Protect and survive, in style

Increasingly prevalent perimeter security systems need careful integration into the urban realm to ensure they’re not overly obtrusive, says Jonathan Goss of Townscape Products.

The spate of terrorist vehicle attacks across Europe in recent years has highlighted the vital importance of integrating perimeter security measures into urban spaces. Beyond improving safety, architects face the task of striking a balance between achieving effective counter-terror security and preserving the appearance of the urban environment.

While an increased police presence can provide a degree of reassurance to the public, fixed-ground perimeter security has an essential – and more resilient – role to play in robust uninterrupted protection. However, physical security can appear obtrusive to the general public and create a feeling of restriction, which can detract from the architectural appeal of new projects and regenerations. Resolving this issue effectively undoubtedly presents a big challenge for specification and procurement professionals.

Function & aesthetics

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) is a strategically-designed perimeter security installation, comprising physical barriers such as concrete blocks, bollards, and planters, to prevent vehicles from harming people or property.

Reassuringly for architects, security solutions can be designed to maintain the required level of protection without affecting the appearance of architecture. This can be achieved by specifying products that combine function and aesthetics, such as counter-terror blocks with wooden seating tops; counter-terror planters that brighten up the surroundings, and PAS 68 bollards that look like standard bollards to the untrained eye. Specifying a mix of products will provide visual relief in the vicinity of your project, while providing strong and effective security as part of an HVM system. These systems work to deter the type of vehicle-bound assaults that have come to be associated with terrorist atroci- ties and pose a significant threat to buildings and crowded places.

Protection in practice

A popular HVM product is the counter terror (CT) block, a reinforced PAS 68 concrete installation that can immobilise a 7.5 tonne vehicle. Each CT block weighs 2.2 tonnes and only needs to be recessed 100 mm below ground, making this an ideal solution for buildings and places which are in central locations.

In addition, the shallow depth of CT blocks’ foundations means that utilities don’t need to be disturbed and the system can be installed around buildings with little disruption. Bollards and other counter-terror products can be designed to tie into the surrounding architectural design of a building and ensure the street scene maintains a balanced mix of HVM installations.

Perimeter security can be multi-purpose: on recent projects for example, counter-terror blocks have been utilised as seating or landscaping. The counter-terror block can be timber or granite-clad to create planters or have seating and lighting elements added.

20 Fenchurch Street

A prime example of a multi-purpose HVM system driven by architectural aspirations is the one installed at the base of the Rafael Viñoly-designed 20 Fenchurch Street (the ‘Walkie Talkie’) in the City of London. Street furniture supplier Townscape was appointed by engineering consultants QCIC to consult, install and manufacture a HVM system that could provide robust protection to the building while also creating a high-quality multi-purpose urban landscape around the base of the skyscraper.

In response, the company developed and installed six granite-laden PAS 68 counter terror blocks with LED spotlighting to create an effective security solution that complemented the surrounding architecture.

Situated at the base of the building, this HVM system provides 20 Fenchurch Street with a robust deterrent to vehicle-bourne attacks while fulfilling the multi-purpose function brief by offering seating in the plaza and enhancing the area’s aesthetics.

A safe future

Whether working on a new city centre development or upgrading perimeter protection of an existing property, integrated perimeter protection is set to remain a key consideration in future building design.

By subtly blending security measures into the urban landscape, architects can create a safe environment with a robust security system.

Jonathan Goss is the managing director of Townscape Products