Crime can be a problem anywhere, especially for commercial enterprises. When conceiving new commercial structures, an architect can incorporate security considerations directly at the design level, thus facilitating the work of security experts and rendering security strategies more effective.

Security strategies in building designs are nothing new. Historically, castles with moats, forts, prisons with barbed wire, and fortresses were built principally with security in mind in the choice of both location and design. Today’s commercial building designs must incorporate security without antagonizing employees and customers.

Where to Begin

To effectively include security in design, architects must thoroughly analyze the future use of a commercial development including the actual physical use of a structure as well as any legal requirements especially with local building codes and regulations. All specific commercial policies and practices of the client must be studied before designing begins so that a complete grasp of security needs is possible and all principal vulnerabilities are identified.

Technological Advancements

While it may be difficult to keep abreast of new security technology if one considers the rapidity of research and advancement, knowledge of current security tools is critical to success. IoT or the Internet of Things with increased connectivity potential is not only facilitating security strategies but now permits managing security remotely.

Knowledge of security technologies is imperative even for simple commercial development projects. Inviting security experts or the commercial project’s security consultant to participate in the design stage can be invaluable in saving time and money as well as satisfying the development’s specific security needs.

Invisible Security Design vs. Visible Security Design

Often referred to as passive or active security design, a passive design will bring discreet protection and privacy without obvious tools. Active security design will use products that are installed for obvious security purposes like fences, visible security cameras, or metal detectors. The design of commercial buildings can benefit from a combination of the two.

Some specific visible security tools can act as deterrents while other protective measures may function better when less apparent. Another consideration is if clients observe all security tools, they may become apprehensive as to why so much security is necessary. Finding a balance between these two strategies will support architectural design as opposed to being a disruptive element.

Ways to Incorporate Security into Commercial Building Design

Begin with Parking

If your building is designed with a parking lot or parking garage structure, remember that vehicles come and go with a frequency second only to human traffic flow. Vehicles can also function as weapons, so control of vehicle traffic flow becomes paramount to security. Barriers, whether walls, fences, or others must be strategically positioned with the protection of entry points in mind. Smart video cameras with license plant readers should be placed to record all vehicles entering or exiting the premises.

Disguise Protective Barriers as Art or with Art

Disguise bollards or protective building barriers as works of artistic sculpture or with beautiful landscaping. This can protect a commercial building from outside vehicle-based threats.

Access Control

Design building access points with integrated access control. Waiting to install access control once a building has been constructed will lead to modifications such as cutting into walls and ceilings or exposing wiring. This can ruin the desired effect of a beautifully designed building interior.  Biometric or key scanners can be conceived as a part of entrance doors rather than ruining walls. By including the need for access control in the original design, expensive and unattractive modifications can be avoided once the building is completed.

Commercial Surveillance Systems

Security cameras for commercial buildings are one of the most effective security tools available to date.  Monitoring movement throughout the building, especially with AI software can recognize suspicious behaviors as well as threats in real time permitting proactive intervention. These systems can be integrated outside around a building perimeter and inside a commercial development project. Cameras can be discreetly placed to not interfere with a building’s ambiance yet at the same time positioned so that a commercial building has no blind spots that security personnel are unable to monitor.

Design with Building Materials in Mind

Some materials will offer better protection than others. Concrete or brick walls fair better in natural disasters, fires, and shootings than windows, drywall, wood, etc.

Integrate Smart Windows and Doors into Your Building Design

Windows and doors are not only necessary, but they are important elements in a commercial building. The installation of smart locks on both sturdy doors and reinforced glass windows can add a layer of security and permit an immediate lockdown should the need arise. Motion sensors will increase security especially when the activity is closed and send alerts 24/7 when detecting anomalous movement.

Design Fire Safety from the Beginning

Designing a building with an integrated sprinkler system, fire alarms, and smoke detectors increases protection. These safety tools can supply precious minutes that permit first responders to reduce property damage and save lives. Designing a property with fire-resistant materials can slow damage and limit the extent of destruction. Consider the building’s floor plan as this can aid in accelerating a fire’s propagation as well as facilitating evacuation procedures.

Employ Smart Lighting

Proper lighting can influence security both inside and outside a property. Smart lighting strategically placed with motion sensors can deter burglars and thieves. A lack of dark spaces inside and around the property translates into a lack of hiding places.

Include a Secure Space

Architects should include a secure space within the property for a variety of commercial uses ranging from data storage to safes.

Planning for potential threats by preventing access to bad actors or slowing them down, increasing visibility, employing protective building materials, and facilitating both evacuation and lockdown, when necessary, boosts building security and increases the safety of occupants. Integrating security strategies into commercial building development early at the design stage improves the efficiency of security strategies and will save both time and money that will otherwise be needed when security is treated as an afterthought.


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