily use,” said Anderson. “Hikvision’s iVMS platform helps us keep impeccable records of everything in the cloud, so when the state of Colorado contacts us for immediate access to recordings, we can easily provide them.”
“Achieving the MED-required 40 days of on-site and off-site recordings is a big deal,” said Sofia Aguilar, sales manager and partner at A-1 Security. "With the Hikvision iVMS system they were able to build a platform around Hikvision products, solving the state’s problem of how to record at a reasonable price.”
Hikvision worked with technology partner byRemote to develop software that utilizes Hikvision’s iVMS product to record off-site, said Aguilar.
“Customers wanted higher-end systems without the cost associated with the old encoders,” said Aguilar. “The Hikvision partnership with byRemote offered exactly what the market demanded.”
Aguilar initially had reservations about marijuana as a vertical focus for A-1 Security Systems, believing it was too high-risk and if grower’s operations were shut down, A-1 would quickly lose its customer base. Eventually her business partner, Leif Wulforst, convinced her that marijuana was a viable business.
A-1 helped to develop standards for video surveillance and storage that have become industry best practice. Cultivating a relationship with growers such as Anderson from 14er gardens led to the development of a surveillance system that met strict MED storage regulations while providing ease of viewing for end users and the state regulatory body. Hikvision’s high resolution security cameras combined with its Pro Series NVRs delivered a high performing solution at an affordable price to help the market thrive.
*updated on Nov. 8, 2017