Translucent wind screens help reduce crime
As the population increases in most major cities, so does the traffic and the need for public transportation. However, the public often is reluctant to use public transportation, fearing it is a haven for criminal activity.
Houston, one of the nation’s fastest growing cities in both population and employment, is one of the few cities to have successfully reduced traffic congestion by making its public transportation more inviting. The city’s strategy relies on buses and ride share programs, emphasizing the use of transit centers and park-and-ride lots. But with park-and-rides comes the need for security and designs that discourage crime.
Edward Fanning, manager of architecture for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro), designed Houston’s transit centers. “We wanted to avoid making them look like fortresses,” Fanning says. “The park-and-ride and transit centers need to be inviting to passengers yet give them a sense of security.”
Fanning’s structural model for the transit centers was based on the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), an approach to security design that has been around for about 20 years. CPTED theory asserts that “crime can be prevented by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior. People who use the area regularly perceive it as being safe, and would-be criminals see the area as a highly risky place to commit crimes.”
CPTED’s four key components are: * Territoriality — People protect territory that they feel is their own and have a certain respect for the territory of others; * Natural surveillance — Criminals do not want to be seen. Placing physical features, activities and people in ways that maximize the ability to see what is going on discourages crime; * Activity support — Encouraging legitimate activity in public spaces helps discourage crime; and * Access control — Properly located entrances, exits, fencing, landscaping and lighting can direct both foot and automobile traffic in ways that discourage crime.
“Brick walls or other solid materials can be just as strong or stronger than solid glass block, but they provide a haven where perpetrators can hide,” Fanning says. He kept the CPTED theory in mind when investigating windscreens for Houston Metro’s park-and-rides.
“For the windscreen, we wanted a material that was translucent, that people could see through, that was aesthetically pleasing and yet could stand up to heavy use,” Fanning says. He chose glass bricks from Pittsburgh Corning. “Knowing that you can ‘see through a wall’ helps to alleviate concerns about personal safety and deters would-be criminals,” he says.
The product’s clear visibility transmits 80 percent of available light in both directions without any yellowing, clouding or weathering. Although initial capital expenditures for glass block are higher than those for concrete, brick or other materials, Fanning is confident of long-term savings. “We’re not spending time and money on repeated maintenance and repair work,” Fanning says. “In the long-term, costs are less because we’re experiencing a reduction in vandalism.”
The windscreens currently being used are approximately 7 feet high and 20 feet long (three bench lengths). Houston Metro has used the glass windscreens on 23 transit facility projects, and solid glass block has been set as a standard for all future projects.– Peggy Caylor