Survey seeks terrorism prevention ideas for buildings

    Press/Media: Research


    EDMOND, Okla. (AP) - David McIlhatton knows terrorism cannot be prevented. But measures to keep people safe often deter people from visiting sites or cities.

    “We don’t want a strong physical (security) presence because that doesn’t do anything to engage investment,” he told The Jouranl Record ( ).

    McIlhatton studies terrorism and its societal influence at Coventry University in England. He and University of Central Oklahoma real estate professor David Chapman are working on a study about terrorism and the built environment.


    Their work started last fall. McIlhatton gave an update on their work at the Central Oklahoma Commercial Association of Realtors’ annual summit on Thursday at the UCO Nigh University Center in Edmond.

    McIlhatton and Chapman have issued a survey to architects, engineers, city planners, investors and other real estate professionals. It has been answered by more than 150 people worldwide. They’ve conducted interviews in Sydney, Belfast, London, New York City and Oklahoma City. They will travel to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to visit with real estate professionals there as well.

    McIlhatton said many survey takers said preventing an attack’s impact isn’t the top of their building’s design priorities. But the threat is real and needs to be understood better, he said.


    Chapman said for him, the surveys have revealed two surprising answers. The first result is that some architecture firms see a competitive edge in implementing designs created to limit an attack’s impact. The other result came during interviews in Oklahoma City, where architects said they would ask their next client about implementing such a design.

    Chapman said he’s concerned that the counterterrorism measures would take away from a privately owned building’s urban design. Typical urbanist design calls for close curb cuts, while terrorism-prevention ideas - like those seen in a federal building - call for the building to be far from vehicles.

    “I’m convinced we can create place and still keep people safe,” Chapman said.

    McIlhatton said whatever designs are constructed to limit terrorism’s impact must be proportional to the threat, which is a recommendation that will come in their final paper. During his presentation, he showed downtown Belfast, where people went through airport-like security to get into the area. There was also a curfew.

    But getting building owners to put in designs that limit an attack’s impact could come with cost and change the pro forma. That’s where incentives would be needed, Chapman said. The real estate industry dealt with a similar issue when buildings were required to get sprinklers. Insurance companies offered discounted premiums, helping to offset the installation costs.

    Chapman said one survey question is what incentive would be required to get owners to put impact-limiting designs in their buildings.

    “We want to protect people, but we still want to make it an exciting place to come,” he said.

    The final recommendations will be published in a paper this fall. Chapman said the results could become construction-code changes, similar to changes made for buildings to stand up to tornadoes or earthquakes.

    “If (these designs) are thought of at the earlier stages it’s much cheaper than going back and designing the space,” McIlhatton said.

    Period5 Apr 2017

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