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Thinking about security measures at the start of a project pays dividends when it comes to designing secure buildings. David Dickinson explains how architects are working with the police, and details some new requirements on intruder alarms and access for the disabled

There are many advantages to designing in security measures at the start of a new-build project. Hastily compiled and costly boltons are avoided, insurance premiums can be reduced and the owners can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that the building, as well as its staff, visitors and stock, is protected.

The role of architects in specifying appropriate security arrangements - from physical equipment such as bollards, vehicle barriers and door locks, to sophisticated policecompliant intruder alarms, CCTV cameras and innovative access-control systems - has become vital.

Homeowners are concerned by issues like burglary, while businesses face threats including arson, break-ins/thefts and terrorismrelated risks. Arson, for instance, is now the main cause of insured fire losses in the UK.

Improving dialogue between architects, the police and business clients is helping to raise awareness. For example, in 2001 a jointventure scheme between the RIBA and the police-run Secured by Design was launched as an initial pilot project in London. Called the Accordant Architectural Practice Project, it focuses on training architects in designing safer, crime-free urban surroundings and social-housing schemes.

The RIBA's then president, Marco Goldschmied, said: 'An enormous amount of security is an afterthought and is therefore ugly, expensive and often less effective, because it has not been integrated into buildings from the outset.' Over the past four years, the scheme has expanded and is a voluntary option for architects to choose as part of their continuing professional development training.

Police architectural liaison officers are training architects at regional practices and, from this month, the scheme will be available nationally. Currently, some 80 practices are on a waiting list for this training.

Key issues that architects should be aware of for 2005 include a new opportunity to improve the effectiveness of intruder-alarm systems. This comes in the form of developments in standards and regulations, notably the requirement under new European alarm installation standards (EN50131-7: Application Guidelines) for intruder-alarm companies to undertake a risk assessment as part of the design process.

The European standards series becomes compulsory from 1 October 2004, and British Security Industry Association (BSIA) manufacturers are currently adapting equipment and advising installers how to comply.

Major implications have also arisen from the third and fi nal phase of the Disability Discrimination Act. Familiar issues include installing ramps for wheelchair users, but specifi ers also need to be aware of the potential barriers posed by access-control security systems. For example, audio doorentry systems must not pose a barrier for those people with limited or no hearing, and keypad access systems must not impede sight-impaired visitors or those with limited hand mobility.

A final point on quality: if architects want to be sure they are recommending the most effective security solutions that comply with relevant legislation, they should look for evidence that the security provider meets appropriate standards - both of manufacture and installation.

All BSIA members are independently inspected by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service-accredited organisation to ISO 9000 and other relevant industry standards. In summary, good security is good for business, and architects have an important part to play in helping to design out crime.

David Dickinson is chief executive of the BSIA

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