Plan For Parking

May 1, 2008 12:00 PM, Stephanie Silk

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Parking facilities — whether they are adjacent to a building, remote from a building, standalone or in an interior area — pose security risks. Each parking facility should have an objective to provide safe and secure vehicular parking environments. Achieving the objective starts at the planning stage.

So says Shayne Bates, CPP, principal of the Security Consulting Practice at Koffel Associates, Baltimore, where he provides services in risk assessment, design and deployment of integrated and converged security systems. He works with architectural firms to design security systems for new and existing spaces for clients — including parking garages.

Construction costs for a parking garage can range from $5 million to $50 million, depending on the size, according to Bates. The high stakes emphasize the need to consider everything, including safety and security, early in the decision-making process.

A common way to successfully begin construction of a structure is for architecture firms to submit a proposal to put a team together consisting of various disciplines such as code consultants, security, fire protection, mechanical plumbing and electrical engineering. “They work together to get the client what they want. It is called design development, or DD,” Bates says. “It's getting a client to a point where the design is worked out and decided for them.”

Incorporating security in the design involves considering what kind of threats the site may face. Security considerations should surround how to stop a crime in progress or to help an attendant in need of attention, as well as considering factors that may prevent crime from happening. “Feeling safe doesn't happen by accident; it is a by-product of a good design,” Bates says.

A major component of making such decisions involves considering Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) guidelines. These concepts involve three core principles - natural surveillance, natural access control and natural territorial reinforcement - as factors for implementing maximum safety.

A prior risk assessment can identify threats and vulnerabilities, looking at three things: how often a certain crime may occur, when it will occur and how bad it is when it occurs.

Risk assessment can also check for the criminal history of the site, the type of community where it is located and how many cars are expected. “Risk assessment frequently gets ignored and it shouldn't — it is a forerunner to any good design,” Bates says.

Risk assessment will also consider losses such as insurance, incidents, graffiti, manpower and the potential for a wrongful death lawsuit. However, these can be mitigated by good design, procedures and appropriate safeguards that will likely include some form of electronic security.

Risk assessment has a role in design because, as Bates confirms, the key language of business is dollars and security professionals shouldn't forget it. “If we know how often it happens and how much it will cost, we know how much we need to invest in preventing it,” he says. “That number is the Annual Loss Expectancy (ALE).”

Using this system allows security professionals to provide security to clients at a small cost beforehand rather than afterward, when it is more expensive.

Some of the more specific CPTED guidelines for parking garages include suggestions such as:

  • A ceiling painted white to assist in reflection and imaging.

  • Plants and foliage pruned to 8 feet or less.

  • Natural lighting of stairs, elevators and ramps.

  • Entrance booths in maximum visibility with a 360-degree view.

  • Few hiding places.

  • Round columns for better visibility.

  • Ramps located at the exterior with unobstructed views.

Because restrooms are a natural meeting place for victims and predators, the guidelines discourage them, but if included, they should be built as an open maze or a “lazy S,” so cries for assistance may be heard, and there should be easy access to a panic alarm and motion-activated lighting.

Bates says these simple design ideas make it safer. “It's important for the architect to understand all of this.”

However, more than just natural security has to come into play when designing a structure. Technology also plays a role.

To mitigate risk, a few specific considerations can ensure that a structure's video surveillance is implemented into the design correctly, including:

  • Constant light/good illumination

  • Placement

  • Unhindered view

  • Coordination with panic buttons, pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) or fixed to view positions

The American Institute for Architect's Best Practices “Designing Security into Parking Facilities” lays out mechanical measures to be taken. These include movable arms and tire shredders, intercoms for access and egress control, elevator lobby communications, emergency call stations placed strategically within parking facilities or audio detection devices in stairwells to detect signs of distress.

Bates says that nowadays, the concept of immediately considering security when building a parking garage is generally accepted — depending on who you talk to. “There is a continual issue of insurance considerations and liability - i.e. whether the installation of cameras obligates the building owner to manage and monitor those because of the expectation of safety that could be created,” he says. But he says that overall, the construction industry and the security industry work well together. “Understanding that having a good security consultant in the design team will mitigate a great deal of risk even before electronic measures are implemented,” Bates says.

“What makes the business of security more powerful is when security practitioners understand what the architect wants to achieve,” he adds. “And then you ultimately end up with a better product.”

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© 2015 Penton Media Inc.

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