In the Glow of Protection
Some crime is opportunistic, involving no premeditation. Other crime is professional, involving a criminal choosing a target with a thought-out process and then exploiting weaknesses to achieve an economic or emotional benefit. Whatever the crime — whether it is workplace violence, sabotage or terrorism — it is unwanted behavior that can be modified through the application of a balanced security program that begins with effective lighting.
A security program should always begin from the exterior of a facility. In theory, if someone wanted to do harm to an asset contained within a protected facility, he or she would first have to move through a variety of obstacles or controls designed to delay his or her access. The longer the delay, the more opportunity there is to detect a potential incident. This security approach is described as “Concentric Circles of Protection.” Controls include physical security barriers, such as doors, walls, windows and lighting; technical security factors such as cameras, card readers and door alarming devices; and operational security strategies made up of policies, procedures and emergency responses.
Anatomy of a crime
To understand why lighting is an effective deterrent, it is important to understand why criminal activity occurs. Broadly, crime occurs when three aspects from the Crime Triangle, based on the “Theft Triangle,” occur. The offender must have
the knowledge and/or tools to commit the criminal act;
the motive or desire to commit the act (whether emotion or greed); and
the opportunity — a period when security controls are minimally restrictive or completely unrestrictive, thus allowing access to the asset. For a criminal act to occur, all aspects of the Crime Triangle must be present. Of these, opportunity is the only aspect that can be altered by a potential crime victim. The opportunity to commit the act is reduced or eliminated if the offender is forced to re-think the potential reward versus the risk of committing the act. Any person with criminal intentions will likely choose a target with a high potential of success and low personal risk.
From a criminal’s risk perspective, the dark of night permits the best opportunity to approach a building undetected. The Illumination Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) has published a guideline that will likely become a standard of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI): “Guideline for Security Lighting for People, Property and Public Spaces.” The report determines that effective lighting inhibits crime because it makes the behavior more likely to be observed by multiple potential witnesses.
Types of lighting
There are many types of lighting, but currently the most common is the High Intensity Discharge Lamp (HID), an improvement over the relatively short life span of incandescent light sources. HID lighting is sub-categorized into High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Low Pressure Sodium (LPS) lighting. Both types are typically found in parking lots, street lighting and, in some instances, parking garages because of the low cost to purchase and maintain. Both HPS and LPS lights emit a yellow or golden hue, not helpful for color rendition and, therefore, should not be considered for closed-circuit television (CCTV) applications. However, there are commercially available CCTV cameras that can adjust for these color reproduction issues. Notably, HPS and LPS types of lighting have a psychological and almost subliminal effect that has been described as “unfriendly.”
Metal Halide and Mercury Vapor types of lighting address these issues by emitting a light that more closely resembles daylight conditions. Found typically at gas stations, car dealerships and parking garages, these lights have an opposite subliminal and psychological effect, which has been described as “friendly” or “safe.” Metal Halide and Mercury Vapor lights have excellent color reproduction, and therefore, are preferred for use with CCTV cameras. However, the initial cost, energy costs and overall maintenance costs of metal halide lighting are generally higher.
Energy conservation, as one can imagine, is a primary concern. High-Output (HO) fluorescent fixtures are increasingly being used in lieu of HPS and LPS predecessors and have the same “white light” characteristics of a Metal Halide light.
The General Services Administration (GSA) has developed four levels of security criteria based on the U.S. Marshals’ Vulnerability Assessment of Federal Facilities in the wake of the Murrah Federal Office Building bombing in Oklahoma City. In the report, the U.S. Marshals describe lighting, among other controls, as an aspect of security for the four levels of recommended protection. The Interagency Security Committee (ISC) has adopted the U.S. Marshals criterion into a standard for all leased government buildings and it is, therefore, relevant to building construction or renovation of leased government buildings. In addition to these standards, other government organizations may have separate standards that may exceed GSA/ISC criteria. When undertaking a government project, contractors should identify any specific standards applicable to the organization based on design.
There are a number of obstacles in the security lighting application:
For security lighting to be effective, it needs to be uniform. Uniformity is described as the evenness of the light distribution from the total available luminaries at the site. Without uniformity, there will be shadows. Shadows can limit witness potential and provide an ambush opportunity for persons with criminal intent. A number of things should be considered when discussing uniformity including light type, building materials, reflectance, light placement, luminary height and lens type. These variables are independent, and all need to be considered throughout the development of the lighting plan. For example, in a parking garage, uniformity can be achieved by changing the luminary head, lens or by painting the garage a reflective color such as white.
