Integrating Security Measures With Building Design

Integrating Security Measures With Building Design

Building-Design-and-Security-MeasuresDesigning safe and secure buildings cost-effectively has never been more important. To design and construct or renovate a secure building, a collaborative approach to the design process is in order, beginning with the conceptual phase of the project and continuing to completion. Whether it’s a new-build or a renovation, all persons responsible for the safety and security of the building must interact closely during the design and construction process.

Architects and building designers often regard security elements as hardware—all cameras, gates, and access control, zero style. But security is really a design issue.

Traditionally, aesthetics, have dominated interior and exterior building design, at the expense of its purpose. While architects concern themselves with the blockhouse image of security provisions, security professionals worry about the failure of architects to incorporate security elements in their interior and exterior building designs. The tug-of-war is not about including security measures in the design, but rather, whether the building’s aesthetic appeal will be damaged by the security-centric control of its access.

Having a facilities security expert from a proven security firm like Veristream on board working with the architect, contractors, integrator and management team is important when it comes to achieving a common goal—keeping tenants, workers and visitors safe, particularly with complex projects requiring aesthetics, building code compliance, fire and emergency responder access, and security appropriate to the building’s function and traffic.

A multidisciplinary team can work together to determine design criteria based on a building-specific risk assessment and an analysis of all available information on security considerations, constraints, and the needs of people who will be using the building.

In historic buildings and renovation projects, when there is the concern of minimizing any changes to the building’s character, design criteria should be based on facility-specific risk assessment and strategic programming, which focuses on security modifications at vulnerability points, particularly in historic buildings.

Making a building secure that was not designed for security can get expensive. Architects may have to sacrifice much more of a building’s ambience in retrofitting for security than in a building designed for security from the start. Protection and operating expenses are often higher in retrofits due to the lack of foresight in the design process, a problem that is conspicuous in many existing buildings, where contemporary design and materials translate to exteriors and infrastructure that are particularly vulnerable.

Zones of Protection

Research shows that criminals do not move around helter-skelter looking to target a person or building, but use a search process learned from experience and observed in the environment to try to find vulnerable victims or facilities. When the criminal finds a perceived opportunity, they’re likely to strike.

A zoned protection system is used with enhanced areas of security beginning at the site’s perimeter and moving to the building’s entrance and interior.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) techniques can and should be used to help prevent and mitigate criminal activity. Knowledgeable strategic planning on CPTED issues can reduce the need for after-the-fact engineering fixes.

Building designs, particularly in large multi-tenant and hospital facilities should include the ability to increase security when there’s a heightened threat, and to scale down security when warranted.

A Multidisciplinary Approach

Each element of a building system needs to support risk mitigation, property damage and the potential loss of critical functions. Security must be considered in every decision, from the architectural materials chosen to placement of trash receptacles, to the design of redundant electrical systems. When aesthetics overrule security, mistakes can be made early in the design process. Although ground-level lighting and hidden cameras may be less obtrusive, neither choice is good for security. Some architects prefer to hide security cameras, but studies have shown that visible security cameras act as a deterrent to bad behavior as much as 50 percent of the time.

Access and Electronic Security

Security, including surveillance, intrusion detection, and screening, is a significant component in facility protection, as well as many elements of electronic security and the posting of security personnel. Access control planning, including certain aspects of  lobby and stair design, require special attention. While fewer options are available for renovation projects, some designs can be altered and adapted to meet security objectives


When costs are not monitored from the start of a project, a disproportionate amount of the budget may go to mitigating one risk, while other risks go unaddressed due to budget limitations. Budgets need to reflect the requirements of the risk assessment from the project’s inception. The earlier project managers and decision-makers have a handle on their funding needs, the better able to fully execute the risk assessment’s specifications.

By combining a thorough analysis with creative and collaborative design, effective budget monitoring and planning, a building design can achieve a sensible balance between the potential for risk and achievable mitigation measures.  When done right, security enhancements can deliver positive benefits in addition to risk reduction—they can boost customer satisfaction, improve a facility’s surroundings, and elevate the quality of the facility’s environment.

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