How to add value through security in placemaking and people centred design

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Posted by: Philip Jones, Security Manager, Unibail Rodamco Westfield | Last modified on 24/10/2019


Striking the balance in a world of change

Guest blog contributed by Philip Jones, Security Manager, Unibail Rodamco Westfield, reflecting on key takeaways from Revo's annual security conference.


What is a retail destination?

The retail industry is undergoing a revolutionary change towards creating “destinations”. In other words, retail is focusing more creating experiences, rather than on the goods. What's the first thing that comes in your head when thinking of retail as a destination? Perhaps, something along the lines of:


  • Fun activities;
  • Nice meals;
  • Spectacles and sights;
  • Easy journey


Experience is an emotional thing. Check out this post on Generation Z and the experience economy to learn more.


Simultaneously, in the security world, we are seeing the constant evolution of terrorist and criminal threats. Any public space could become grounds for a terrorist incident or attack. The 2017 London Bridge attacks. The 2017 Las Vegas mass shootings at a music festival. This rise in cyber security threats. Transnational organised crime networks. We're in a period of changing threats.


Society too is changing too. Corporate social responsibility is becoming less of a "tick box exercise", and one focused on meaningfully promoting diversity and inclusion in our local communities.


But how do we create an environment that generates crowds of happy visitors, when crowds are seen as targets?  Are the traditional approaches to security good for retail and placemaking “destinations”?


Security is a feeling.

We are engineers of human experiences. That's a lot of pressure. How do we ensure that we are creating and investing in sustainable retail destinations? This requires understanding the relationship between creating a destination and add values through security.


At Revo's annual Safety and Security conference, John Taylor, head of Security Engineering at Hoare Lea LLP, led the panel: 'Striking the balance in a world of change'. John has a broad experience in security across various markets, including commercial, retail and public sector. He is a Chartered Engineer and Member of the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists.  John believes passionately in getting security right and is never afraid to provoke a debate.


In all my years (there are a few!) of attending security conferences, it is rare to sit through a security presentation by a highly qualified engineer and stay awake! The presentation by John Taylor was thought-provoking, provocative, educational and expertly delivered. Although it would be wrong to suggest that I agreed with everything that he said (I did use the words ‘provocative’ earlier). John skillfully and knowledgeably led the audience down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of a fully integrated, balanced, customer-focused security system that would deliver ‘happy shoppers’ to our shopping centres in the busload!


One key takeaway from the session was that security is a feeling. The feeling of freedom from threat. As engineers of human experience, we must ensure retail destinations provide experiences, whilst also creating spaces that add value through security.


Adding value through security and people centred design

So, how do we create a retail destination promoting experiences, and deliver on security?


John's refreshing approach was stimulating. He acknowledged the need for high-quality, professional and robust security personnel, but contended that this can be accomplished through a two-pronged approach. To present a "soft" face to customers and a "hard" face to potential offenders. He was critical of extremely hostile vehicle mitigation systems (to name just one) delivered with little to no thought on the impact these security risk mitigation measures would have on shoppers.


John challenged the audience to view all security risk mitigation measures (e.g. security officers, hostile vehicle mitigation, CCTV systems, access control systems, and signage) from the customer's perspective. This outlook on how to deliver a customer-focused security system is something quite new to the security industry.


As such, to add value to retail destinations through security requires a more people-centred focus to design. This means asking key questions when implementing security measures in retail places, such as:


  • Does this deter or reassure?
  • Is this inclusive or exclusive?
  • Loitering or vulnerable?


Hostile design is still a huge problem in our public spaces, used to restrict behaviors to maintain public order. Urban design might get co-opted to “manage out the backend of the welfare system.” For example, adding dividers to benches to prevent homeless people from using the space.


“Where there is a genuine need to create safe spaces that are sympathetic to the needs of different identity groups, hostile design is employed as a quick and cheap solution.”


How can design promote wellbeing? Understanding this help jump start a shift in thinking about how retail destinations are designed for the future. Read the full article here.


Similarly, city planning can have an impact on mental health. The "Glasgow effect" refers to the low life expectancy and poor health of residents of Glasgow, Scotland, compared to the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe. A recent study by David Walsh, a public health programme manager at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, reveals that radical urban planning decisions from the 1950s onwards had made the physical and mental health of Glasgow’s population more vulnerable to the consequences of deindustrialisation and poverty. How can we rethink urban living to promote wellbeing? Read the full article here.


Security in placemaking.

As aforementioned, placemaking is all about experiences. This also applies to security in placemaking. We need to focus more on the positive. This means we need to seek the positives by:


  • Reassuring rather than deterring
  • Including more than excluding


Retail destinations need to add value through promoting:


  • Wellbeing
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Economy


Challenge accepted!


Thank you John! I certainly stayed awake during your excellent presentation!


At Revo, we support the people and businesses involved in the diverse world of retail property and placemaking to thrive and prosper. Get in touch to find out more.