Security and Planning:  A Roadmap to Creating Functional, Beautiful and Safer Spaces

October 12th, 2018
security site acquisition

Developing physical environments is always the work of an integrated team of professionals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets.  Involving a security professional early on is critical to delivering a more functional, safer and cost effective long-term plan or design.  From understanding the unique threat-risk picture to vulnerabilities current plans introduce, incorporating security during the planning phase of a project has the potential to not only produce safer physical spaces, but also benefit your project in many other ways.

Before you begin your next master plan, capital project, or analyze a site to acquire, here’s a primer on how integrating security can benefit your planning process:

  • A more economical solution: With diverse perspectives upfront, including that of a physical security professional, the team can work together at the onset to develop a solution that not only meets programmatic needs, zoning and compliance requirements, but also one that considers an appropriate level of security. Changes during early stages of a project can be accomplished much more easily and cost effectively than in later design stages or after construction.   

Some examples of this include:

  • Site Selection and Acquisition: Analyzing the vulnerabilities of a site provides a more comprehensive understanding before acquisition and supports you in selecting the site that is best for your long-term vision.
  • Master planning: Standoff distance and site access are two important areas that when considered early on can have the most impact on your project in terms of security and also program requirements, budget and schedule.


  • A safer environment without sacrificing functionality or aesthetics:  The incorporation of physical security into the planning process supports urban planners, developers, civil engineers and building designers in understanding vulnerabilities that plans introduce.  Working closely with a security professional, a design option or master plan can be developed in a way that produces a safer physical space without sacrificing functionality or aesthetics.

When security is woven into a project from the beginning, there is the ability to integrate principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED principles are focused on shaping the built environment to produce behavioral effects that are likely to reduce the incidence of crime and fear of crime. CPTED uses natural elements and elements of the design together to create a holistic security solution.


  • Sophisticated planning and increased credibility:  Security is more than a system or technology to buy and activate. Malicious attacks are getting more sophisticated. To create safe environments requires proactive planning and solutions that address the reality of security threats and vulnerabilities.  To be able to confidently present your project plan or master plan in front of a city council or board and address security is powerful. Providing options that consider security allow planning professionals, communities and organizations to actively be involved in shaping the world.   As entrepreneur, historian and philosopher Gary Lew famously remarked, “This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will.”  Physical security and planning can work together to solve the challenges of today’s increasingly complex needs for built environments.


  • Integrate with compliance requirements:  Public policy, zoning regulations and codes shape project approval processes and project plans.  These regulations often have strict requirements that impact site and building design. When looked at through the lens of physical security, these requirements can be integrated into a more complete long-term, forward-looking project plan.


  • Plan for the future: A vision for how security can be accomplished and how it fits into an overall master plan or design helps you consider and plan for the future. We have found that security is more effective when you look at the site, building and security holistically so that individual elements such as architecture, landscape and site design are supportive of one another versus detracting from one another.


Involving a physical security professional provides critical risk-informed analysis throughout the project life cycle.  This insight supports long-term vision and proactively seeks to reduce opportunities for crime and protect what’s important.  

AE Works Manager of Planning + Strategy, Tiffany Haile, AICP and Herb Brychta, PSP, CISSP, Security Risk Manager will present on this topic during an upcoming American Planning Association webinar (details to be announced on AE Works social media).  Their session entitled Creating Safe Environments–Integrating Planning, Design & Physical Security will focus on how physical security and planning can be integrated to solve the challenges of today’s increasingly complex needs for built environments.

Have questions or interested in learning more now? Reach out to our team at