Security by Design in Abu Dhabi

By Hunter R. Burkall, PSP

The UPC recognized that there was a need to consult specialists in safety and security planning to undertake this work and established a Safety and Security Team (SST) in 2009. From this point forward, the SST added value to UPC projects by providing input during the development of planning documents. 

It quickly became apparent to the UPC that the SST faced multiple challenges that could jeopardize its overall effectiveness. Chief among these challenges was the lack of crime prevention planning guidelines applicable to the context of Abu Dhabi.

Planners and designers found themselves developing safety and security strategies without the benefit of guidelines. Consideration of security needs were often postponed until late in the design process and, often, without specialist input provided by a qualified security professional. This proved to be a fundamental error leading to missed opportunities and costly constraints. 

The crime prevention and security solutions presented to the UPC for planning approval often failed to satisfy government stakeholders for a number of different reasons. Most prevalent was the proposal of solutions that were not proportionate to risk, jeopardized a project’s vision for function and aesthetics, or did not provide the resources necessary for the security function to be successful. Examples of such missteps included insufficient security facilities or infrastructure to support large-scale master plans.

Most projects were granted UPC planning approval without having to complete additional work; however, more significant projects were held up and were required to develop and integrate an appropriate security strategy prior to gaining approval. Although better than nothing, the strategy available for these projects was often costly and labor intensive.

For example, parking was often located directly under buildings that would host dense crowds and, as a result, required a combination of vehicle screening measures and blast hardening to defend against a vehicle bomb. A more effective and cost-efficient solution only available during early planning is to simply situate parking anywhere besides under the building.


These instances of poor planning prompted the creation of the SSPM. In April 2011, the UPC commissioned a team of planning, design, safety, and security professionals to work with private and public-sector stakeholders to develop and review the technical content for the SSPM. The project stakeholders included representatives from local developers and higher education institutions, in addition to officers from various federal and local security entities who could add insight into the current safety and security challenges faced by Abu Dhabi.



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