Best Practices around Security through Environmental Design

Best Practices around Security through Environmental Design

It is a common assumption that the entrances of the buildings need the most protection. However, limiting security efforts to the front door would still be leaving your building vulnerable to security threats. A proper design and effective use of the built environment leads to a reduction in the likelihood of a crime occurring in a specific location.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a multi-disciplinary approach that is applied to building perimeters and properties to productively use space and reduce exposure to crime. Implementing security measures through environmental design is not a solution that works in isolation, but just like other elements of a security program, it is a layered approach that seeks to minimize broader security risks. We have compiled below some of the most effective measures in our practical experience that can be helpful solutions in your environments.

Environmental Design for Infrastructure Security

The physical infrastructures and their outdoor environment don’t only necessitate rigorous security standards to be elevated; but also, to coexist with space accessibility and freedom of movement. Incorporating existing elements of a building design or refining methods of safety enhancements in the architecture of a building are the main tools that are utilized in various projects as they help mitigate physical security risks.

Make Use of Surrounding Elements

The surrounding location and the existing landscape can be utilized as an additional layer of security to decrease crime and maintain safety with strategic planning and construction foresight.

  • Identify existing elements in the vicinity that can be incorporated into the perimeter’s security profile.
  • Make use of curb extensions and other street and perimeter elements. For instance:
    • Extend green landscapes, vegetation embankments, and tree lines.
    • Employ street benches or light fixtures.

A level of visual consistency can be maintained if these elements already exist, and a layer of security can be added without affecting the balance of the environment.

Take Advantage of Unobtrusive Features

Safety and security are frequently linked, particularly in infrastructures with high pedestrian traffic. While traffic signals, barriers, and signage are necessary, additional traffic calming techniques can also improve safety and maintain the visual balance of the space.

Moreover, redesigning and using other natural barriers can be used to direct pedestrian traffic in a certain direction.

As a substitute for traditional crosswalks, vehicular safety can be increased using:

  • Cobblestone alleys
  • Graded streets with smaller speed humps
  • Brick-laid crosswalks

These options can be combined with environment-specific signage and lighting.


Revamp the Existing Design

CPTED involves the design of the physical space in the context of the normal use of that space by the users as well as people’s predictable behavior in the surrounding area. Therefore, keep perimeter protection in mind while redesigning a building – the architecture of a building’s perimeter can be used to construct unobtrusive security obstacles.

The applicable structural solutions include:

  • Stone, concrete, or metal seating fixtures
  • Planters, sculptures, or monuments
  • Building offsets
  • Graded stairs

Moreover, gardens, tree trenches, and parklets provide greenery, drainage and can also act as security barriers.

Take the Traditional Safety Measures

When bollards and barriers are created with the building’s and facility’s perimeter vision in mind, they can be quite effective. Bollards and depressed pavements can be customized to meet specific requirements and impact ratings. Therefore, organizations should identify their operational risks and engage with structural and architectural teams to identify the right solutions.

The ideal approach includes:

  • The core objective of each area
  • The underlying risk (safety, security, and type of threat)
  • The culture/vision/nature of the physical space (openness, structural, and geographical aesthetics)

Environmental designs protect the perimeter and exterior of the building but some of the design principles around deferment can also assist with providing safety and security while help arrives.

Physical Designs & Protocols for Building Protection 

Safeguarding the infrastructure of an organization in order to deter potential crime is no doubt essential. However, it is equally important to have adequate protection in place in case an active threat occurs within the location. Various types of solutions can be used to reach that level of protection until the relevant authorities can arrive and counteract the threat.

Incorporate Threat-Deferring Physical Design 

Depending on the security risk assessment of the area, the business’ nature, and the kind of threats that could possibly occur against it (natural or otherwise), safe spots and shelters can be designed within the structure. This would help the inhabitants of the building take cover in a secured location until the threat is neutralized.  A degree of flexibility must always be incorporated into the built design as the nature of the threats can vary, so can their epicenters. Hardened locations that can shield users of the building are also optimized, while proper escape routes should be integrated into the infrastructure

Prepare For a Threat Occurrence Beforehand 

Documented policies, protocols, and sustained awareness are equally important in creating a proactive culture of safety within an organization. The following steps can significantly assist in empowering employees to leverage tools and spaces to reach for safety during an active threat:

  • Develop and provide adequate information on the safe rooms and locations that can provide them shelter during such events.
  • Create training and awareness guide to escape routes that can be taken to either exit the building or reach the safe spots.
  • Incorporate safety and active threat awareness into the annual fire and other safety drills

Validate Technical Solutions

Technical solutions, such as sensors, alarms, and integrated applications can further help in deferment of risk. However, it is important to validate that these solutions will meet the operational needs of the organization and achieve the desired goals. Conducting a technical and operational proof of concept is generally a good practice to vet and verify these solutions.


Utilize Visual Aid

The use of digital media can also be an effective solution to constantly reinforce the security measures taken in the building. Occupants can be presented with visual reminders regarding the following after physical and technical solutions have been taken care of:

  • Security protocols
  • Safety measures
  • Escape routes
  • General best practices

Visitors can also get safety protocols or best practice notifications on their portable devices through apps as soon as they enter the location and log on to the building’s Wi-Fi. These media platforms are not only effective in communicating vital information to a large pool of audience but are also extremely convenient and can create a positive user experience.

Concluding Thoughts

Security solutions are most effective when deployed in a layered approach to reduce and mitigate risk. Creating those layers from the perimeter of the building using environmental design is the first proactive step. Using the process, technology, and training to add additional layers internally to mitigate or delay negative risk can help an organization create a holistic security and safety solution.

About Atriade

Atriade Atriade has worked on over 500+ projects, in 60+ industries, in 30+ countries. If you are ready to get expert assistance in creating your governance plan that will set you apart from your competitors, we are here to help. Our management team carries a lifetime of experience in all areas of Physical Security and Electronic Security that we are ready to put to work for your unique business and team.

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