Safe as houses

Making residential developments secure is a key concern for developers. James Boley looks at what can be done at the design stage.

CCTV is one way to make residential developments secure.
CCTV is one way to make residential developments secure.

Making residential developments secure is a key concern for developers. James Boley looks at what can be done at the design stage.

Dubai is broadly speaking one of the safest places there is to live. Unlike London, you never have to watch your back while walking down the street in case you are about to get mugged, or risk getting your car smashed to bits in a case of road rage.

But as the population expands, there is a need for greater security in the region. And much of this comes in at the design stage.

 

Even at the bubble diagram stage, you need to identify where your secure envelope is, and work out what the secure elements would be.

Secure design is particularly important in residential developments. On the back of the ongoing population growth, more and more residential communities or gated communities are springing up in the GCC. Emaar's recently announced Al Khobar Lakes in Saudi Arabia is one such example.

Promoted as the first lakefront gated residential community, the 2.6 million square metre development will have nine villages, a mosque, schools, and a shopping centre and other amenities. Examples in Dubai include The Springs and Arabian Ranches.

Such developments are sold with the promise of 'exclusivity and privacy' making sophisticated security measures not just desirable but a must.

Plan in advance

Installing a security guard at the entrance to a development is only the start, however. A range of security measures exist including gates, road blockers, bollards, barriers, and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to improve safety in residential developments.

How effective they are though often depends on the stage at which they are incorporated, according to security experts.

"On older projects, possibly little thought, or the wrong thought, was given to the way the infrastructure and the hardware for access control was designed," notes Chris Griffiths, senior manager of security and operations at developer Nakheel.

Sometimes, for example, he says, the space to do a u-turn is on the inside of a barrier, so the guard has to let people in to do a u-turn to go out. "Unfortunately that occurs quite a lot at these old places. People will just drive in and disappear because the guard is dealing with the next person," he says.

Including security measures at the planning stage is crucial, say experts. "[Security products] need to be part of the brief, you need to know what level of security is required.

Even at the 'bubble diagram' stage, you need to identify where your secure envelope is, and work out what the secure elements would be," says John Wigham, director of regional landscape practice Cracknell.

"You need to know whether it needs to be penetrated by vehicles, for instance. Then you would develop a concept plan, which would be an overall picture of the scheme.

Within that, even possibly as an overlay, you pick out that security envelope and demonstrate how that has been included in the design at the concept stage."

"If you design in [security features] from the outset, they can be integrated and look great," he adds.

CCTV, for example, is often put in as an afterthought, but to be effective needs to be included at the planning stage, says David Lenot, head of CCTV sales at Bosch.

"If we went to a project where the infrastructure had been put in, then it would be extremely difficult for us to go and put in cabling system for CCTV," explains Griffiths.

"If you get involved in the early stage, particularly with the security hardware, and integrating it, then you can progress on with fewer hassles and reduced cost."

Secured by design

Improving security through design is not a new concept. Indeed, the UK has even adopted a police initiative called Secured By Design with considerable success.

The programme provides a set of standards and accreditation for designers to create secure spaces. Safer design ideas include, for example, creating a space with multiple exits, and avoiding the inclusion of plants or street furniture that could be used by an offender to hide.
 

The system can reduce burglary and car crime by 50% and criminal damage by 25%, according to the UK police.

While Secured By Design is a UK-specific programme, there are pointers from it that can be applied to the GCC, believes Wigham. "[The programme] is about how people relate to one another, so the principles are exactly the same," he says.

"There is a little bit of cultural variation, but it is much more fundamental than something associated with a particular culture."

 

On older projects, possibly little thought, or the wrong thought, was given to the way the infrastructure and the hardware for access control was designed.

Wigham also stresses the importance of designing space to encourage 'natural policing', whereby people act as a deterrent to crime. Natural policing can be incorporated at the design stage by, for example, including windows that overlook a walkway ensuring that public areas are seen.

"It makes a space feel safer if you feel that you can be seen when you are in that space. From a security point of view, natural policing has a big impact," notes Wigham.

Safety in numbers

Visible security symbols such as gates and bollards can make a huge difference to a person's perceived sense of safety, according to suppliers.

Demand for bollards, for example, has grown considerably in the last year, they say.

"In past years, the bollard has become an icon in this region because security has become more important," a representative of French manufacturer Urbaco told Commercial Outdoor Design during the Big 5 trade show.

Choosing the right security solution to suit a particular location is essential, however. What works outside an army barracks won't necessarily work for a residential development.

Indeed, overly aggressive looking security features can have the opposite effect on residents, making them feel threatened rather than reassured, and giving the impression that a security problem is imminent.

"We only recommend road blockers for military and police sites because visually it gives a very negative perspective. A bollard can do the same job, installation is easier and visually it is more presentable," says Mania Merikhi, sales manager of gate, security barrier and bollard distributor Came.

Aesthetically pleasing security solutions are of particular importance in the region, she adds. Features such as bollards can be designed to blend in with the overall architecture of a development, for example.

"When you match the colour with the architecture it looks more like an architectural design than security," she notes.

Safe-keeping

The GCC remains one of the safest regions in the world, despite neighbouring some dangerous countries. Preserving the peace as the population expands presents a unique challenge for developers.

Places need to be designed with maximum safety in mind, but in a way that security is not overly unobtrusive. "People like to see security, but not too much," says Griffiths.

Perhaps the key to making sure residential developments are safe is greater collaboration between designers, developers, suppliers and maintenance staff. Secure design is not the responsibility of any one party only, but rather a joint effort from all involved.

 

Case study

The Palm Jumeirah, the artificial island developed by Nakheel, is one of Dubai's signature developments. However, as well being a place where people live, it is also a major construction site, making security and access issues a huge headache for all those using the location.

As well as residents driving in and out, there are also cranes, workers' buses and other vehicles accessing the development, potentially a problem at peak hours.

"The Palm is open in the sense that there are public roads and public access roads going into it. [But] from those roads there are secured areas, gated areas and open areas," says Chris Griffiths, senior manager of security and operations at developer Nakheel.

Entry into the gated areas is via radio-frequency ID tags for residents. For guests, and residents who have mislaid their tags, there are lay-bys enabling drivers to pull in and speak to security. Security guards have shaded rest areas and air-conditioned shelters, allowing a 24-hour presence on gates.

The development also has dual-lane roundabouts, enabling drivers to access a security keypad to dial for access without blocking other vehicles.

The approach to the gated areas on the Palm helps ease access. Each frond has its own secure access, which greatly reduces the number of potential vehicles trying to enter each gate. "It's not like having one gate into a big estate," says Griffiths.

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