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Security is usually the top priority for residents in any block where that security is inadequate. If security is inadequate then other investment and improvement programmes are likely to fail and resources will be wasted.

 

Tower blocks have very specific needs in terms of security, affected by the design and layout of the building and the fact that there is one common door which controls access to semi-private space inside. The key problem is that this private space – the foyers, lifts and corridors  - is often seen as public space. It is then used for a range of anti-social behavior, including vandalism and drug-dealing.

 

Keeping people out who have no right to be in these spaces is the first priority. Different blocks employ different approaches: some are covered by existing local council or other landlord arrangements, while some employ their own security guards or concierge. Most blocks do not have a concierge and rely on cameras and door entry systems.

 

 

REFURBISHMENT OPTIONS

 Basic

Create an accessible entrance

Provide access control system

Provide vandal resistant doors

Good

Install a CCTV monitoring system

 Exemplary

Provide a concierge system 

Create an accessible entrance

Ideally everyone should be able to access the building through a single integrated entrance. The main entrance should be visually prominent, well signposted, welcoming and accessible to building residents and visitors whether they are wheelchair users, ambulant disabled, parents with small children and buggies, people with assistance dogs or people with bulky luggage.

 

 Measures that can help reduce barriers to access at the main entrance are:

     ·         Visual prominence

·         A fully accessible approach

·         Flush thresholds

·         Wide door openings

·         An accessible entrance door

 

Visual prominence: The main entrance should contrast significantly from its surroundings and be well lit and sign-posted. Extending the main entrance out from the base of the tower with an enlarged lobby area or canopy can improve orientation, especially where the entrance is currently recessed. Increasing the visual scale of the entrance relative to the rest of the tower through the bold use of colour, contrasting materials and integrated signage can also help to define its location. Highly reflective materials, such as polished stainless steel, can be visually confusing and should be avoided.

 

A fully accessible approach:

Ideally there should be a level approach from the site boundary, and from car parking spaces designated for disabled people, to the main entrance. If the tower block currently has an approach that includes steps it will be necessary to add a new ramped access. Existing ramps should be reviewed against current best practice and, if they are the only form of access available, additional stepped access may need to be incorporated to assist people with restricted mobility. External mechanical lifting devices, such as wheelchair lifts, are unlikely to be appropriate as they are prone to breakdown and vandalism, and can be inconvenient for people to use.

Ramps should have a maximum gradient of 1:12 and a minimum width of 1.5m. When required, intermediate landing should be at least 1.5m long and clear of obstructions. It is important to provide an unobstructed view from one end of the ramp to the other.

 Where steps are provided they should have a minimum surface width of 1.2m with the rise of each step between 150mm and 170mm, and the going of each step between 280mm and 425mm. Rises should be closed and without projecting nosings.

Clear landings at the head and foot of the ramp and stepped access should be at least 1.2m long and clear of any obstructions. Both ramps and stairs should be provided with guarding and handrails on both sides with consideration given to the provision of a second lower handrail. Any change in level or gradient needs to be made apparent through visual contrast. Care needs to be taken in the location of tactile hazard warning surfaces as they can provide confusing messages if used inappropriately.

 

Flush thresholds:

Even small upstands at the entrance can present a significant barrier to access, particularly for people pushing wheelchair users or buggies, and can potentially be dangerous. Upstands greater than 5mm high should be chamfered or rounded and under no circumstances should they exceed 15mm in height. 

 

Wide door openings:

Effective clear width can be defined as the width available when a door is fully opened, excluding any projecting obstructions such as ironmongery. An effective clear opening of 775mm is wide enough to allow a pushed wheelchair user to comfortably enter the building. A wider opening of 1000mm would allow people to enter the building with greater ease, especially parents with double buggies. In the case of double-swing doors at least one of the door leaves should meet the minimum width required and in restricted situations this could be achieved by offsetting the door leafs. [Note: Widening of existing door way in flats normally require diamond cutting to sheer wall construction.]

 

An accessible entrance door:

In most cases for an external entrance door to be accessible, it will need to be powered, fitted with accessible door controls and designed to fail safe in emergencies. Automatic sliding doors are generally preferable to automatic swing doors as they maximise the available space and remove the risks associated with a swing action, however they will require greater installation width to house the sliding panels. Ideally there should be a clear view through into the entrance lobby from outside, and to avoid collisions, vision panels at appropriate heights should be incorporated into doors. Where fully glazed doors and screens are specified, care must be taken to ensure that people with visual impairments can clearly distinguish between the two areas of glazing, whether the entrance door is open or shut. Any manual access controls should be located between 750mm and 1000mm above floor level, and should be operable with a closed fist.

 

Other considerations

 

Weather protection:

As people may need to pause before they enter the building - especially where manually operated doors are provided - it may be appropriate to provide protection from the weather in the form of a canopy or wind breaks. Any protection should not present a visual or physical obstruction to the visually impaired and should keep sightlines to the entrance open.

 

 

Benefits

  • Compliance with Building Regulations and DDA legislation

  • Removing barriers to access can help to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all

Typical Cost

□  Widening of existing door way in flats will cost approximately £300 per door.

