Viewpoint: Keys to designing secure facilities
A successful building site design plan requires a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates security into the project as early as possible to address life cycle, reduce costs and design an effectively secured site. A project team must not only consider security, but how the project affects open space and surrounding public areas.
To begin, a design team — consisting of design and physical security specialists, site owners, tenants, and safety personnel — should collaborate on the overall concept and design of the site. Once the team is assembled, several specific items should be considered.
Existing site security
A project team should evaluate existing site factors such as size, any existing security issues, prior risk assessments and threat factors, and available design opportunities. A zone approach, as described in the General Service Agency’s “Site Security Design Guide,” is the recommended framework for site design. It involves several factors or zones that are encompassed by the same security system. The security specialist’s task is to evaluate each of the zones to develop a comprehensive security plan for discussion and evaluation with the project team.
Risk and vulnerability
A security specialist should conduct a risk and vulnerability assessment as part of the site design evaluation. A risk assessment will evaluate threats, how vulnerable the site is, the probability of an event occurring, and what mitigation strategies or countermeasures would be recommended based upon the risk assessment.
An essential part of a risk assessment is identifying acts or methods used by a potential adversary, and using that information to design the site and its surroundings in a manner that addresses potential threats. An evaluation of threats will form the basis for the level of protection for the facility or site. The Department of Homeland Security’s Interagency Security Committee (ISC) has created guidance on the level of protection factors to which structure, site and facility components should be designed. Under the latest ISC criteria, dated February 2009, square footage, population, the mission of the facility, symbolism of the facility and an intangible factor all must be considered in evaluating the facility security level.
Once the design team determines the level of security needed for the site, they should consider applying Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles to the project. CPTED is the process of designing natural barriers to facilitate access control, channel people movement, and aid in surveillance. CPTED principles aim to create a defensible space that deters and discourages crime and acts of terrorism.
In certain instances, CPTED can be used as a cost-effective security design feature without giving the facility or site a fortress-like appearance. Examples of CPTED features include fountains, landscaping, plantings and borders that enhance the natural surveillance and use of the site for overall security. CPTED principles are applied by anticipating the actions of a threat or adversary, and designing and developing an environment that discourages criminal activity.
- For more information on site security, see the Whole Building Design Guide.
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Bobby Deitch is physical security specialist for the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Facilities Management and Services Programs, Security Division. Stephanie Vierra is a senior sustainability specialist for the Washington-based Sustainable Buildings Industry Council.