> Terrorist attacks raised the importance of security across the country, leading many A/E firms to include it in their array of services.
While the A/E industry was familiar with security, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks boosted its awareness among firms, with some adding it to their menu of services. Slowly, more firms are beginning to offer it as an in-house service line, making competition tighter for the firms that provided the service prior to the terrorist attacks.
Bill Ryman, senior vice president at 20-person technology, security, and audio-visual consulting firm EDI, Ltd. (Atlanta), says the firm has been offering security-related services since 1991, but he does see more competitors offering it today. “I do think that it’s higher on the radar screen,” he says.
One of those newer competitors is 850-person transportation, land development, and environmental consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) (Watertown, Mass.), which in 2004 acquired Austin, Texas-based Fortress, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of emergency preparedness programs.
VHB understood the challenges that clients faced, particularly after Sept. 11, to include security and emergency preparedness into projects and made a strategic decision to find a firm that could meet that need, said Michael J. Carragher, senior vice president of transportation services at VHB.
Even though some firms offer security-related services, Albert Samano III, president of Fortress Inc. and VHB’s director of security and emergency preparedness, said the industry overall is still slow to respond to the need.
For engineers, developers, and designers, security-related services still are a new arena, Samano says. The federal government moved quickly by creating guidelines for federal buildings such as including external security barriers and performing threat assessments. But, Samano said, training needs to begin in college where students are looking at security elements and determining how to incorporate them into a design. “For a lot of folks, they’re aware of it. They just don’t know how to wrestle it down.”
The firms that do offer the service are finding that even their clients are becoming more aware of the importance of security-related features in a project.
“Today, clients understand better why security is something that has to be addressed,” Ryman said. For example, he said, including a card-access system in a hospital’s design is a powerful tool in managing security for crimes such as theft and workplace violence. Before Sept. 11, it was more difficult getting clients to understand the importance of a card-access system.
Through the design of a project, crime can be prevented, Samano says. An open design allows people to see the entire structure, which makes surveillance easier. Putting glass windows in parking garage stairwells prevents assaults from occurring because the area is more open, he said.
The argument against incorporating security-related features into projects is that, by doing so, the clients are going to blow their budget, Samano said. “Security is an element that affects the landscaping or parking spaces,” he says. “It’s not something that turns a project upside down. There are ways of incorporating [security-related features] so that they are not outrageous and outlandish.”
For example, a straight, long driveway poses a security threat because it’s easy for vehicles to reach excess speeds, Samano said. By making the driveway circuitous, vehicles will be prevented from gaining speed.
In an emergency situation, protected areas can be created by providing additional means of egress from a building, Ryman says. An additional egress that is planned into a hospital can provide a separate exit that doesn’t funnel people through the intensive care unit, for example. This enables the owner “to create a secure perimeter around a space and maintain it during an emergency event,” Ryman said.
The placement of benches and trash receptacles can help deter crime from occurring as well, VHB’s Carragher said. In the past with, for instance, a transit project, the concern was where to place the benches and trash receptacles so that the area would be attractive and convenient to users. Now, in addition to making the area look attractive and user-friendly, firms also are using the benches and trash receptacles as crime deterrents.
However, firm leaders and experts say that it’s important to include these features when the project is still at its beginning stages.
“It’s always cheaper to do it in the design phase because that’s only paper that’s changing,” Samano says. “There are no short cuts to security and emergency preparedness. You can’t just put together a short notification list.”
Ryman said security often is planned at the last minute by “throwing hardware at openings.” Then, aesthetic and noise issues pop up that need to be corrected. By planning ahead, costs can be reduced. “The early stages are the time to determine how much you’re willing to spend,” he says. “It’s the time to set a realistic budget and deal with it.”-Franceen Shaughnessy (email@example.com)
This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (Issue #652, published March 6, 2006).