The cost of building materials has skyrocketed almost 40 percent over the last four years. At the same time, vandalism and theft at construction sites are at an all-time high, costing the industry more than a billion dollars per year. The need to secure commercial construction sites has never been greater. 

To combat the issue, much of the focus has long been on the first line of defense. Physical barriers, access control points, and closed-circuit TV cameras have been enlisted with some degree of success. While new, artificial intelligence (AI) enabled mobile security trailers are proving highly efficient at spotting a security threat, the focal point is now shifting from bytes to brains. How humans within a security-monitoring center react to those AI-triggered events is becoming the great differentiator for construction companies in pursuit of a zero-loss jobsite.  

Advancing AI, which can quickly distinguish car lights, a stray cat, or even changes in cloud cover from a legitimate threat, will remain essential for mobile security. However, after a genuine security event is flagged, it is sent to a centralized monitoring location where each event must be assessed in real-time by humans to determine the appropriate next steps. According to construction executives charged with increasing site safety, too often this part of the equation delivers substandard results. 

“We’ve had occurrences where the person doing the monitoring must have fallen asleep or something, because things went missing off a job site, but they never reported seeing anything,” says Edward Glover, a Phoenix, Arizona-based assistant project manager at Layton Construction, a nationally ranked commercial contractor. 


Like Glover, many construction companies are making the switch from outmoded security-monitoring firms—focused predominantly on setting up the hardware on a jobsite—to companies that deploy a centralized Security Operations Center (SOC) with integrated AI capabilities. These facilities provide 24/7 alert monitoring, trained security response experts, and daily hardware checkups. In addition, some of these SOC providers even make weekly visits to the construction site to ensure operational efficiency.  

Layton Construction is working on a massive 100-acre industrial park in Arizona with multiple buildings with numerous blind spots. They enlisted several security-monitoring systems to guard the project and are currently recording about two alerts per week, which have been vetted by a monitoring expert. 

“I get a text alert and then a phone call the moment anyone attempts to come on-site,” explains Glover. “A link is also sent, so I can view the footage and see why the camera went off. Then we determine what needs to be done, which may include calling the police. We’ve caught several perpetrators this way.” 

Recently, an incident occurred at the Layton industrial park project when someone onsite falsely identified themselves as a subcontractor. Glover was able to quickly review the onsite footage, and the security-monitoring team alerted the police who apprehended the individual.

“If we did not have this type of advanced security monitoring in place, I can almost guarantee something would have been stolen,” adds Glover. 


While calling the police is one option, security-monitoring experts can employ additional measures. This is significant during the current nationwide shortage of law enforcement officers, which could increase response times. As an example, some security monitoring trailers provide a talk-down speaker that delivers impressive results. 

“We had one case where we warned an active trespasser,” recalls Jason Gratton, VP of Stallion Infrastructure Services, a national provider of mobile security, video surveillance, and communications services. “They were still holding a bunch of materials they were trying to steal. So, our SOC operator yells out: ‘Drop it, now!’ The guy actually does, and almost falls over while running to his car.”

While those instances demonstrate an effective approach to a trespasser, the primary goal is to intervene before the perimeter fence has been breached.  

“We have seen instances where Stallion’s monitoring picks people up beyond the fence,” says Mason Mellema, project manager at DPR Construction, a general contractor focused on highly complex and technical projects. “They are looking to stop an unwanted entry before they actually step foot on the jobsite.”  


DPR is working on a high-profile healthcare facility in the Phoenix area, which started out as a greenfield project. 

“The first thing that went up were the fencing, screening, and secured-access points,” explains Mellema. “Once the materials and equipment began arriving, we needed security and monitoring. As the building started coming up and more assets arrived, our monitoring needs changed. This required us to reconfigure the number and location of the monitoring equipment.”

“You have to be able to accommodate that type of change,” says Gratton. “Construction is such a dynamic environment—things literally change every single day.”

In this context, security-monitoring experts function like onsite consultants. Through daily video exposure and weekly in-person checkups, they can understand the nuances of each site, as well as the needs of each phase of production. 

“The security-monitoring team might say something like ‘Hey, you guys are getting ready to button up drywall—maybe it’s time to move the monitoring equipment,’” adds Glover. “What we are getting is really more proactive than reactive.” 

Other times, the construction crew might try to be vigilant but inadvertently cause visibility issues which need to be addressed.

“We have seen workers park equipment closer to the camera, thinking this enhances security, but what they’re doing is actually blocking the view of the camera,” explains Gratton.

When this happens, Stallion, for example, generates an immediate security ticket, which escalates to the security-monitoring experts who contact the relevant jobsite personnel to clear the view. 

“If we need a station repositioned, they are quick to respond,” explains Mellema. “We feel our site is now more secure than ever.” 

The goal for any construction project is to maintain a zero-loss site. That is increasingly dependent on how well security-monitoring experts can address a threat and implement the right action plan.

About the Author:

Greg Rankin is a Houston-based freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing about security, safety, and equipment within the construction industry.

Modern Contractor Solutions, March 2024
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