Secured by Design

fourLINK Blog

Secured by Design for housing

11th April 2016

Secured by Design ( is an official Police security initiative within the United Kingdom which has been developed over a number of years to guide new-build developments with proven design practices which help create safer and more secure environments.

A number of built environment consulting design guidelines have been developed, each with a specific focus on a particular area of development, including residential, commercial, schools and hospital environments. The guidelines include toolkits which explore best practice for how building design and orientation can be a powerful way of designing out opportunities for crime and anti-social behaviour.

Based on years of research and development, the guidelines have been proven to achieve a reduction in crime risk, including up to 75% less burglaries, 25% less vehicle crimes and 25% less criminal damage for residential properties. The Secured by Design initiative is owned by the Police service and supported by the Home Office. It is also referenced by the Government in the building codes for minimum design requirements for any new development. 

Under the residential guide, Secured by Design provides design guidelines under “Section 1: Development layout and design” and “Section 2, Physical security of the home.”  Awards of SBD Gold, Silver and Bronze are awarded to exemplar development projects.

The site planning is important to ensure that the roads, parking and footpaths around the residential development are designed to ensure they are visually open, direct, well used and should not undermine any private or semi-private space. The choice of road surface materials, the narrowing of the roads, pillars, or carefully selected and maintained planting can all help define more private areas which can create a strong sense of security as it allows the residents private ares to feel more 'defensive'.

Simple, low and semi-transparent demarcation between property boundaries towards the front public spaces create a permeable barrier which clearly defines the privately owned area, but does not create physical barriers to hide behind.

Cul-de-sacs which are short in length and without footpaths linking beyond can be very safe environments with low crime. The orientation of the buildings and position of the windows out to the street or public open areas is also important so that there are no blind walls and unseen areas. Passive supervision of the external public areas from the main habitable living areas of a property is important to ensure natural surveillance.

Amenity and play spaces should also be positioned where passive surveillance takes place from dwellings in order to reduce potential crime and anti-social behaviour.

The position of front doors to dwellings also needs to be positioned so that they can be easily seen from the street, public areas and other properties, with careful consideration paid to prevent screening by planting or other buildings. The idea is that passive supervision makes the potential offender feel vulnerable to detection.

In comparison to the front, the access to the side or rear of the property needs designed with lockable 1.8m high fencing to prevent unauthoried access to the rear of the property. Careful consideration needs to be made to position things like rubbish bin stores or similar to prevent easy climbing access over the fencing. Rear access footpaths should also be avoided as research shows that 85% of forced entries occurred at the back of the house.

By mixing the types of properties on a development, there is more likely to be a mix of residents with different living habits and working patterns, enabling greater potential for homes to be occupied throughout the day and night. Quiet streets during the day provide an increased opportunity for crimes again the property, and quiet streets at night provide a greater chance of crimes against the person.

While lighting is a good deterrent for crime and creates a better feeling of security, it must have a good colour rending and also be carefully placed, as good lighting in isolated areas can actually increase crime as offenders can clearly what they are doing.

Lighting should be placed to prevent glare and dark places where people can hide. Smart lighting can also be used which dims when no activity is detected and activates when movement is present. This can not only prevent unnecessary power use, helps maintain a “dark sky” environment to prevent light pollution but also illuminates the movement of people at night, which can create an enhanced feeling of safety. Care must be taken to prevent nuisance switching.

Specific building security measures focus on the quality and type of windows and doors, and how they can be opened and secured when the property is unoccupied.  They must also be able to provide ventilation without the risk of unauthorised entry or without hindering escape in case of fire.

Secured by Design is a built environment consulting technique which has proven to be a valuable design guide tool and over the years has helped shape many developments to enhance safety and security, and reduce crime. The design principles are used by the fourLINK team when we approach new design projects throughout the world. While every country has its own unique design requirements and challenges, we often refer back to the latest version of Secured by Design as a useful tool for approaching new design challenges as part of our accommodation construction consulting and housing consulting services.

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