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How to build security resilience into your property designs... from day 1!

What factors make a site secure? What makes a site vulnerable? These are questions most property developers and architects think of at some point between concept and final construction of a building. However, these questions often only come up late along the journey if at all. So how can a property designer build resilience and security into a design before any CCTV is even installed?

  • What should be thought about from the start?

Position of the property:

The location of your property has a huge influence on the types of security needed. Are there natural features specific to the site that need to be addressed such as a river that makes fence lines difficult, or is there a greenbelt or access to a mountain path nearby where intruders may gain access from? How public is the building? Is it near a business district or is it in the suburbs? How close is the property to a main road? Is the property stand-alone or part of a larger estate or industrial park? Your location might not be able to change, but your adaptation to your location can be changed.

What type of building it is:

Is your building residential, an estate, or industrial? All of these are different, have different users and different uses. The aesthetic choices of a building also affect the manifestation of security choices. For instance, it’s fine if a typical industrial building has large and visible security features, and it may even benefit from this, but for a high-end estate or residential property, a designer or architect may want to create more understated security features that may be ‘hidden’ in plain sight. It’s easier and more effective to build a nook for a CCTV camera to ‘hide’ in than to disguise a camera after construction.

Design of the buildings themselves:

Other than aesthetic choices, the way a building is designed can have major implications on its security necessities. Issues such as ‘dead spots’ not easily visible on camera or to on-site guards, or hiding places such as stairways, underground sections, or natural features can be mitigated by just asking security related questions from the start.

In addition to countering security flaws, the design of a building can actively enhance the security itself. Think of castle towers, if a staircase goes up in a counter-clockwise circle it’s easier to defend. This can be achieved through limiting and controlling access within the building/estate/property. It should be easy for staff with access keys to move around the property, but it should be deliberately maze-like without a key (in terms of limiting entrances, creating layers of physical building, and especially for service areas or back rooms).

For estates, is there going to be a golf course , recreation area or a restaurant on-site? How can you isolate this area from the residential area, or create ‘virtual’ boundaries to notify security if someone goes where they shouldn’t? And with access areas, keep it simple, one entrance, one exit wherever possible. Any service gates should be isolated from the rest of the property to ‘quarantine’ any potential stow aways or tail gating etc.

  • Why should security design considerations be a factor in all property designs?

Pay now or pay later:

Either you incorporate security into the design of the building, pay a bit more for the consultation and knowledge of an expert… or you build without security in mind and either have to pay extra money to fix unnecessary mistakes or design faults, and may have a security issue because of blind spots you were unaware of. This can ultimately cost more in the long run, especially if tenants are unhappy with the security provided, resulting in a need to over-cater to satisfy them.

Everyone expects security… but:

If you add security after construction, that’s a given. But if you construct with security in mind, then you can specifically market it as an enhanced security estate. The marketing opportunity is unmatched. If you can show off your estate’s security, the fact that you consulted an external consultant, and make it a unique selling point, then you’ve got something to sell beyond a building. People LOVE justifying spending.

Balancing how safe people ARE and how safe they FEEL:

South Africa is world renowned for it’s beautiful scenery, but also for it’s high walls and crime rate. As an architect the challenge is to make a building as safe as possible without making the residents feel like they are trapped in a beautiful bird cage. It’s important to know how and when to make areas open, or feel open to residents. It’s old fashioned to cover a building in barbed wire and cameras. It’s up to architects and property developers to push the boundaries of what it means to have a good looking but secure building.

Sometimes openness is a necessity in the case of industrial or commercial sites. In this case enhancing some features of openness i.e making intruders feel like they are “out in the open” can even create the sense of security, as a building designed with no dark corners and with security features deliberately positioned in open areas can deter effectively.

  • How to save money by thinking security from the start.

Fail to plan, then you’ll plan to fail:

Without a clear line of sight, you’ll need more CCTV cameras per site. Without strategic lighting, you will need more thermal imaging within your property, not just strategically along the fence line. And on the other hand, if you don’t do the research yourself on the technology you are using, you may spend money (or be convinced by an installer to spend money) on technology that is either over-powered for your uses (like a camera that is way over-powered being used in a back-alley of a house), leaving your budget dented and your security lacking. The right technology used in the right way is key.

Buy in bulk and save:

If you know exactly what product(s) you need from the get-go, you won’t need to keep going back to the drawing board, and you won’t need to spend time and effort to get it right through trial and error. On top of that, many reputable brands and CCTV/security distributors will be able to supply you at a discounted rate. With all the stock needed on site, installers will be able to start immediately, meaning that they will not need to return several times to the site because of supply issues with the technology, or to install the odd camera to fix problems and correct blind spots.

Security comes in many forms:

Security should be thought of as the prevention and mitigation of unknown events. When constructing buildings, think ten to twenty years in the future. One thing that is undoubtedly going to affect South Africa and the world in the near future is access to resources, ‘peak sand’ (google it, it’s worth learning about), and access to clean energy. We’re not necessarily saying that you should install enough solar panels to power your whole estate or facility, but utilising solar or renewable energy sources in your security is a great way to ensure safety. What’s the point in CCTV and electric fencing when Eskom can flick a switch and you’re out of power for a few hours! And guards without lights and cell phone reception (towers often lose power too), are ineffective at best and sitting ducks at worst. All an intruder would need to do is look at the loadshedding schedule to target the most vulnerable areas.

  • What can be done “after-market”?

There are certainly things that can be done after construction to boost your security. If you haven’t thought of security once throughout the entire build, you can still create a secure property, but it may be costly, time consuming, and residents may feel unhappy about additional expenses after they’ve already moved in. But the fact remains, you can’t just bash a hole in a wall so your CCTV has a clear line of sight. There are some things that can’t be fixed after construction.

  • Where Verifier comes in.

Whether before, during, or after construction, Verifier can help with consultation, security design, off-site monitoring, access control, and can provide unbiassed knowledge on systems and cameras. Verifier can also provide managed services where you can outsource the management of your security to our control room to get access to our team of knowledgeable, highly trained managers. Get in touch with one of our sales representatives, and we’d love to discuss anything security related to help you get the most out of your security, from start to finish.

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