Security Beyond Buildings – Master Planning The Sun Tzu Way

By Luke Gordon, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff Associate – Technology Systems (Licenced Security and Risk Specialist), IBG – Intelligent Buildings Group

With our cities becoming more densely populated they come to be increasingly attractive as targets to acts of crime and terrorism; and though security was once largely considered an afterthought, it has now come to the forefront of town or city planning.

Traditionally security was thought about on a small scale – looking at its application in an individual building or space. Whilst this remains important, as we move towards a model for future ready cities that focuses more on integration and connectivity, our strategies around security need to follow suit. We need to zoom out and look at security as part of a bigger picture, embedding it at the master planning level of developments.

Need more convincing? Considering General Sun Tzu’s principles, here are four reasons why security should go beyond buildings:

1. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat

Recent terror attacks have shown two trends – firstly, that terrorists have the capability to mount coordinated attacks within our cities – think the Paris attacks in late 2015 when terrorists launched attacks in six separate locations, across several precincts; and secondly an opposite trend towards low tech, hard to predict, lone wolf knife and vehicle attacks.

To meet both these and future threats, we need to implement integrated security measures across whole areas, not just buildings, to deter and detect aggressive acts early. These principles already exist for the placement of security measures across precincts, for instance; restricting vehicle access to certain areas by placing bollards at entry points; or minimising criminal behaviour within a place through video surveillance and intruder detection.

Change needs to happen in the master planning of whole spaces to unite and coordinate security efforts against criminal or terrorist activity. Effective security can be enhanced through implementing comprehensive security strategies, involving all relevant stakeholders. This could entail working with Councils to introduce city centre secure zones where vehicle access is restricted or working with companies to empower them with the tools to provide mutual support to enhance the overall security of the area.

Whilst it is possible to achieve this in existing spaces, implementing these measures during the master planning stage of new city developments is more effective for a number of reasons, not least cost.

2. Every battle is won before it’s ever fought

We must fully understand the context, identify threats and vulnerabilities, and assess actual risks to developments in order to tailor security measures to suit the changing environment within our cities. By avoiding knee jerk reactions to security threats, and rather fully thinking through the role security must play in our evolving cities, we can design spaces that work now and in the future.

3. Invincibility lies in defence

Security is best applied when you use a layered approach. This method focuses on physical security measures in the outer layer (design of open spaces, maintenance of stand-off around buildings, management of deliveries at an off-site location) that become increasingly technology focussed as you begin to approach vulnerable assets (buildings and occupants). By focussing on the physical security of the area that surrounds buildings you have a greater understanding of the need for security measures and systems within the buildings themselves, and of how the development interacts with its surroundings.

This does not mean we need to build moats and ramparts to protect ourselves. Security in the modern city needs to focus on sensitivity and balance with other land uses, enhancing a sense of place and user experience.

4. It is more important to outthink than to outfight

Gone are the days when CCTV and physically present guards were all we had in terms of security measures. Armed with an entire arsenal of security technology, we have never been more equipped to protect our cities against physical threats. Technology such as video analytics enables us to respond quickly to threats before they even have a chance to happen by allowing us to identify stolen vehicles, recognise criminal suspects and detect unwanted intruders and analyse suspicious behaviour and packages.

It is in everyone’s best interest to enhance the security of our cities and if we have the capability to do so, why wouldn’t we? As Sun Tzu said ‘Don’t depend on the enemy not coming; depend rather on being ready for him.’

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