8 - Security Design

Designing and constructing safe and secure cost effective buildings has always been one of GSA's primary goals. To design and construct a safe and secure building, a collaborative approach to the design process is required, starting at the conceptual phase of the project and continuing throughout the process. It is necessary for all persons responsible for the safety and security of the building components to interact closely throughout the entire design and construction process. This means that all interested parties involved in issues pertaining to safety and security understand the issues and concerns of both parties. This also involves inviting the client, local building and fire officials, the appropriate designers and consultants to participate in such discussions. This process is particularly helpful in complex situations where many people represent different interests and a common goal needs to be achieved (i.e., a safe and secure building).

A multidisciplinary team will determine the appropriate design criteria for each project, based on a building specific risk assessment and an analysis of all available information on security considerations, constraints, and tenant needs. However, a delicate balance must be achieved between safety and the security measures proposed. Therefore, the GSA fire protection engineer shall be a full participant on the subject multidisciplinary team to ensure that the safety of the building occupants exiting the building and the emergency responders entering the building are not impacted unknowingly by any proposed security measure.

In historic buildings, to minimize loss of character, design criteria should be based on facility-specific risk assessment and strategic programming. Strategic programming includes focusing security modifications on vulnerability points and locating less vulnerable activities in the historic buildings.

Zones of Protection
A zoned protection system is used, with intensifying areas of security beginning at the site perimeter and moving to the interior of the building.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED techniques should be used to help prevent and mitigate crime. Good strategic thinking on CPTED issues such as site planning, perimeter definition, sight lines, lighting, etc., can reduce the need for some engineering solutions.

For further information on CPTED, see:

  • Publications by the National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice (NILECJ).
  • Crowe, Timothy D., Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. National Crime Prevention Institute (1991).

Capability to Increase or Decrease Security. Designs should include the ability to increase security in response to a heightened threat, as well as to reduce security if changes in risk warrant it.

Multidisciplinary Approach. Improving security is the business of everyone involved with Federal facilities including designers, builders, operations and protection personnel, employees, clients, and visitors. Professionals who can contribute to implementing the criteria in this document include architects and structural, mechanical, fire protection, security, cost, and electrical engineers. Blast engineers and glazing specialists may also be required as well as building operations personnel and security professionals experienced in physical security design, operations, and risk assessment.

Each building system and element should support risk mitigation and reduce casualties, property damage, and the loss of critical functions. Security should be considered in all decisions, from selecting architectural materials to placing trash receptacles to designing redundant electrical systems.

Site Security Requirements. Site security requirements, including perimeter buffer zones, should be developed before a site is acquired and the construction funding request is finalized. This requirement may be used to prevent the purchase of a site that lacks necessary features, especially sufficient setback, and to help reduce the need for more costly countermeasures such as blast hardening.

Adjacent Sites. When warranted by a risk assessment, consideration should be given to acquiring adjacent sites or negotiating for control of rights-of-way. Adjacent sites can affect the security of Federal facilities.

Access Control and Electronic Security. Electronic security, including surveillance, intrusion detection, and screening, is a key element of facility protection; many aspects of electronic security and the posting of security personnel are adequately dealt with in other criteria and guideline documents. These criteria primarily address access control planning - including aspects of stair and lobby design - because access control must be considered when design concepts for a building are first conceived. While fewer options are available for modernization projects, some designs can be altered to consider future access control objectives.

Initial Costs
When cost is not considered, one risk can consume a disproportionate amount of the budget while other risks may go unmitigated or not addressed at all. Budgets should match the requirements of the risk assessment. It is important that decision-makers know funding needs early so that they can request funding to fully implement the requirements of the risk assessment. Should projects be over budget, security, along with other building elements, may be reevaluated. However, if security is decreased, there should be compensating operational procedures and/or periodic reevaluation to see if technology or procedures can mitigate the risk.

The security budget should be an output of a project specific risk assessment. After the initial risk assessment has been conducted, a plan should outline security requirements for specific building systems. To facilitate funding, cost control, and risk management, agencies should consider a work breakdown structure which summarizes security expenditures in a specific account that can be clearly identified and monitored throughout design phases. This can facilitate the allocation of those funds to countermeasures for project-specific risks. For example, funding crime prevention may be more important than funding terrorist prevention countermeasures for some projects.

