Greater Alarm capitalizes on building-up trend

Saturday, July 1, 2006

IRVINE, Calif.--The trend toward building up rather than out has translated into more fire business for Greater Alarm, a 150-employee full-service security and fire company with branches throughout the state.
Found in areas of the country interested in eliminating sprawl and where the cost of land is extremely high, "going vertical" makes sense, said Michael Peters, senior vice president of Greater Alarm.
Further, California fire codes "mandate that in any building over three stories, a fire alarm system is required. If they're higher than 75 feet, then an even more complicated fire system is required with voice evacuation," said Bill Schmidt, director of operations for Greater Alarm.
Greater Alarm does a lot of "village concept" buildings, which have two underground parking levels, retail on the lower levels and apartments on the upper levels.
For these projects, Greater Alarm will bundle together structured wiring, cameras, access control and fire systems.
"Sixty percent of our fire alarm business is in these newer mixed-use buildings," Peters said. "An increase in these types of projects has contributed to a 20-percent increase over the past two years," he said.
Also contributing to the growth in its fire business is the gentrification of once-blighted neighborhoods, where old commercial and residential buildings are converted or torn down and rebuilt as loft-style apartments.
Either way, these projects are a source of fire business for Greater Alarm because once they're altered or rebuilt, they need to comply with current codes that require fire alarm and voice notification systems.
"On Hollywood and Vine, all four corners used to be old office buildings. They're now all loft-style residences," Peters noted.
As an example of the village concept projects, Greater Alarm in April completed work on the first four-story apartment building in an 11-building development called The Village at Irvine.
Schmidt predicted that building up is a trend that's here to stay, even in areas east of the major California cities, where there is available land.
"It's going to continue to permeate out to the more suburban areas. As land becomes more expensive, they'll build higher density communities."