Return on investment
Another problem is the perceived lack of return on investment (ROI) for any security control such as lighting. Although studies prove a correlation between effective lighting and reduction of crime, the cost can still be a hard pill to swallow for many. The decision to add security controls, including lighting, is comparable to the age-old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” How can the effectiveness of a security program be measured without having an occurrence?
Coordination with landscaping is another balancing act. If properly planned for, landscaping will not decrease the effectiveness of a lighting plan. It is common to find luminaries in close proximity to landscaping and canopy trees. It should be recognized that tree diameter and growth plan could have an impact on lighting. For instance, a luminary that rises above a tree’s canopy will, in effect, shadow the area directly beneath the tree, instead illuminating only the top of the tree canopy. A similar problem can occur with building façade lighting and decorative bushes. Landscaping can block lighting, thus careful coordination is required.
When developing a security-specific lighting plan, security practitioners need to communicate the benefits of security lighting to building owners, architects, etc. The ROI dilemma for security is further complicated with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification goals.
As government entities grow, many are relocating to suburban locations in search of qualified talent. One can sympathize with the neighbor whose once-quiet grassy field has become the lighting equivalent of Las Vegas with its new government building. Municipalities, villages and towns have started to address this issue and have adopted lighting pollution/lighting trespass ordinances as addressed in the LEED certification. Specifically, LEED certification points are awarded to buildings where the light does not trespass beyond the property line. With improperly planned lighting, building owners have little choice other than to turn off luminaries and decrease uniformity in an effort to minimize lighting pollution after the building is built. To prevent this problem, contractors should fully identify and understand the impact of lighting pollution ordinances and make sure the design accounts for light uniformity while adhering to ordinances.
LEED certification is taking on more and more importance. Government buildings have been adopting LEED energy conservation standards in their new building construction, built to suit (leased) construction and renovation construction. According to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Web site, “The LEED Rating System was created to transform the built environment to sustainability by providing the building industry with consistent, credible standards for what constitutes a green building. The rating system is developed and continuously refined via an open, consensus-based process that has made LEED the green building standard of choice for Federal agencies and state and local governments nationwide.” In addition, the USGBC has recently become an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Developing Organization (SDO). This means that the USGBC and any standard that USGBC develops are based on consensus to ensure that the concept is not biased toward any manufacturer, end-user or service provider, and are in the best interests of the entity applying the standard.
There are four levels of LEED certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum. The driving goal of LEED is to make buildings do more with less energy. Lighting will be susceptible to this energy goal, especially exterior lighting. In fact, the LEED Green Building Rating System for New Construction and Major Renovations Version 2.2 instructs to “only light areas as required for safety and comfort. Do not exceed 80 percent of the lighting power densities for exterior areas and 50 percent for building facades and landscape features as defined in ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2004, Exterior Lighting Section, without amendments.” It is important when considering LEED goals not to trade cost efficiencies for vulnerability to criminal acts. Although costs for energy consumption can be great, one must not underestimate the costs associated with possible employee concern and lost workdays resulting from occurrence of a criminal act.
How does one balance LEED with security in a post-9/11 environment? The key is to identify LEED goals and applicable GSA security standard criteria (level of protection) early on and to incorporate them into the design process. One must also clearly illustrate the needs of security to the design group in a joint meeting and identify methods to allow lighting designers to achieve these goals without sacrificing security. Although LEED and security can be balanced later after the zoning and approval process, it is not recommended and can be extremely costly. Depending on the facility type, there will be multiple ways to balance the goals of energy consumption with security needs through pre-planning and if the goals of the lighting program are clearly identified to the design group.
Government entities will continue to use LEED certification to specify quickly the energy conservation goals of new buildings. However, these goals do not take into account security considerations; and, therefore, it is incumbent on the designers to understand the ramification of LEED while properly coordinating with security.
Ideally, facility owners should select lights that project and are visibly whiter. This, in effect, will provide a variety of benefits including minimizing the subliminal effects of lights that emit a golden hue. In addition, facility owners can be assured that a light that holds these color characteristics will work seamlessly with their video cameras.
About the Author
Sean Ahrens, CPP, CSC, is a senior security consultant with Schirmer Engineering. He has more than 16 years of experience in the security industry, 11 of them as a practicing consultant. Mr. Ahrens volunteers his time on the ASIS International Commercial Real Estate Council (CREC) and also is participating on the ASIS Commission on Guidelines ad hoc group responsible for a section in a forthcoming physical security guideline. He has been responsible for providing security threat and risk analysis, contingency planning, loss prevention, and force protection design and planning for private, public, governmental and state organizations. He can be reached at (847) 272-8340 or via e-mail at [email protected].