Landscape protection products can help FMs to defend retail spaces against vehicle-borne terrorist attacks without turning them into utilitarian-looking fortresses, says Jaz Vilkhu.
01 July 2019 | Jaz Vilkhu
The primary function of landscape security products is to protect public spaces such as retail parks by forming an effective barrier in the event of an attack.
But these measures are also a permanently visible part of a landscape so they need to look good as well as offer protection. This is particularly true as attacks, which are intended to garner as much publicity as possible, tend to happen at the best-known, and most-loved and frequently sites visited in a city or town.
Businesses in these areas want and need people to visit without considering their safety at all, and bulky eyesore products, installed as an afterthought, fail to achieve this.
Defending the customer experience
In the UK, defensive measures are often specified at completion of a retail park project, or even many years after it is completed. The result is a line of concrete blocks or metal barriers placed on the perimeter of the area that, although physically effective, remind people of potential threats, making it harder for them to linger and relax.
Lessons from Singapore
In 2017, Singapore passed the Infrastructure Protection Act, requiring anti-vehicle attack measures to be integrated into the design of any building that attracts a high volume of footfall or houses essential services.
Making sure countermeasures are considered early in the design process is a smart move by Singapore's government, as it will help to ensure that they are fit for purpose. Sadly, the UK has no such regulations.
Designing for strength and beauty
Defending public spaces against attacks has become more of a priority for designers of the built environment and there are a range of protective measures available, such as crash-tested street furniture that includes planters, seating, litter bins and bicycle racks, as well as inconspicuous bollards.
So there's less need to compromise on aesthetics by selecting a piece of street furniture that will also serve as an effective barrier to any hostile vehicle.
These products defend high-risk spaces by creating a perimeter that's impenetrable to heavy, fast-moving vehicles; deflecting attempted attacks on lower-risk targets by installing lighter-duty bollards; and deterring would-be attackers by signalling that crowded areas are inaccessible.
Even when the highest levels of protection are in place, well-designed landscape protection products still allow people to flow through spaces and make use of the items of furniture, unaware that they are actually serving to protect them.
Failure to consider protective measures as part of the wider design of spaces has created a significant blind spot for retailers. This threatens to create retail spaces that feel fortified rather than fun-filled.
FMs responsible for procuring protection measures should follow the example of Singapore and provide retail spaces at which shoppers will feel safe.
3 factors to consider when specifying counter-terror measures
- Level of risk: Consider the level of risk to which a building or space is exposed. For sheltered areas where vehicles will only be able to access at lower speeds, FMs may only need products crash-tested to the PAS 170 specification, which can stop vehicles of up to 2.5 tonnes travelling at 20 mph, rather than products crash-tested to PAS 68 or IWA 14.2.
- Aesthetics: Making the threat visible can negatively affect how people feel, so FMs should evaluate how a product will integrate into the landscape. For a retail park, this will usually require street furniture.
- Installation: Security measures must be installed in the foundations as set out by PAS 68:2013 and PAS 170-1:2017. This standard and its security specification's corresponding documents give guidance on the selection, installation and use of each product.
Jaz Vilkhu is managing director at Marshalls Landscape Protection