Consultants can contribute to security in the GCC

The construction sector can ensure the safety and security of GCC residents by enlisting the services of consultants during the earliest stages of development

Neil Harrington is director with responsibility for risk consultancy at QSi Consultancy Group’s Abu Dhabi office.
Neil Harrington is director with responsibility for risk consultancy at QSi Consultancy Group’s Abu Dhabi office.

The Gulf’s construction industry – from developers, owners, and architects to contractors – recognises the need to provide safe and secure communities, both for the region’s local and expatriate populations.

These factors are of paramount importance, particularly when one considers the troubles and challenges being faced across the wider Middle East.

An example of best practice is the lead taken by Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), which recently introduced the Abu Dhabi Safety and Security Planning Manual (SSPM). This document, which was developed in close collaboration with a selection of governmental and private sector stakeholders, is specifically designed to address the need to consider security, safety, and risk during the earliest phases of development and construction.

The Abu Dhabi SSPM offers direct safety- and security-centric guidelines and principles that relate to planning and design, not to mention a design toolkit to help planners and developers make informed decisions about their projects. The document promotes the development of safe communities that are aligned with the long-term objectives of the UAE.

Construction professionals across the wider Middle East are also beginning to take notice of the lead that Abu Dhabi UPC has taken in terms of safety and security. The Abu Dhabi SSPM is being closely monitored, discussed, and implemented – in different forms – throughout the GCC’s development sector. A number of federal and municipal authorities are drawing up and introducing policies, strategic laws, and planning guidelines for both new developments and existing facilities, the aim being to positively impact the lives of Gulf residents whilst encouraging a sustainable, safe, and secure way of life.

Safety and security risk in building and landscape design is becoming the number-one discussion point for many of the largest new projects. The development process central to the safety and security of buildings is intrinsically linked to a number of principles that cover a comprehensive range of related issues, such as access and connectivity, structural and spatial layout, ownership, surveillance activity, physical security, public image, and adaptability.

Of course, ample evidence of benchmarking and best practice can be found in other global markets. Moreover, procedures linked to crime-prevention and counter-terrorism planning will be familiar to most security and risk consultancies.

Consisting primarily of British expatriates, my organisation is used to supporting the implementation of such elements from the earliest stages of development. In the United Kingdom, safety and security risk programmes have been undertaken and backed by central government, and are ratified by law.

The UK also has a number of incentive programmes that increase the adoption of best practice. These well-defined processes, standards, and guidelines are publicly available, and can be referred to throughout the course of the planning process.

Of course, such examples must be kept in perspective; they are likely to represent less of a priority for lower-profile projects, which can achieve safety and security through alternative design features.

The majority of residential and commercial projects fall into this category. Government, public, and ‘iconic’ spaces, meanwhile, are more likely to benefit from professional threat- and risk-assessment reports – and mitigation recommendations – during the early stages of development.

It’s a long time since engineers and designers had to rely solely on ‘off-the-shelf’ safety and security measures. They now have access to the guidance and resources necessary to implement safeguards that are tailored to their respective projects.

The implementation of safe and secure designs in the GCC will no doubt face some cost-related resistance. Nevertheless, if designs are opened up for consultation early in the development process, costs can be minimised and incorporated, with negligible impact over the longer term.

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