For many security practitioners, security is something handed to them as a fait accompli. It was already there when they started, or the decision was made by others on what systems to go with — whether that is a consultant, architect or a different department.

But what if you are lucky enough to be able to get in on the ground floor, to help design a building or retrofit with physical security in mind from the beginning? Would that make your life easier or better?

Brivo recently conducted a survey on “Security by Design,” polling architects, engineers and construction practitioners to find out if security is a priority for them; how much time and money they spend fixing problems after the fact and what that means for others working on new projects. In general security is a top priority for these disciplines, coming in at No. 3, behind sustainability and safety.

However, according to the report, there was  a “disconnect” between what architects and engineers say about integrated security and what it actually looks like “in practice.”

The report’s executive summary explained: “The good news is that the industry is heading in the right direction — it understands its customers’ priorities and is working towards meeting their increased security demands. But it can’t get by on attitude alone. Fully integrating best practices and getting security right the first time is the only way to fix this.”

In fact, NOT doing it has a cost. 

“While it varies, some security costs added post-build, are as high as 20 percent of a project’s budget, and add a week or more to construction time,” the report stated.

Many of the survey results are promising. Currently 56 percent of architects and engineers say they have an established security integration process and 41 percent actively have a plan in place. What’s more, of those not currently prioritizing physical security in the design process, almost all — 98 percent — expect this to change within the next five years. 

But post-construction, there are often still issues, and many AECs expressed some inconsistencies when it comes to the practice of integrating security in the design phase, sometimes resulting in “substantial time and financial investments in rectifying issues long after the initial design.”

Approximately one-third cited significant issues with security integration planning.

The report’s call-to-action suggests that AEC practitioners enhance the integration of security during the design stage. 

“Despite the industry’s expressed commitment to making security a fundamental part of design, visible challenges persist in the integration of physical security in building design,” the report stated.

Here are six best practices gleaned from the survey to get optimum results:

  1. Make sure AECs are certified and trained on courses like CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), which can give practitioners a grounding in best practice. 
  2. Specialized networks like the ICA (International CPTED Association) help AECs to network and get better understanding of how security principles can be applied.
  3. Work more closely with technology providers of access control, CCTV, and other security technologies to learn how their technology is best applied and how it can be most effective.
  4. Make sure design briefs are clear and achievable.
  5. Educate yourself as the customer to make sure you fully appreciate the importance of designing integrated security in the planning stage rather that as something that can be patched in later. 
  6. It is important for AECs to closely examining processes and to do post-mortems of projects where issues have arisen, can help to make these processes better. 

Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from this study is the importance of being part of the conversation from the earliest stages whenever possible; vetting your expert architects, engineers, consultants and integrators to make sure they are on board and aware of security-by-design; and making security integration a priority from the start.