-Assuming minimum daywork rate is around £260 for 1 man team and £360 for 2men team - Other cost to consider is break out, cart away, shuttering, protection, make good, etc

 

Funding opportunities:

□  New Deal for Communities or other regeneration funds

Also see:

□  Concierge scheme

□  Vandal-resistant doors

□  CCTV

More information:

□  National Register of Access Consultants
□  Centre for Accessible Environments

□  www.magda.org.uk/unidesign.html

□  www.daiwa-foundation.org.uk

□  BS 8300:2001 section 6.1 principal entrance

□  Approved Document M, Building Regulations

Suppliers:

  Splicecom Ltd

To register as a supplier click here...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

   

 

Provide Access Control System

The most basic security requirement for any building is that those who need to enter can do so easily and those who have no access rights find it hard to get in.

If the block does not have effective security then this should be a first step: without it any other improvements are likely to be at risk.

 

The main question will be how much money is available. The exemplary option, and the one that is far and away the most effective is to have a concierge scheme (see separate file). If this is not possible then other more basic improvements may be made.

 

Basic Actions

  • Each flat needs to be able to let their own visitors in remotely. The access intercom systems must be fully functional and vandal proofed

  • Other entries such as fire escape doors cannot be opened from outside and should also close automatically.

  • Signage should make it clear that this is not public space

Good practice

  • A camera built in to the access intercom and linked to the blocks TV system means that any resident who is rung can see who is pushing the bell simply by changing the channel on their TV.

  • CCTV systems will help deter some anti-social activity but need to be monitored locally for real effect.

Case Study: Burnsall Grange Leeds, tenants wanted better security. After discussion with the housing managers it was agreed that there should be cameras both on the door and round the side of the blocks. The block had three doors: after discussion on safety issues, one side door was blocked off and security improved on the other. Residents can now watch the front door camera on their TV. A camera has also been installed in the car park: this is linked to the overall police CCTV system.

 

 

Other considerations

 

The key consideration is maintaining the security and access control. At the very least this entails having a rapid repair service available; more helpful are security patrols or ideally concierge systems. All this will involve an ongoing financial commitment.

 

Benefits

Adequate access control is a first step to good security, which will in turn please the residents and increase their support for other work. 

   

Typical Cost

□  Access Control System: £380 - £430 per flat

-Base on 162 units of flats; based on Splicecom System and BT providing main frame & patch panels to every 3rd floor house in landlord electrical cupboard, incl. testing & commissioning; door entry via telephone and also link to the tenants TV set.

 

□  Video Entry System: £650 - £950 per flat

- Cost of supply only of the video entry with 4" Flat CRT monitor (black & white) Infra LED to the overall wiring of the door entry system is around £180 (supply only)

 

□  Proximity access control system: £600 - £700 per flat

- Based on 22 nr. Dwelling by running the new Door Entry system in a rising trucking through the building wired along the balconies via a plastic conduit and assume vandal resistant door is existing

 

Funding opportunities:

□  New Deal for Communities

Also see:

□  Concierge scheme

□  Vandal-resistant doors

□  CCTV

More information:

□ www.nelincs.gov.uk

□ www.doncaster.gov.uk

Suppliers:

  www.tensor.co.uk

To register as a supplier click here...

 

Provide Vandal-Resistant Doors

 

Adequate doors are essential for any kind of security. If doors can be kicked open or locks or hinges can be easily vandalised then security is compromised. This is likely to lead to vandalism and may increase crime and anti-social behaviour within the block.

  

Any refurbishment should include a survey of all access doors as a first step. It may be that the frames and surroundings will need to be replaced or redesigned as door quality is improved.

 

Consultation with residents and perhaps local police will help make it clear just how big a problem security is: this will depend on many factors. The block where non-residents attached chains to the doors and pulled them off their hinges using a truck is likely to be the ‘worst case’ scenario!

 

It is important that the door locks are also secure and cannot, as far as is feasible, be blocked or opened up from the outside.

 

While solid doors may seem to be a desirable option if this cuts down on visibility then it may lead to other security problems. There should be adequate hardened glass panels to ensure that those inside can see who they may be letting in.

 

Whatever is done should ensure that basic standards are met and that security improves. Some monitoring system, either with the landlord or the residents will help show how far vandalism, crime and dissatisfaction fall once security has improved.

 

Improving the doors should ideally relate to an overall redesign to improve security or to the introduction of concierges. Any new door system should also include work on fire doors or other access points.

 

Doors are only one aspect of security. Good lighting and perhaps CCTV will help cut damage to doors; making the area outside the doors safe and secure will help residents feel more confident.
 

Benefits

Good security will lead to savings on maintenance and will also improve resident attitudes to living in the block.

 

Typical Cost

□  Approximately £13,000 for the main door

This should be a core cost as part of any refurbishment

 

Funding opportunities:

□  New Deal for Communities

Also see:

□  Concierge scheme

□  Vandal-resistant doors

□  CCTV

More information:

□  Secured by Design

Suppliers:

□  Pensher + Skytech

To register as a supplier click here...

