We have all decried our lives in the Indian metros for all the pollution, stress and security challenges we face on an everyday basis. Many of us don’t even question these as they form an integral part of ‘life in Indian cities’. Yet those of us who have travelled overseas would markedly feel this difference even in a single day spent there. This stark contrast will definitely ring a bell with women of all ages and strata of society.
The good news is that we (as architects/designers) are not as helpless on the subject of security as we have conventionally been trained to believe. It is not really a gruesome field far removed from finer sensibilities of architecture and design. Research shows that design can and does influence crime and thereby its prevention at all levels ranging from the city, neighbourhood to the individual building itself.
Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)
This theory is an international approach to crime prevention wherein they believe that every crime has 3 components. We are all aware of the offender/criminal being the first and the target or victim being the second. It is, however, the 3rd component in the form of the location or the environment in which the crime takes place that the security agencies are focussing on. It is also the area of our immediate influence.
This theory termed as ‘Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)’ is also known as ‘Safe by Design’, ‘Design-out crime’, ‘Design-in Security’ in different parts of the world. It propounds that every physical space has the quality to afford or ‘deny’ the opportunity for a crime to take place. The physical attributes can be tailored to influence the behaviour of the occupants of that space. While it cannot claim to eradicate crime there is substantial documentation of its success in crime prevention, worldwide.
CPTED strategies based on surveillance, access control, territoriality, maintenance
This theory is heavily in use in the developed countries including the US, UK, Australia, Japan, and Canada since the 1970s, to the extent of even laying down regulations for sensitive areas like schools, shopping environments, etc. They get all the stakeholders including the government, sociologists, criminologists, local police, urban designers and architects on the same platform to evolve the best policies based on CPTED that make their cities inclusive, liveable and secure.
Research is now extending to India with the setting up of the Indian chapter of the International CPTED Association called the Association for ‘Building Security’ India (ABSI). India has been represented at many international forums, presenting unique case studies that have been exemplary for the global exchange of crime control efforts. Today this science is spreading into other affiliated fields like social inclusivity, cyber CPTED and counter-terror efforts.
‘Building’ Security is the science of building- in (verb) the security in the specific context of buildings (as a noun) and built environments by integrating it in the design elements & approach.
CPTED and many other such global theories bust the myth that the scope of the design fraternity is limited to beautification and concealing the latest security equipment only. Security is not a superficial afterthought to be applied post design as an operational approach by security men alone.
There are many approaches to ‘security conscious’ designs that target what may be called natural, passive, integrated, built-in or ‘smart’ security. This must start with site selection to zoning & layouts, structural design, MEP design, and material selection. All these and customization of behavioural response are immediately and totally at the discretion of the Architect.
The important points to consider are the advantages of such an approach. Research proves beyond question that the integrated approach yields more effective, incorruptible and permanent security that is able to adapt to changing threats and challenges. This too at a maximum of 1-2% extra cost while an after design security retrofit (as per usual practice) can actually cost 15-18% higher.
It is critical that even with the extra expenditure, most of the time there may be insurmountable vulnerabilities generated due to lack of thought in design that may never be made good by the best of equipment and devices. It is especially vital, as the same building – the outcome of an architect’s labour can be either an effectively secure refuge or a weapon of mass destruction for its context depending solely on the security sensitivity built-in.
Just as architects design buildings for the unlikely event of a natural disaster, they can (depending upon the context) design-in resilience to man-made disasters too. While these may not be generic requirements they are already stipulated for certain building types in our immediate context in India. Most of us see these manifested as ugly and fearsome dominations in our urban environment, seldom going beyond statutory fulfilments and theatrics. It is common knowledge that most of the mandatory security provisions (if not all), as per current practice are ineffective and actually potentially lethal instead.
Further experiments with this worldwide concept have found built-in security to greatly enhance the marketability of the real-estate in question, afford long-term insurance benefits and in general- enhance the longevity of such environments. While all these indicate better returns on investment there are long-term gains hitherto undocumented.
Long term concerns
The need and justification of making this integration is often debated and contested in the face of our third world priorities in dealing with poverty, hunger, and lack. However, security is a universal requirement second only to the physiological needs of food and water. More so in our immediate context, we have to deal with all the possible threats ranging from global terror to corporate crimes down to the pettiest of crimes like eve-teasing. In this scenario, security is a pre-requisite to development of any sort.
Not only is it an infrastructural obligation but also a confidence-building essential to attract FDI and global investment. While Terror may be discounted as a disaster that may best be dealt with using unconventional tools of social engineering, it is a must to protect our sensitive installations from the foul-players in the meanwhile.
Likewise, to open India to the world and make it indeed a global player, we need to change the security-related image India has acquired with a special focus on petty crimes pertaining to women, seniors, and non-Indians. The Indian context is screaming out for interventions based on CPTED successes across the globe but with Indian adaptations. Smart Security offers the ideal panacea for many of the security woes we face and empowers the design community to be at the helm of this security revolution. It promises to be that vital constituent to make our cities comprehensively smart.
“SMART can be an adjective to describe a form of aesthetic intelligence and decision making ability or it can be a verb that describes a feeling of hurt or pain.” The decision is ours.