We don't need to build windowless monoliths to protect us from terrorist attacks
Gordon Brown has announced plans to turn Britain’s airports, stations, shopping centres and sporting venues into impregnable fortresses against terrorist attack. This need not result in a swathe of huge, windowless concrete monoliths. Collaboration between the security and creative industries can still result in buildings with flair and imagination. Even with stringent cost limitations, it’s possible to design features into a building that make it more resistant to attack. For example, large expanses of external wall glazing are usually the biggest source of injury in a bomb blast, so glazing needs to be properly laminated with balanced framing so windows deform in their frame rather than being blown out. Flat or circular facades disperse the effects of a blast, whereas overhanging designs like balconies can magnify its effects. If stone cladding is used, any blast can cause a building’s steel frame to flex, cracking or weakening the cladding.
Framed buildings can cope much more effectively with a blast than loadbearing masonry (for maximum in-built survivability, design the frame joints for upward as well as downward loads); and one of the best ways of incorporating a 30m blast zone is to surround a building with a controlled-access car park. Furthermore, rather than specifying expensive CCTV systems at a late stage, collaboration at the design stage can produce safer, more cost-effective solutions simply from a minor change in layout or material specifications.
Architects and designers are used to managing risks and adapting to industry trends, but the threat the UK faces from terrorism means planning for security risks is fast becoming an inescapable concern.