The challenge of delivering effective and efficient security has been traditionally hampered by the tendency to treat it as an afterthought. Architects and designers design – often putting their own aesthetic concerns to the forefront and relegating functionality to the position of an inconvenience. Form over function might result in nice looking buildings for when the ribbon is cut, states David Ward, but all-too-often those designs are compromised by necessary later additions and changes to the fabric.
By way of example, in 1970 the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act first required the needs of disabled people to be considered in the design of public buildings. It was a fundamental change which resulted in a lot of expensive major building redesign and augmentation to structures that were not designed with the needs of the disabled in mind, and it saw essential infrastructure such as wheelchair access ramps and disabled toilets effectively bolted on to existing buildings.
These changes almost always compromised the original design, much to the architects’ and owners’ annoyance. Today, it’s very much the case that architects and designers incorporate these factors into their schemes which makes for a much better solution for all concerned.
There has been no such legal requirement to incorporate security into buildings, and what’s more it’s unlikely there ever will be. As a result, the necessary technologies of security, as well as the facilities for a human security presence, will invariably be an afterthought. Once again, we’re back to making expensive and inconvenient changes to the building fabric and ‘bolting on’ those elements that are necessary, but which have not been considered on the architect’s drawing board.
There can be few architects or designers whose hearts don’t sink to the floor at the sight of a security officer Portakabin parked right next to their structures, or the lines of their beautiful reception foyer being – as they might word it – “compromised” by CCTV cameras installed after completion.
Of course, there’s another downside to this negligent approach to design as the delivery of the security function will be compromised every bit as much as the aesthetic. The ideal scenario would be where the conscientious architect understands the inevitability of this situation and designs accordingly to pre-empt the bolt-on process and enable a more integrated security function.
Pointing the finger
Should we be pointing the finger solely at architects for this all-too-frequent oversight? After all, the architect designs according to the brief given to them. Perhaps we need to look instead towards the individuals and/or or organisations responsible for commissioning buildings.
Within the brief there should be a direction for the architect to consider security in the same way they will be directed to incorporate the infrastructure for IT (ie the cabling and access points). IT infrastructure is such a messy thing if it’s not factored into design which is why, for decades now, buildings have featured hidden ductwork to hide it all away. It’s all part of the future-proofing process.
There’s a strong argument here for the security industry to highlight this issue and stress the importance – and the clear benefits – of integrating security at the design stage. The audiences for the message are both the architects and their clients who are putting out tenders for new buildings or major refurbishments.
Taking that thought a stage further, why limit ourselves to simply discussing the issue? Surely we should be reaching out to offer advice and guidance on how the desired end result can be achieved? What do architects need to understand about the security function – both the technologies that need to be incorporated and the human factors of security personnel on site?
The outcome would be better for all. Better for the architects whose designs would not be compromised. Better for their clients who could avoid the additional expense of retrospective work on their buildings and better for the security industry, which would then be able to deliver a better solution.
Emerging threats, new technologies
There’s also the issue of future-proofing. As specialists, we will be more aware of the direction the security world is taking, including the emerging threats, new technologies and fashions that influence actual delivery.
For instance, clients expect a more comprehensive security solution that increasingly includes reception services. This suggests a closer physical integration of these two services that could be better delivered at the design stage.
For the security sector, such a relationship would deliver a considerable business benefit as we could better plan and resource our contracts. Our early involvement at the design stage would help us to understand what resources of people and skills will be needed when the site becomes operational. The client would also know this, and it would be a shared benefit that allows both parties to resource and cost the running of a given site.
As the security business sector continues its evolution and modernisation, we should be looking for ways in which we can change customers’ perceptions of security from being an essential service they eventually call upon when in times of need (and shoehorn it into their operation) to one that can be – and, indeed, is – so much more than that.
David Ward is Managing Director of Ward Security