Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Security is at the forefront of many companies' priorities, but the realities of cost, aesthetics and security's impact on convenience have prevented many organizations from taking action.

Levels of security are based on perceived risk, and from a risk assessment standpoint, many occurrences have gone from "might happen" to "have happened." Ten years ago, the threat of a terrorist attack in the United States was hard to swallow for most corporate security operations. If terrorism was discussed, any potential target would certainly have been a government facility. Day trader Mark Barton's shooting spree at an Atlanta brokerage firm in July of 1999 was a stark reminder that threats don't just come from terrorists, and targets are not just the government. Although increased security is a necessity for businesses, many of them are concerned with the obvious appearance of such security devices. Government organizations are rarely concerned about aesthetics ! security is a priority, and if a property requires a 12-foot chain link fence with razor wire, then that is exactly what they get. Corporate and private facilities, on the other hand, often cannot afford to follow this policy.

To implement much-needed security upgrades, corporate and private organizations have turned to transparent security ! a method of designing an overall system that respects the need for security, as well as the need for a less intrusive and casual appearance. The goal is not to make all security invisible, but simply to make the security measures in place less visible to the average person.
Invisible Advantages

Transparent security follows two lines: hard and soft. Hard includes equipment specifically designed to be discrete or invisible. Soft involves policies such as CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), which occasionally involves the placing of non-security objects to serve security purposes. For example, a maple tree can be used as an anti-vehicle barrier to prevent restricted area access (see sidebar).

The concept is being pushed by the Security Design Coalition, a group advocating the "implementation of security measures in public places that incorporate good design principles." While geared toward government facilities, the concept is solid and can apply to the private sector. The Security Design Coalition advocates that "government officials, the security industry, design professionals and the public must work together to ensure that security responses are effective, without making cities and communities look like fortresses. We can secure society in a manner that preserves the integrity of buildings, public spaces and communities. Appropriately designed security measures can protect people and property, while clearly demonstrating that this nation continues to value an open society and accessible government."

The Security Design Coalition ( consists of nine organizations, including the American Society of Landscape Architects, The American Institutes of Architects and the American Planning Association

The object of transparent security is to look for potential problems, and take steps to put invisible or unobtrusive material in place to mitigate those problems.

The primary reason for adopting a transparent security concept is to make security measures blend into the environment for the average person. A caveat: when security equipment blends into the environment, the deterrent factor decreases significantly. A great deal of security comes from visibility ! a would-be thief may go elsewhere if it is apparent that the camera is being watched and recorded. Likewise, the ability to see intrusion detection and alarm systems may convince a burglar to reconsider. While concealing security removes this benefit, in many cases, transparency still takes priority.
Strengthening Glass

Technology is helping to make transparent security easier. Recent advances in the field of window filming are an example. ShatterGard, Atlanta, Ga., a company specializing in glass fragmentation retention film (or GFRF), has an "optically clear" film that can be applied to almost any window, providing a significant increase in protection. Filming windows provides several distinct security advantages. First, the application of a glass fragmentation retention film actually bonds with and strengthens the glass, increasing the force necessary to break it. When hit with sufficient force, any glass will break, but glass fragmentation window film prevents glass fragments from flying. Retention film was used at the Pentagon, and on Sept. 11, the glass remained mostly intact.

At the World Trade Center, however, several deaths and injuries were attributed to shards of flying glass. Filming windows is relatively inexpensive and is typically done as a retrofit on existing glass and when properly applied, the film is invisible.

Different types of film are available to meet different needs, including everything from vandal resistance to blast resistance.

ShatterGard has recently applied glass fragmentation window film at facilities owned by such diverse companies as NASDAQ, the Wells Fargo Center, and U.S. Department of Defense facilities around the world. The recent increase in filming is due to the realization that filming is an effective, low-cost security upgrade.
Checkpoints, Not Roadblocks

The idea of hiding security devices is not new. Manufacturers have been building hidden or low-profile CCTV housings for years. Intrusion detection equipment has also been available in hidden housings. Now, manufacturers of high-security vehicle barriers have joined in. The vehicle barrier approach is somewhat unique in that high-strength anti-vehicle bollards are now available in an "ornamental" configuration. Barrier manufacturers ! which include Delta Scientific, Automatic Control Systems, ARMR Services Corp., and Nasatka Barriers, among others ! are addressing the need for aesthetically pleasing anti-vehicle protection measures. The results include a line of "sleeves" from Delta Scientific to slip over high-security steel bollards. The sleeves are made from plastic or fiberglass, are architecturally designed, and slip over the bollard to give it a "polished, ornamental look."

Delta Scientific bollard systems balance strength and design by placing ornamental trim around the perimeter of the crash tube.
Intelligent Integration

The impact of security is evident in perimeter systems too. Some facilities simply blend designs into the metal perimeter fence construction to lessen the visual impact of the fence. The corporate headquarters for Delta Airlines in Atlanta is surrounded by a fence that features the Delta logo incorporated into the metal fence. Less than ten miles away, a corporate office facility for the Southern Company (parent company to Georgia Power and other utilities) has lightening bolts bent into the metalwork of its perimeter fence. In both cases, the additional metal does nothing to increase the physical security, it simply lessens the visual impact of the fence as a security device.
Dressing Up Security

Concrete barriers, a staple of government security since the 1983 Beirut bombing, now have attractive options. Stonewear, a Carson City, Nev., company, has developed a line of planter barriers, glass-fiber concrete and steel rebar planters, which allow aesthetics to be included in the design. Planter barriers employ three concepts, including desirable three-dimensional shapes, organic colors and plants that add pleasing "finish detail."

Stonewear also makes a line of barrier covers ! planter style covers to go over existing barriers. These covers significantly mitigate the security look, without compromising strength or security.

Here are some suggestions for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) ! related to specific facilities.


Cash register is positioned in front of store
Public paths are clearly marked
There is no easy access to the roof

Windows face rear parking lots for visibility
Signs should not cover more than 15 percent of windows
Interior shelving should be no higher than five feet tall
Exterior of buildings should be well lit
Parking is visible from both the building and the street

Operating hours coincide with neighboring businesses


Entrances/exterior doors are clearly lit and defined

Restrooms are observable from nearby offices
Dumpsters do not create blind spots or hiding areas
All four facades have windows
Parking spaces are assigned to employees and visitors
Parking and entrances are observable from the street and by as many people as possible
Shrubbery is kept under two feet in height for visibility
Windows are not be obstructed with signs

Exterior door knobs are a minimum of 40 in. from adjacent windows
Hinges are tamper-proof, or put on the interior of door


Dead ends are avoided
Parking areas are controlled by fence, gate or attendant
Storage yards grant vehicular access to patrol cars
Access to roofs is restricted
Building entrances are kept to a minimum

All entrances are well lit and visible
Parking attendant is positioned for maximum visibility
Reception areas have a view of parking areas

This information was provided by Dorinda Howe of Howe CPTED Associates, Orlando, Fla.

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