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If you’ve visited the U.S. Capitol recently, you may have overlooked an understated, yet significant, architectural feature – the 150-acre Capitol Hill campus is ringed by about 7,000 waist-high steel posts, or security bollards. The bollards blend well with their surroundings, but their real purpose is security. Installed shortly after 9/11, they can stop an eight-ton truck from plowing into them at 50 mph.
Bollards have been around for centuries. What started as a way to moor boats evolved into an effective means to control traffic and protect property and pedestrians from vehicle-ramming incidents, whether intentional (vandalism, robbery, terrorism) or accidental.
Following 9/11, many U.S. cities quickly installed security bollards and other physical barriers at major landmarks and capitol buildings. Some barriers, deemed excessive, were later removed. But recent vehicle-related attacks across Europe and in the U.S., notably New York City, have prompted a resurgence.
Traditionally, military, government and other high-security facilities have made widespread use of bollards. More and more, however, you’ll find these and other security barriers protecting popular tourist destinations, parks, pedestrian plazas, bike lanes, educational and business campuses, hospitals and more.
Do security barriers make sense for your facilities? As you examine your risk profile, take a look at the different types available, their cost and installation considerations, as well as how to balance safety with aesthetics.
Types of Security Barriers and Tips for Bollard Placement
To find the right fit, consider the areas you’re protecting – one building, multiple facilities, pedestrian spaces, parking lots? Then, consider how often they need protection.
Do you host a variety of outdoor special events? Portable, temporary barriers can be towed within minutes to barricade parking lots or streets for sporting events, street fairs and other short-term events. Mobile deployable vehicle crash barriers, which run on their own power systems, can stop 7.5-ton vehicles traveling 40 mph. Lighter units can be towed by a golf cart and set up easily to decelerate and stop a ramming vehicle over a short distance.
Are you looking for a more long-term solution? Fixed bollards, embedded in concrete footings, serve as permanent fixtures. But manual versions offer more flexibility since they can be raised and lowered, or even removed from their footings, to protect pedestrian areas, but allow authorized vehicles to gain access as needed (grounds maintenance, for example). Either way, keep the following in mind as you weigh your options
Costs for security bollards
Costs for bollards can vary widely, depending on the materials and crash ratings. Bollards made of solid plastic used to define spaces and deter vehicle access can cost less than $100 per barrier. Concrete or concrete-filled steel bollards can run hundreds to thousands of dollars a piece, depending on their performance specifications and decorative accents. That doesn’t include bollard installation costs.
Bollard Installation & Bollard Placement Standards
Each bollard, whether fixed or manual, requires a footing, so your installers will have to survey the location to avoid interference with utility and other underground lines. The positioning of your bollards will also have to comply with fire department codes for emergency exiting, local building codes, as well as accessibility codes to accommodate disabled visitors. Placement standards follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires bollards placed in areas with pedestrian traffic to be spaced a minimum of three feet apart to allow safe passage for wheelchairs and motorized chairs. Bollards should never be placed more than five feet apart, however, to protect against vehicle traffic.
How Do I Maintain a Secure, Yet Welcoming Environment?
Heavy-duty security barriers work well for high-risk government facilities (think FBI Headquarters), but many businesses, municipalities and other organizations want a more aesthetically pleasing solution.
In fact, many local and city governments across the country have turned to alternative means, using CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) principles as their guide, according to Dr. Erroll Southers, managing director for counter-terrorism and infrastructure protection at TAL Global. They create more welcoming environments by using large planters, berms and trees as secure barriers.
The good news is bollards aren’t a one-style-fits-all product. Manufacturers offer a variety of colors, finishes and shapes – even lighted models – to blend in with and even enhance your surrounding architecture.
Consider how bollards transformed a once intimidating stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House from a militarized barricade following 9/11 to a now popular public space. “What they indirectly did was create a people street,” explained Gabe Klein, former D.C. Transportation Commissioner. “…I find it to be a nice, peaceful place to hang out…”