Security is one of the most complex elements of a building to specify. Barbour Index and Scott Brownrigg list what you should bear in mind when you tackle the job

General points

Security should be considered from a number of aspects: internal, external, perimeter, passive, active, fire, criminal, terrorist and vandal security are all worth reviewing. The relevance of each will depend on the type of building, location and environment. It will also to some degree be reflected by the client’s requirements and budget constraints, as security can be very expensive. Most protective measures are either technically complex or will increase the level of specification.

Know thy client

Ensure that you understand the client’s requirements, and if there is any doubt, you must go back to them with the query, as mistakes can be expensive. Installing security after completion can also be costly and might compromise the solution.

Consult the experts

The police run the “Secured by Design” accredited scheme, which is a good starting point (see Costs, overleaf). This offers advice on what to do for particular types of building, including public spaces and car parks. And check what security insurers recommend, as occasionally they will grant a premium reduction if certain precautions are fitted. Clients with specific concerns about terrorism should contact the Home Office or their local crime prevention officer.

Active and passive security

Passive security is all about using good design to ensure that obvious security breaches are avoided. This can be cost-effective and will enhance the quality of a project. Active security should be carefully considered so that it is evenly balanced across the design, with no obvious discrepancies in quality or standards.


The obvious place to put security is the perimeter of the project or building. The prevention of unauthorised access is potentially the biggest aid to avoiding problems. This may entail unsightly fencing and barriers. The security of the layout should be reviewed and alternatives considered when weaknesses are found. Obvious issues in the recent past include bollards and barriers to defeat ram raiders.


Security of doors and windows covers a range of fittings, from simple DIY-type locks to fully integrated high-security seven-pin deadlocks. Consider windows and doors with double-locking shoot-bolts, glazed areas with laminated glass, and fenestration with closely spaced bars.


Alarm systems can be designed for fire, intruder or general emergency. The Building Regulations call for a minimum standard of fire alarm as set out in part B.


Surveillance is considered the most cost-effective measure after physical security. Advances in technology have resulted in cameras to suit nearly every application and pocket. These are highly recommended and should be considered wherever possible.

Lighting and maintenance

Lighting can also be highly effective, particularly when used in conjunction with cameras. A well-maintained and cared-for building is also an effective deterrent, as this is less likely to attract attention.


The risk of vandalism should be assessed and the durability of materials and their resistance to graffiti considered.

New issues

The ability of buildings to resist attack is receiving considerable attention. Perhaps the most significant development is the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act, which became law on 16 September. This act gives the government the power to create Building Regulations on security issues. Indeed Phil Hope, the ODPM minister responsible for Building Regulations, recently said there could be a new Building Regulation dedicated entirely to security within three years.

The standard DIN V ENV 1627 is about to outline a series of resistance classes that will give the resistance time for any given construction to a variety of assaults. This opens up the possibility that ironmongery and other fittings will be similarly referenced to enable specifiers to be more precise about the level of security that a building can offer.

Other developments to look out for include sophisticated locking mechanisms, with the prospect of central locking for houses, and intelligent locks and alarms for commercial premises. Linking the latter in to proximity detectors and active badges will take internal security to another level.

One final potential innovation is the development of intelligent materials that collect genetic material from assailants and cover them in particles that can be tracked by the police.


  • Office of the Deputy Prime Minister,
  • DOE circular 5/94, Planning Out Crime
  • BS 7950 1997, Specification for Enhanced Security Performance of Casement and Tilt/Turn Windows for Domestic Applications.
  • PAS 23 24, Standards for Door Security Performance.
  • DIN V ENV 1627, German security standard.
  • Fire Alarms BS 5839, Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems for Buildings. Code of practice for system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance.
  • BS 5446, Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Devices for Dwellings. Specification for heat alarms.

Subject guides similar to this are available from Barbour Index as part of its Construction Expert and Specification Expert services.

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