Monday, December 31, 2012

Target hardening, ballistic glass and the God Particle

Today ends an AaaHaa year for scientific discovery. The pinnacle was the Higgs-Boson subatomic particle discovery - the so-called God Particle - at the LHC particle accelerator in Switzerland.

What does it mean? I have no idea. But my science friends tell me the discovery is a very big deal; it confirms the standard model of physics. That will keep future theory on track so our descendants end up with better supercomputers, new kinds of energy, interstellar space flight…whatever. In any event, it does sound cool.

Why does this matter in CPTED - crime prevention through environmental design? It matters because it shows how testing and staying true to a theory keeps practice pointed in the right direction.


The past few weeks I've been studying ballistic glazing and glass-clad polycarbonates for high-rise towers - to the non-engineers that's window target hardening for bombs and guns, the comfort food of security. Target hardening is important for my client. It keeps vulnerable assets safe and that's a good thing.

After Oklahoma City, glass curtain walls are often target hardened
Despite that we should never confuse target hardening with CPTED. To do so distorts the intention of the theory and we don't have social particle accelerators to get us back on track.

The early CPTED literature has no reference to target hardening. Read Elisabeth Wood, Schlomo Angel, Jane Jacobs, Oscar Newman, and C. Ray Jeffery. It's not there. True, there were some government funders back then who insisted target hardening be included in grant proposals for some early evaluations. That's probably where the theory distortion began.

Today that myth persists. I hear it described as a CPTED strategy for controlling access through mechanical means. I see it in calls for ballistic glass and guns to protect our schools or chain-link fences to protect front lawns. I see it in all kinds of bunker-building designs ascribed to CPTED.

Target hardening is fine for security work and cutting crime opportunities. Also, there are some great websites with excellent advice. However it comes at a social and financial cost. CPTED guru Tom MacKay calls it the target hardening trap.

An early model of CPTED incorporating target hardening. The "myth" begins! 
If CPTED theory has morphed to include target hardening then obviously there has been too much wallowing in shallow thought pools. We need to get past these bunker-building distortions.


Howbeit we make the following New Year's Resolution: We reaffirm the original community-building intention of CPTED theory by those who created it. We go to the source:

C. Ray Jeffery: "Loneliness and alienation need not characterize our urban life. Cities can also be designed so as to increase human contact of an intimate nature." (CPTED, 1971)

Oscar Newman: "This book is an effort to formulate a new concept for geographic communities which reflect…the bringing together of separate communities to refashion urban environments [and] stabilize threatened neighborhoods." (Communities of Interest, 1980)

Elisabeth Wood: "In the long run there is no substitute for the contributions that the tenants make to the welfare and economical management of a project…design can facilitate the social fabric out of which a tenant organization grows and by means of it can be effective." (Housing Design, 1961)

Happy New Year.

2 Replies so far - Add your comment

Anonymous said...

As I was reading your thoughts on target hardening it reminded me of the 50's bomb shelter era. Unless you have a specific and practicable reason for taking such steps it all seems like a waste and only meets a need to be safe which is not the same as being safe.

Van C.

GSaville said...

Thanks Van.

I remember those bomb shelter things. Those were the one's where you hide away from the nukes only to emerge into a slow radioactive death. Yep, they were classic.