How to Design a Building or Entrance for Increased Security
published on November 23, 2016 by Jon Ecker
Consider these factors when designing a building or entrance for optimal security
When designing a structure or the entrance to any building, it’s essential to keep security in mind. Without an effectively-designed structure, you could be leaving your building vulnerable to a wide range of threats, from theft and trespassing to violence or even corporate espionage. Follow these tips on how to ensure that your building and its entrances are contributing, not detracting, from your organization’s overall security strategy.
Consider your security strategy and the most relevant threats
Different organizations have unique security needs and organizational goals, and these differences should be reflected in the design of a structure or its secure entrances. First, it’s essential to determine the major threats your organization may face. For example, a company that has major government defense contracts may be worried about the threat of terrorism or espionage, a bank or retail business might have the most concern about theft, and a private school may be primarily interested in deterring student violence and drug use or unauthorized visitors with ill intent.
In practical terms, this might mean that a defense contractor might focus many of its external efforts on surveillance systems that monitor people approaching the building, explosion-resistant building materials, vehicle barriers, and a security vestibule to check IDs or scan biometrics. Access control to both the entrance and any secured areas within the building, as well as internal video surveillance are also effective measures against espionage, theft, and even cybercrimes.
A private school might focus much of its efforts on placing a number of interior cameras to monitor students before, during, and after school, and by developing policies to spot high-risk students before any violence or drug-use takes place. In addition, access control between buildings on a sprawling campus and limiting the number of public entryways – each protected against intruders by a remote-monitored vestibule – can help deter unwanted visitors.
Consider a building’s use and the importance of appearances when designing for increased security
In many cases, the most secure buildings and entrances may not be the most ergonomic, friendly, or inviting – and you may need to make a few important trade-offs when balancing design for both daily security and other important goals. For example, a private school or retail business cannot afford to make their building’s entrance look overly intimidating or uninviting, as it could easily detract from the main goals of the institution – educating children or selling products.
In comparison, a building designed to house the corporate headquarters of a security company or biotech facility has less need to appear inviting to the general population, enabling greater latitude in sacrificing aesthetic goals to maximize security.
However, most organization’s buildings fall somewhere between these two extremes, meaning that they need to prioritize both appearance (to create a welcoming environment for visitors and employees), as well as creating a secure environment to advance the organization's goals. Some compromises accomplish each aim effectively. For example, large but decorative concrete planters can serve as a physical barricade to vehicles, and access control points with unobtrusive cameras and turnstiles can create a subtle yet professional aesthetic.
Use the concept of security zones to better inform your security strategy
When designing any entryway, especially if security goals are paramount to the structure, it’s essential to examine the surrounding areas to determine where threats may originate from and what can be done to prevent them. For example, when planning high security government buildings, designers often use the ‘zone’ method to categorize and increase security in the surrounding areas. The surrounding neighborhood is the first zone, the second is the building’s local perimeter, the third includes the site access areas and parking facilities, and so on, moving inward.
While you may not be able to directly change the areas around a building, if you’re selecting a location for a new structure, you can examine a neighborhood before choosing a property to determine if it fits your organization’s security goals. If you already have a facility or property and you’re building or upgrading the security of a structure, you can look at the surrounding areas to determine where to place an accessible entrance, where to place security cameras, whether or not to fence parking lots, and whether (and where) to add security vestibules or parking lot security booths.
Urban areas often present unique challenges with less options, due to greater design and site selection constraints, as well as neighborhoods “in which space for stand-off distance may be severely limited or non-existent.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency advises a compromise strategy for overall security and antiterrorism design that includes the following measures:
- Harden the building structure, glazing, and openings
- Provide a barrier at the sidewalk edge
- Remove critical functions from the lower floors
- Harden loading docks and garage areas
- Use intensive surveillance by cameras and security personnel
In addition, procedures that prohibit street-side parking and block foot traffic from sidewalks can be employed during periods of increased risk. These measures always have to be balanced against the considerations of building accessibility and normal traffic flow in an urban area, however.
And of course, every type of building and business and all of its entryways can obtain better security with a variety of technological options, including remote monitoring equipment and services, advanced video analytics that help your security team detect threats, and effective access control methods that ensure all visitors are authorized.
At POM Technologies, we understand that every client is unique, with a range of requirements based on the structure, the neighborhood, and key organizational goals. We specialize in developing effective security solutions to meet your specific needs. To learn more about how to optimize building and entrance design for your building and organization, contact us today at 212.688.2767 or through our online form for a free consultation.