 

Install a Closed Circuit TV

 

An increasing number of landlords are introducing CCTV into tower blocks. CCTV within the block, and, where appropriate, in the surroundings can help reduce anti-social behaviour and crime, although to be effective this requires a rapid response mechanism

 

This will require effective consultation with residents so that they understand the implications of what might be installed. They will also have ideas on where the most suitable locations will be for cameras. The CCTV system will also need to be adequately monitored which is an ongoing maintenance cost.

 

In Brunsall Grange, Leeds, tenants and landlord agreed on the need for cameras. After discussion with the housing managers it was agreed that there should be cameras both on the door and round the side of the blocks. The block had three doors: after discussion on safety issues, one side door was blocked off and security improved on the other. Residents can now watch the front door camera on their TV. A camera has also been installed in the car park: this is linked to the overall police CCTV system.

 

Other considerations

 

While CCTV has some deterrence value that only lasts if people know that there is a response system. The nearer the monitoring base is to the tower the more likely it is that there will be some form of response to an incident.

 

Many councils have a central CCTV monitoring system which may be some kilometres from the tower. While this will keep records which may be useful for prosecution they will rely on others e.g. the police to make any rapid response.

 

There are legal limitations on how CCTV cameras can be used (some blocks have been unable to install them in car parks) if it is not clear to anyone arriving in the areas that they may be filmed.

 

The impact of CCTV is contested: critics suggest it merely moves crime elsewhere. However since tower blocks offer very specific opportunities not always found elsewhere it seems likely that installation in this situation will cut opportunistic crime.
 

Benefits

CCTV is an effective deterrent against crime and vandalism in certain cases and can thus save money and improve resident satisfaction.

 

Typical Cost

□  Camera: 2500-5000

□  PC Controller: 3000-4000

□  Monitor: 1700-2500

□  Multiplex: 1700-2500

□  Video recorder: 1700-2500

- cost depending on the specification, resistant against vandal and weather

 

Funding opportunities:

□  New Deal for Communities

Also see:

□  Concierge scheme

□  Vandal-resistant doors

More information:

□  Security Park

Suppliers:

  Total Security Protection

To register as a supplier click here...

 

Provide a Concierge System

The exemplary and best tower block security is provided by a ‘concierge system’, where an individual keeps watch at the entrance and refuses access to non-residents with no business in the block.

This involves a redesign of the common areas at the entrance to provide a secure space for the concierge staff and a door system through which they can control access.

More significant is the need for ongoing funding to provide adequate cover. Generally speaking the more hours the concierge system is running the more secure the block. The times when it will be most needed may vary from block to block.

Case Study: Agar grove, Camden: “To get from a very grotty and unsafe place to a decent community took about six years of sustained tenant involvement. There was initial resistance from some tenants to the establishment of a concierge: they felt that their rights to privacy were compromised. The drug dealers, benefit fraudsters and others involved in criminal lives suddenly became much more visible. Six months into the scheme there had been a drastic change in attitudes within the block. Break-ins stopped completely. Vandalism stopped too. In fact residents became very “block” conscious to the extent that dropping litter came to be seen as anti social behavior!

Other considerations

The location of the concierge is important. They may control the front door or be based in the foyer and control an inner door. Ensure that the concierge can see and ideally control all access points such as fire escape doors.

Concierge systems are popular with but to be effective they need to be well managed and resourced. The concierges need to be able to be active and should act as a mechanism for residents to report not only incidents but also needs for repairs etc. They seem to work best when managed by a Tenant Management Organisation in-house: “the longer you’ve been running one the less you need one”

Intensive concierge schemes (one per block) are best; dispersed concierge schemes where one centre on an estate performs the function for several blocks work less well, except in the block where they are based.

Concierge schemes are expensive and the most difficult aspect is funding: even where money can be found for one-off refurbishment, there may not be the funding for permanent staff. However this should remain the preferred option.

Concierge schemes in blocks with transient or vulnerable problems are desirable but are likely to be little more than holding operations, rather than the basis for long-term improvements. This relates to Lettings Policy.

 

Benefits

Good security is essential if other improvements are not to be vandalised: the costs of such a system will be off-set by reduced maintenance bills.

 

Typical Cost

□  Ongoing cost of concierge will vary widely depending on staffing levels but a good well managed 24 hour scheme can cost approximately £60,000-£120,000 per year.

 

Capital cost setting up an office and counter space will cost around £10,000. Assuming  provision of a 3m x 2m room with TV monitor, counter and finishes.

 

Funding opportunities:

□  This will require ongoing commitment from the landlord.

Also see:

□  Vandal-resistant doors

□  CCTV

More information:

□  High Hopes: Concierge, controlled entry and similar schemes for high rise blocks  Safe Neighborhoods unit for DoE 1997

□  OPDM: 066: Concierge, controlled entry & similar schemes for high rise blocks

Suppliers:

  Ward Security Ltd

To register as a supplier click here...

 

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