THE MAGAZINE

Security by Design in Abu Dhabi

By Hunter R. Burkall, PSP

Best practices. Armed with this information, the SSPM project team was able to identify global best practices, as well as applicable guidance for both crime prevention and counterterrorism planning. It became evident that existing practices in Abu Dhabi did not always reach this standard and that specific changes were necessary to create safe and secure communities.

However, not all of the differences warranted attention. Some of the crime prevention practices could not be transferred from western societies due to marked differences in culture, religion, and climate. For example, the use of ornamental fencing to define a change in ownership and enhance natural surveillance, a common practice in the United States, is less applicable in Abu Dhabi because an emphasis is placed on privacy and the use of high masonry walls. Achieving natural surveillance over an exterior public space from the upper floors of surrounding buildings is also more difficult, as landscaping is specifically designed to offer people shade during the city’s extremely hot summers.

Following the benchmark study, the UPC, on the advice of the SSPM Project Team, elected to implement a centralized system similar to the United Kingdom model. The approach requires that safety and security be considered in the review of all development planning applications submitted for UPC approval, and that a team of specialist advisors be tasked with enforcing the new policy, principles, and guidance outlined in the SSPM.

It was essential that the SSPM cover both crime prevention and counterterrorism planning to avoid the conflicting issues observed in the benchmarking study. In addition, the SSPM needed to target planners, architects, and landscape and urban designers, as opposed to strictly safety and security practitioners. Because the SSPM needed to explain security issues to nonpractitioners, the project team included an abundance of detail. This necessitated a graphic-heavy document, offering many examples and case studies of good and bad practices, with the majority of these examples taken from local events.

For example, the orientation and wedge shape of the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is highlighted in a case study as an innovative planning solution due to design elements that help the building mitigate blast effects. Additionally, the use of a breakwater and water pilings as a boundary treatment to deny maritime craft access to an island museum is another case used to emphasize the value of creative material selection during design.

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