Buildings Buzz

Optimizing Infrastructure through Environmental Design

Life safety and accessibility codes are part of a building's schematic design process because incorporation at a later date is not cost effective. Unfortunately, planning for occupant safety and risk has not been seen in a similar light. The window of opportunity closes quickly to provide even basic protection to occupants at nominal costs readily achieved during the early planning phase. Waiting until the team has progressed into the construction document phase or beyond can result in changes or additions that become very costly. 

As a solution, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) provides guidelines and sequences for security-related features, all initiated by a survey or review of the design documents. For instance, a thorough review of the entrances may eliminate the cost of additional security personnel, or eliminate the need for cameras to be placed in blind spots around the facility. Consider these solutions prior to pouring concrete and installing walls: 

1) Windows and Frames – Your facility's windows and frames can be upgraded to protect against bullets and elevated pressures that can come from an intentional or unintentional explosion or even a storm such as a tornado or hurricane. Two techniques to provide extra window protection are available: The first option involves hardening the window and frame to withstand the resulting pressures or projectiles. The second option gives the window a film that allows it to leave the frame and fall to the ground without turning into flying shrapnel. With either option, the window frame and window are a pair and the frame must be anchored into the building through structural connections; not simply attached like other windows. This involves minimal cost during initial construction and although it can be installed at a later date, it is not without significant cost and disruption to the facility

2) Harden the Facility – Make changes to increase your facility's structural strength. This typically begins with low-cost options like lobby doors, turnstiles, and guard stations, while other methods like bullet proof glazing come with a price. Heat loss from the building increases significantly with increased structural strengthening and thermal breaks to isolate building heat loss may all but disappear and need to be mitigated. In some extreme cases two layers of protection are required: one for security and a second for building energy design. Providing a hardened structure deters criminals from targeting a facility or may decrease damage and downtime after a natural disaster. 

3) Mail Delivery – Will mail be prescreened via x-ray or simply through a review process? The loading dock and mail facility can be isolated mechanically with their own ventilation systems, and can be provided with minimal explosion protection surrounding the room perimeter. Both are basic designs that require minimal effort, depending on the associated blast protection levels chosen for the room. Some facilities choose to install quarantine rooms to provide time for sampling swipes to be returned from a lab. This requires space that needs to be programmed early, and volume of deliveries fully understood. 

4) Natural Surveillance – The placement of equipment should be reviewed and incorporated into the architectural design to allow occupants to see farther and wider, which makes it more difficult for criminals to hide near or approach the site. Without setting goals for this topic, the placement of large mechanical equipment (or dumpsters for that matter) can reduce visibility, especially when screen walls or plantings are applied to hide them from sight. In such cases, surveillance camera coverage may be blocked, or unwanted packages can be deposited behind equipment. Whether around the building exterior or inside the parking garage where mechanical noise impacts the feeling of security, it's important to consider equipment placement. 

5) Access to the Building – Make sure mechanical and electrical equipment, screens, trees, or fences are protected and don't provide easy access to roof hatches, skylights, etc. The mechanical roof and penthouse used to be maintenance personnel's best kept secret with regard to city views, but now green roofs have made them public spaces with more traffic and easier access. This represents another access point for security personnel to review and an additional ongoing expense that may or may not be worth the effort. 

Trying to outthink the criminal mind to have a safe and secure facility is both challenging and exciting. However, the most effective system is the one that's never needed in the first place. Since CPTED is not a code, only portions of this process are included with facility planning, such as perimeter lighting, alarms, fencing, cameras, etc. If security CPTED reviews are treated with the same attitudes as life safety and codes, there is less chance of missing the opportunity to lay out the facility in an architectural way to deter crime. If done properly, the effort should pay for itself with reduced security infrastructure, personnel, and possibly future repairs or liability. 

Scott Winkler is vice president at Southland Industries and can be reached at

Return TopTrackbackPrintPermalink
Currently rated 0.0 by 0 people