Without doubt, one of the most important factors in building security is the initial design and construction itself. TPSO asked top industry expert Mark Tucknutt, owner of the highly acclaimed Toren Consulting, to tell us about the security, or lack of, that is considered in building design.
Frontline security officers support a vast range of types and sizes of facilities. Each of those facilities was designed, built, fitted out, possibly refurbished in order to be the building that you recognise today. At each of those stages a team of professionals was involved in designing and then providing the building’s layout, structure, facade and systems. That team may have included architects, specialist engineers, construction contractors, the building owner and their tenants. Was anyone thinking about how you would protect the building and its occupants from crime and terrorism?
Security in building design – who makes the rules?
Let’s say that you’re a frontline security officer employed by the landlord of a multi-occupancy office building. In that case, the design process went something like this. The building was funded by a property developer; it was designed by an architect supported by a design team of engineers and consultants; it was signed off at various stages by a local planning department and building control; it was built and fitted out by a main contractor and various specialist sub-contractors.
In amongst all of those activities and competing priorities, who and what determined the amount of consideration that security risk was given in the design of the building? Who set the budget for physical and electronic security measures? Who signed off the designs and the completed building as providing suitable protection for the occupants? Did security risk influence the layout or construction of the building? Or did your building just receive a templated version of security in the form of some video surveillance and electronic access control?
What assumptions were made about the roles and numbers of frontline security officers and security control room operators that would be required in order to safely operate the building? Were those assumptions made on the basis of input from any security professionals?
Other than security, many of the protective aspects of building design and construction in the UK are mandated by Building Regulations. Protection from fire, for example, is covered in Building Regulations Part B with various ways of meeting those requirements described in Approved Document B. Building structures are covered in Part A.
Security for dwellings is covered by Building Regulations Part Q. Approved Document Q for security was released in 2015; again it applies only to dwellings and describes only basic physical security.
So, if you work in an office, hotel, warehouse, museum, anything that isn’t a dwelling, then there isn’t a relevant part of the UK Building Regulations for your building.
The Planning System
If security for non-residential buildings isn’t required by national Building Regulations then perhaps it is driven by the planning system? In July 2017 the Chief Planning Officer wrote to local planning authorities to remind them “of the important role the planning system plays in ensuring appropriate measures are in place in relation to counter-terrorist and crime prevention security”. You can find the letter here:
In the UK local planning authorities issue Local Plans, informed by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF could perhaps further improve its guidance on security risk. For example the NPPF refers to high risk sites, but there does not seem to be a common definition and regardless such sites are hard to pin down, as criminal and terrorist targets continue to evolve. The NPPF does require ‘good design’ outcomes, such as enhancing amenity, well-being and community, and this provides local planners with a means of requiring security be considered.
Hopefully, more local plans from around the UK will improve how they describe security requirements for buildings. Crime and terrorism clearly aren’t confined to the capital. Manchester’s Local Plan, as a fairly typical example, obliges all developments to have regard to ‘community safety and crime prevention’ and ‘reduction of opportunities for crime by applying current best practice in security design’. However despite Manchester’s history of terrorist attacks in the 1970s, 1990s and as recently as 2017 there is no mention of terrorism in the city’s current Local Plan.
So, the planning system may have required the designers of your building to consider crime and terrorism, apply best practice, etc. Whether it did depends on where the building is located and whether the local authority referred it to their security consultees.
Police Planning Consultees
Perhaps rather than attempt to keep up with changing crime and terrorism requirements, Local Plans are increasingly requiring developments to consult with the police during design. The local police force’s Designing Out Crime Officer (DOCO) role is typically a planning consultee, and local authorities send planning applications to them for review and comment. Either the local authority or the DOCO may decide to involve the local police force’s Counter Terrorism Security Advisor team if there is reason to believe that a building will be at significant risk from terrorism.
So, your building’s designers may have received some input from the local police force on crime and terrorism risks and how to mitigate them. But again, whether this happened depends on location and whether planners deemed the proposed building suitable to be referred to the police.
The Design Team
As we’ve seen, the building in which you’re employed to provide frontline security services may or may not have been obliged to consider security in its design and may or may not have received some security input from the police. The building almost certainly had an architect-led design team but, with or without some planning requirement or police input, what security risks did they consider and how did those affect the design of the building?
Did the building design team include a specialist security consultant? If not, then considering security risks and designing mitigation measures would typically fall to a combination of the architect (spaces, layout, people flow, door and window specifications) and the electrical engineer (security system design and specification). If you’re interested, you should be able to find your building on the relevant local authority planning portal; security will most likely be described at a concept level in the building’s ‘Design Access Statement’.
Perhaps there was a security consultant as part of the design team. In that case we’d hope that security was given much greater consideration from concept design onwards. Its rare that an architect would produce a security risk assessment. However a security consultant should consider a wide range of crime and terrorism threats, agree their likelihood and consequences with the building owner and then influence the building’s layout, intended operation, physical and electronic security measures.
Does the building that you protect help you to do that? Does the lobby layout make it easier or harder to deter or to spot people who shouldn’t be there? Are doors and windows suitably robust to deter or delay criminals from attempting to force entry? Are the electronic security devices providing the support that you need?
There was a whole design team, possibly supported by a security consultant and/or police advice, that designed the building that you work to protect; the building really should work to support you.
What winds you up?
At Toren Consulting, we don’t think that frontline security personnel are consulted often enough in the design of buildings. We’re trying to put that right in the buildings that we work on. If there’s anything in the design of your building that you think the design team could have done better to help you to do your job, I’d like to hear about it (especially if you’ve found it in more than one building).
You can send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s very unlikely that I’d be able help your building, but we may be able to help future building designs to avoid the same mistakes.
To find out more about how Toren Consulting may be able to help you to provide a more secure environment through the design and operation of your buildings, you can email us at email@example.com or visit our website at torenconsulting.co.uk
Mark helps building owners, tenants, property developers and architects to design buildings that provide the protection that they expect against crime and terrorism. He is the owner of Toren Consulting Ltd, a specialist security consultancy for the built environment. Mark has worked in security design for 20 years, for the UK Home Office and private sector consultancies. He has a masters degree in Security Management (and one in Computational Physics, don’t ask!) and is Co-Chair of The Security Institute’s Built Environment Security Special Interest Group.