Interest Lagging in Building Security Technology

Report from real estate investors says security interest cooling now, six years after 9/11

Smarter Security Systems offers an array of commercial security technology, such as the Door Detective access-control device and a line of high-tech Fastlane turnstiles. Mark Ellsworth, vice president of sales and business development, says demand for the company's products has risen substantially since 9/11. Customers include Beacon Properties Corp., Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

Ellsworth says buildings in Eastern and Northern cities have adopted security technology more readily that those in Southern and Western cities have. The stragglers, he says, "have more of an attitude that the problems will hit New York before reaching them."

Whether you're in New York or New Mexico, relying too heavily on technology as a "silver bullet" to ward off terrorists is the wrong approach, says Ahrens, the Schirmer Engineering consultant.

"The best approach is to layer technical, physical and operational security as part of an overall security program to deter, delay or possibly detect the event before it occurs. We want to make the aggressor conclude that he will be caught, and move on to an easier target," Ahrens says. "In essence, a commercial building's security is only as good as its weakest neighbor."

In a bid to make building owners and managers more proactive and vigilant, the Building Security Council was formed in 2005. Last November, the council created the Building Security Certified Professional designation for licensed engineers, architects and others. To earn the designation, professionals must pass an exam testing their knowledge of risk assessment, facility operations and other aspects of building security. As of early August, 46 people had earned the designation.

Next year, the Building Security Council is scheduled to launch the Building Security Rating Program. The voluntary program will enable owners and managers to evaluate and improve the security of their buildings. Owners and managers of rated buildings will be exempt from many third-party liability claims following a terrorist attack, the council says.

"The efforts to improve the security of state, municipal and privately owned buildings are largely uncoordinated, ineffective or nonexistent," the Building Security Council says in a statement. "With respect to security, building owners face a daunting matrix of choices, costs and ill-defined benefits. They generally have no methodology for pursuing a balanced approach to security and no way of measuring the success of any such efforts."