“Facade. Windows. Security.” …Hardly anyone follows this train of thought when designing a building. According to the traditional “form-follows-function” notion in architecture, the functional requirements of a building should determine design criteria, creating a structure that permits efficient job performance, meets the needs of the user, and protects the user from safety hazards and criminal acts… in theory.
In a real-life application, however, these ideas are often reversed when everyone just wants to make a cool-looking building, or businesses are trying their hardest to keep costs low while fast-tracking the project. Typically, integral security design requirements and other logistics issues are butchered from the drawing board, to be later put in. Still, what most project managers in Puerto Rico don’t know is that it’s better, cheaper, and makes for a more efficient design to include your security elements as early as the design phase of your building.
Form Vs Functional Security
While the architecture team usually worries about the ‘fortress mentality’ of security professionals, we security integrators are constantly concerned about the failure of architects to include security elements in the design of buildings from the ground up, and logistical conflicts come in many forms. For instance, perhaps the most significant, a building’s openness, on the one hand, can become an obstacle for reasonable access control (take for example what happened this week at YouTube’s headquarters in California). For a building to be made truly crime-resistant, security considerations must be in the architectural drawings from the very beginning. The drawings should reflect a comprehensive security perspective, one that takes into account the interrelationships between electronic security equipment, security officer services, and, most importantly, the routine and exceptional activities of the users of the building.
Meanwhile, determining the position, power, and coverage of security equipment after the structure is finished can require more complex setups than if it had been planned out in the earliest stages. Making a building secure when it was not originally designed to be secure is an expensive proposition, both in design revisions and in later installations. Building design and construction teams will probably have to sacrifice much more of a building’s openness in retrofitting for security, and protection and operating expenses will be greater in this scenario. This condition is particularly evident in many of today’s buildings, where modern design and materials can result in facilities and infrastructure that are especially vulnerable.
Security Requirements and Troubleshooting
A common mistake, for example, is to establish an intrusion detection system without at the same time ensuring that intrusion alarms will be evaluated by a trained individual and that responses to alarms will be prompt, appropriate, and consistent with the needs of the building occupants. The result is that we often see a menu of problems associated with the control of human movement in facilities that were not aptly designed for security. These problems include vehicles backed up in and around garages and exterior entrances, employees bottle-necked at electronically controlled doors, criminal opportunists roving the stairwells in search of victims, and robberies at public service counters that were not installed with security in mind.
Other seemingly undetected problems can arise, causing a new variety of business problems, from fancy windows to inviting decor. For example, the use of glass and foliage to enhance the feeling of openness can cause false alarms because sunlight will affect infrared detectors, and motion detectors will activate when plants and trees are moved by the air currents of the cooling system.
Microwave detectors will react to cables moving in elevator shafts, vibration detectors will go off when the mail cart passes, and the fire department will be on the way when a cigar is lit under a smoke alarm. What will typically happen is that property managers will start blaming each other for problems that could have been foreseen in the earliest stages. Moreover, false alarms cannot be taken lightly because they undermine confidence in the entire security program and they place an unnecessary burden on the response units. In addition to the loss of life and property consequences that can flow from an improperly designed electronic system, there is the prospect of being held liable, both criminally and civilly.
The governmental agencies that hold regulatory authority in matters affecting public safety are increasingly under pressure from society, generally to seek criminal prosecution when violations result in death or injury. Next, the extremely litigious nature of the security industry poses great potential loss in terms of compensatory and punitive awards and loss of reputation. A property owner or manager who makes security-sensitive design decisions without the input of a competent security professional is taking on a very large risk.
The list goes on. After reading all this, I bet the cost of considering security systems in the design phase doesn’t seem high at all. Rather, it’s important not only to consider these measures as a powerful investment but to have them in mind at every stage of the space planning process.
Not sure where to start?
Schedule an appointment with one of our design and implementation specialists to advise on the best course of action. At EAS we are experts at designing, implementing, and maintaining a wide variety of security and IT solutions that work for you and we are committed to protecting your most valuable assets. Let us help your business create a space that is not only functional but essentially secure by design.