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How to increase security through building design

Sarah E. Ludwig | Jan. 7, 2016
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, or CPTED, is a method used in security planning that focuses on design, placement and the way the building is used as a means to increase security in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Natural access control

“It’s really important to minimize the points of entry to a building to one, for visitors as well as employees,” says Heath. “It’s completely inconvenient, but there’s always that balance between security and convenience to find your sweet spot.” In a related matter, all doors should be inspected to make sure they close completely and by themselves. Having open doors creates huge vulnerability points.

Wayfinding is also hugely important in the quest for natural access control, both Heath and Nesbitt say. “It's really important because as buildings get older, obviously there are renovations, improvements and additions. Within hospitals, departments move around all the time over the course of years and places can be marked incorrectly or not at all,” says Heath. “Having people coming into your facility and not being able to find where they’re going is a catalyst for a crime of opportunity.”

For new buildings, “designing sidewalks and entryways with not just a sign, but inviting you to go in a certain direction” employs this principle of natural access control, Nesbitt says. “In some hospitals you sometimes see where they have different colored lines that help people find their way. All of these things can be done through design.”

Territorial reinforcement

“Territorial reinforcement basically tells you where your property begins. There is no defining property line, so to speak, so if you give cues as to where the property is and what’s under your control and maybe some signage, it helps you establish the foundational basis that you have control over this piece of land from this point inward and it’s not common area,” says Nesbitt.

Changing the way that areas around and inside the facility are used is one aspect of territorial reinforcement. “Over time, some places get used more than others. People go to certain areas and some areas are avoided,” Heath says. “It’s important to be aware of where those areas are because obviously the opportunity for crime is way higher in the non-used areas.”

Putting safe activities in unsafe places helps. “An unused space could have a bench or a winding walkway or nice shrubbery, something to invite the public to use that space, which forces the crime out of the area. It’s a slow migration. You want to reinforce that the whole territory is a safe place,” says Heath.

Natural landscaping is also a big part of territorial reinforcement and of CPTED, Heath says. Buildings that once had beautiful shrubs and landscaping often don’t keep up maintenance or landscaping gets cut in the operational budget. “Putting that back in place and creating that delineation of public to private space is a big deal,” says Heath.


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