Ryan Taylor of RTA has a commercial architecture background. His experience on projects for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Greenville County Magistrate Court, Dekalb County Superior Court and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice gave Ryan an appreciation for the challenges of securing properties and spaces within buildings.
Security concerns for a residential property are driven by a number of factors such as location, design, building contents, number of occupants, age of occupants, police response time, proximity to escape routes (like expressways) and other factors. Although alarm system advertisements often show families with a husband and wife, many American homes have single parents and fewer people are getting married so more people are at home alone.
We’d appreciate the opportunity to address your unique set of circumstances. We hope the following comments about our range of security-related services will give you a sense of how we can respond to your concerns.
Design for Access Control
Controlling access on your property, at the perimeter of your house and within your house can often be accomplished by design rather than by relying exclusively on active systems or personnel. The layout and placement of elements can help keep out intruders and give you visual control of spaces so you can move around your property safely.
Although access control is typically established at the exterior walls of a house, there can be access control points within your home too. For example, there are key interior points like the access between public and private spaces that can also be controlled by design.
Access control is not always about keeping people out, it can also help keep people (and animals) in. Examples include people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and children.
Durable Materials Selection
Commercial, institutional and government facilities use a technique called hardening to describe increased security at the perimeter of a building or complex. While this increased security is typically for blast threats, it also mitigates breach threats. If you’re concerned about a perimeter breach, we can deter criminals by using durable materials in areas where they would consider breaking in.
In a house, this might mean using a brick veneer from the ground to the top of the first floor so criminals won’t have any place to break through. When paired with upgraded doors and windows, this is a deterrent system.
Door, Window & Hardware Selection
Doors and windows in plain sight are less likely to be breached by criminals. The doors that are out of sight, especially at the back of the house, can be upgraded to steel doors with heavier hardware and fasteners to deter criminals. Windows can be placed where they’re more difficult to access from the exterior and the window type can be changed to a format that’s easier to secure without a significant change in appearance.
The selection and installation of hardware makes a significant difference. Having secure doors and windows doesn’t help if the connections that keep them in place aren’t strong enough to resist criminals. Additional fasteners and structure around doors and windows need to be coordinated before installation. It’s also important to select hardware so even though you have added security, the operation isn’t difficult.
Building Systems Integration
Building systems include the mechanical (air conditioning), electrical, plumbing and other systems that you use day-to-day. There are a number of building system integration techniques from buried power lines to ventilation, lighting packages and building automation that can make your home more responsive to you and potential threats.
There are other critical concerns, even in secure and politically stable areas. These concerns typically arise from lack of available resources like water. Water is heavy (8lbs per gallon) and can turn septic (toxic) quickly when not stored properly. It’s wise to keep a few days of water in reserve in case you encounter a resource shortage due to a natural disaster, poor resource management, political upheaval or other reason. We can help design and integrate a storage solution into your building to provide the level of security you require.
Fire Sprinkler Integration
Fire sprinkler systems have been written into the latest round of model building codes although some lobbying groups have successfully fought to exclude the mandatory requirements from local building codes. We’re not aware of any laws or regulations that would prohibit you from installing a fire sprinkler system in your home even if it’s not required by your local building code. We can use the existing standards for the design and integration.
Emerging sprinkler technology is based on nautical designs that use sprinkler heads to produce a fine mist rather than drowning the fire with the heavy water flows of older sprinkler systems. The mist suffocates the fire without flooding your property. You can also use a dry pipe design that gives you time to turn off the system between the alarm and when the water starts to flow.
Alarm System Design Consulting
Alarm system components are parts like motion detectors, contact switches, glass break detector and keypads. The components used by many alarm system companies are not proprietary – they’re made by third parties like Honeywell and GE. Since the alarm companies use the same components, it’s much easier to develop a generic preliminary layout of the system during the design of a project like a renovation, addition or new construction.
If you’re not in the process of a larger building project, we can still coordinate the alarm system with upgrades to exterior components like doors, windows and hardware. With the advent of wireless components, you have much more flexibility about when you install the system because you no longer have to open an existing house to run wiring from the alarm system components to the control panel. We typically advocate hard wiring components in some locations and avoiding hard wiring in others because of the appearance and the installation effects.
Heat, smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detection are among the most critical components of any alarm system. We think these components and the panic feature are the most compelling reason to consider remote monitoring and smart phone integration for your system. We can also help with the coordination of home automation tools for lighting and air conditioning.
Emergency Power Coordination
Having local power generation can be a tremendous benefit during power outages resulting from equipment failures, accidents, brownouts, storms and natural disasters. Emergency power can come from an active system such as a generator running on fuel like natural gas or gasoline. Emergency power can also come from passive sources like photovoltaic systems.
Natural gas generators can be disabled during seismic events when they’re shifted out of place or the natural gas source is interrupted. Natural gas lines may not be available on your project site either so it’s important to select your fuel sources based on more factors than just convenience and cost.
Emergency power should be integrated into the design of the electrical system, even if it’s part of a renovation. It’s rare for emergency power to supply enough power for all the electrical loads of your property because it’s cost prohibitive to buy a such a large system for occasional interruptions. So, you’ll need to select what you want to operate during an emergency and have those loads on separate circuits. Emergency power also typically requires a switch to change the power supply from of the power company to your emergency source.
The location of your emergency power source is also an issue, particularly if it’s a fuel-driven generator. They’re much more quiet than previous models though they still make noise, need clearance around the unit, require maintenance and produce exhaust. We’ll be happy to help you with the design whether it’s part of a new build or you want to install it in an existing house.
Storm Shelter Design
Storm shelters can be integrated into the design of a house so that they appear to be a pantry, closet or other functional room without windows. These spaces can also be used as a panic room. It’s important for a storm shelter to be securely connected to the foundation so a panic room is not necessarily a storm shelter.
The access to storm shelters can also be a challenge. Even if you can enter the shelter from the inside of your house, we prefer to have an exterior access in case a natural disaster causes your house to collapse on the storm shelter – we don’t want you to be trapped under the debris of your house.
Family Archive Design
You can use a combination of storm shelter design and fire sprinkler systems to create an archive to store your family photos, videos, books and those possessions that can’t be replaced. Some residential air conditioning systems now offer controls for temperature and humidity so you can have a climate controlled space for relatively little cost.
Firearms Storage Design
A dedicated space in your home might be an appropriate solution for maintaining responsible control of your firearms (and other weapons). Vaults and safes should be coordinated with the structure of the house to support the weight – we typically design foundations to support the weight although the finished floor can look the same as the rest of the space. Small safes should be integrated with the structure so they can’t be easily torn out and opened later.
We also have experience with hidden rooms. In addition to disguising the entrance to the space, there are also building systems and access control challenges. Hidden rooms aren’t exclusive to new construction projects, it’s possible to include them in renovation projects.
Security consultants use terms like “threat mitigation” to describe their work. Our effective goal is to make your property respond to your needs. For most people that means using a combination of strategies to make your home a more difficult target than neighboring properties so criminals will move on to weaker targets.
Some people require a higher level of security that includes more of the strategies described on this page. In either case, we work to integrate those solutions so that they’re not obvious to your guests. Please contact us if you’re like to learn more.
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