Fighting Crime by Design


Clients don’t always ask for secure buildings. It’s not necessarily the first specification that comes to mind when commissioning a new design, so it’s generally left up to the architects to determine whether safety or crime prevention need to be a priority.

In the past, concern with security at the design stage has been more of a priority for designers working on banks, government buildings and low income housing. Lately, however, the trend  for specifying a more securely designed environment has increased in demand, especially for education facilities, corporate headquarters, and more affluent residential builds.

When designing a modern and aesthetically pleasing structure, architects are encouraged to think outside of the box. The building needs to be versatile, beautiful and saleable, which can lead to innovative or avant garde features,such as winding stairwells, maze-like corridors or car parks that make use of every inch of space, including the inches that can’t be seen. Modern and clever though they are, incorporating these features can be providing criminals with places to hide.

The twisting corridor in an office building makes it easier for a burglar to go unseen, even if some workers remain in the building. A solid door in an apartment building’s clever spiral staircase can conceal a mugger. A space, the size of a VW, between the garbage collection points in a part of the underground car park that the light doesn’t reach and the cameras can’t see, under a government building, is a handy place for terrorists to put a car bomb.

Granted, these maybe considered some rather extreme situations, but these potential crimes can be prevented through design solutions. Ensuring a structure is well light, with warm open spaces may feel the same as every other building ever, but they make for excellent crime-inhibiting environments.

Consideration of security facts and their corresponding financial implications can influence a client’s decision when commissioning design work, and designing with security in mind helps a company identify and plan for areas that may be at risk.

Planning for security, as with all other particular needs, starts at the conceptual stage. If site and interior planning is not completed with security integrated into its design, it’s bound to cost the client later, and not least with ugly barriers and exposed hardware. Without allowing for security procedures at the design level, employee movement can be restricted, product flow can be interrupted, and operating costs can rise significantly.

So, while it may not be as interesting for an architect to leave out the more unusual aspects of a concept, like ceiling-high, solid-blue blinds dotted across the foyer or extra-dark, smoked-out glass surrounding the viewing platform, in the end a building that removes as much opportunity for crime as possible will be safer. And a design that is actively fighting crime will last longer and sell better than one that is aiding it.

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