Cost-Risk Analysis. Actual costs may be more or less than budgeted. This cost risk results from the need to predict bidding market costs years in advance, evolving technology, changing risks, different countermeasures, and varying project conditions. The “Standard Practice for Measuring Cost Risk of Buildings and Building Systems,” ASTM E 1946, may be used to manage cost risk.

Economic Analysis. A guide for selecting economic methods to evaluate investments in buildings and building systems can be found in ASTM E 1185. Two such economic practices are ASTM E 917 to measure life-cycle costs, and ASTM E 1074 to measure net economic benefits. ASTM E 1765 provides a way to evaluate both qualitative and quantitative aspects of security in a single model.

Security’s life-cycle cost objective should be to minimize the total cost of building ownership while simultaneously improving a building’s efficiency. Total costs include all costs incurred by the owner and users of a building.While great emphasis is often placed on meeting initial budget, scope, and schedule, these are only a small fraction of a building’s total life-cycle costs. Operations is a critical area where improved effectiveness and productivity can have the greatest impact upon cost, performance, and mission accomplishments. Serious consideration of life-cycle costs during the initial project stages can greatly reduce total life-cycle costs.

Thomas Eagleton Courthouse,
St. Louis, MO

Site Planning and Landscape Design

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following criteria do NOT apply to all projects. Follow each criterion only if instructed to by your project-specific risk assessment. Many criteria are based on the recommendations of a specific building risk assessment/threat analysis. Where the criteria include a blank or offer a choice of approaches, the recommendations from risk assessment will provide information for filling in the blank or suggesting a choice of approaches.

Effective site planning and landscape design can enhance the security of a facility and eliminate the need for some engineering solutions. Security considerations should be an integral part of all site planning, perimeter definition, lighting, and landscape decisions.

Vehicular Control
Distance. The preferred distance from a building to unscreened vehicles or parking is _____(project- specific information to be provided).Ways to achieve this distance include creating a buffer zone using design features such as street furniture and bollards that can function as barriers; restricting vehicle access (see sections on Perimeter Protection Zone and Landscaping below, and Chapter 9). See Chapter 2: Site Circulation Design, for fire department/fire apparatus access requirements for which design must also be in compliance.

Perimeter Protection Zone. Site perimeter barriers are one element of the perimeter protection zone. Perimeter barriers capable of stopping vehicles of _______ lbs., up to a speed of ______, shall be installed (project-specific information to be provided). A vehicle velocity shall be used considering the angle of incidence in conjunction with the distance between the perimeter and the point at which a vehicle would likely be able to start a run at the perimeter.

A barrier shall be selected that will stop the threat vehicle. Army TM 5-853-1 and TM 5-853- 2/AFMAN 32-1071, Volume 2 contain design procedures. See Chapter 2: Site Circulation Design, for fire department/fire apparatus access requirements for which design must also be in compliance. In designing the barrier system, consider the following options:

  • Using various types and designs of buffers and barriers such as walls, fences, trenches, ponds and water basins, plantings, trees, static barriers, sculpture, and street furniture;
  • Designing site circulation to prevent high speed approaches by vehicles; and
  • Offsetting vehicle entrances as necessary from the direction of a vehicle’s approach to force a reduction in speed.

Perimeter Vehicle Inspection

  • Provide space for inspection at a location to be specified.
  • Provide design features for the vehicular inspection point that stop vehicles, prevent them from leaving the vehicular inspection area, and prevent tailgating.

Site Lighting
Effective site lighting levels: At vehicular and pedestrian entrances, ____ (project-specific information to be provided) horizontal maintained foot candles; and for perimeter and vehicular and pedestrian circulation areas, ____ horizontal maintained foot candles. In most circumstances, perimeter lighting should be continuous and on both sides of the perimeter barriers, with minimal hot and cold spots and sufficient to support CCTV and other surveillance. However, for safety reasons and/or for issues related to camera technology, lower levels may be desirable. Other codes or standards may restrict site lighting levels.

Site Signage
Confusion over site circulation, parking, and entrance locations can contribute to a loss of site security. Signs should be provided off site and at entrances; there should be on-site directional, parking, and cautionary signs for visitors, employees, service vehicles, and pedestrians. Unless required by other standards, signs should generally not be provided that identify sensitive areas.

Landscaping design elements that are attractive and welcoming can enhance security. For example, plants can deter unwanted entry; ponds and fountains can block vehicle access; and site grading can also limit access. Avoid landscaping that permits concealment of criminals or obstructs the view of security personnel and CCTV, in accordance with accepted CPTED principles.

Last Reviewed: 2019-02-26