Physical security is becoming a top priority in building design

Despite the importance of security, it was, until recently, an afterthought in building design, according to Brivo.

building design security

Rather than considering security from the very beginning, it was addressed later. This meant costly retrofit efforts such as installing cameras to cover places with no natural surveillance, adding barriers such as planters where needed, and even adding security guard patrols. While we have learned to put thought into many other aspects of building design, such as heat, air conditioning, light, and elevators, security has not always been considered in the same way.

Physical security vital in modern building design

The report highlights a genuine recognition of the imperative to incorporate physical security into building design, treating it akin to essential utilities like heating and lighting. Client demands for such integration are well understood, and practitioners are actively responding to this growing need.

A decade ago, the top three priorities for building design were safety, materials used, and reliability, with security absent from the top three. Today, the landscape has shifted, with sustainability, safety, and security ranking as the top three priorities.

Despite the industry’s expressed commitment to making security a fundamental part of design, visible challenges persist in the integration of physical security in building design.

The current reality falls short of industry aspirations, highlighting an ongoing process of change. However, it also indicates that the industry has not yet reached the desired point of arrival crucially needed by its clientele.

The good news is that architects, engineers, and construction professionals (AEC) practitioners have responded to this demand, and 56% now have a process for integrating security into building design, and 41% are currently implementing such a process. There is also a good understanding of the need for physical security to be an integral part of design, rather than “patched-in” later, with 94% of AEC practitioners agreeing.

Post-build security problems demand time and money

However, reality is falling short of ambition. When responsible for security post-build, many report that fixing physical security problems adds additional costs as high as 20%.

“Time and money spent fixing security issues post-build are a problem, but it’s the retroactive effects that can create real issues,” said Paula Balmori, Director of Global Security Design & System Integrations, Brivo. “Failing to reach milestones can trigger contractual clauses that lead to damages, and clients can even end up taking legal action if delays are excessive and lead to a break of contract.”

When asked about the greatest barriers to implementing security by design, respondents cited regulations, budget constraints and design and aesthetic conflicts as the main problems they encountered, reflecting a change in priority that the industry has yet to fully grapple with.

But demands for integrated physical security in design are here to stay: 89% of respondents reported that security was a part of the design briefs they received, and 88% have seen a rise in customer demand for security integration.

“It would be madness today to design a building and leave plumbing, heating and lighting as an afterthought to be figured out later—similarly, we would not expect construction to be postponed because of issues with the planning of these key utilities,” said Balmori. “Physical security needs to be seen the same way. Too often we see sub-par solutions put in place because not enough thought was given to security at the design stage. The good news is that the industry understands this issue—now, they just need to make sure that the results match this understanding.”

The prevailing trend is that most project briefs now explicitly require physical security integration, challenging the notion of security as an afterthought in building design.

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