When it comes to large, public space, security measures are an essential step in ensuring the safety of citizens. Unfortunately, over the past few years, vehicle attacks have become a stark reality for many cities. In light of this new reality, choosing the correct form of security is becoming increasingly important for landscape architects and urban designers. Traditionally, concrete blocks and bollards have been seen as a viable solution to tackling security breaches. For example, after New York was struck by a truck-borne terrorist in 2017, the government executed a 50-million-dollar plan to install bollards around the city. Yet architects and citizens around the globe share concerns that such obtrusive design measures will create hostile and unwelcome environments. It comes as no surprise that design-led HVM (Hostile Vehicle Mitigation) has become popular over the past few years—with products such as customized benches allowing cities to successfully integrate security measures without compromising the comfort of citizens.
With constant developments in HVM, navigating the market can be a challenge and landscape architects are often faced with a host of different choices regarding the best safety measures. This guide will provide an in-depth comparison of the Bollard (a classic HVM measure) and the bench (a newer design in the HVM market).
When it comes to protection, international standards have been put in place to ensure that certain protection levels are being met. Knowing which security measure offers the most protection can be a challenging task—especially considering bollards have been tested more often than benches at much greater vehicle masses. Yet we can still draw on CPNI’s HVM-Impact Rated list to give us more insight into the various protection levels. The strongest bollard has a performance rating of V/30000[N3]/80/90:3.3/25.0, while the strongest bench has a performance rating of V/7500[N2]/48/90:2.7/0.0. In other words, the strongest bollard can withstand a 30,000 kg N3 vehicle while the strongest bench can withstand 7,500 kg N2 vehicle. Based on these numbers, it’s clear that CPNI offers bollards that can withstand greater vehicle masses and higher test speeds than benches. Yet, as previously observed, benches are undertested in comparison to bollards and as such, these results should be taken with a grain of salt. In addition, benches may pose a further risk to citizens using them—if a vehicular attack were to occur it could potentially be critical for citizens using the bench.
Aesthetics and the integration of security measures are not only important when it comes to increasing footfall in cities, but important when it comes to the comfort of citizens. Obtrusive security measures can make a city feel hostile and tend to draw attention away from historic landmarks—in fact, many security measures may be correlated with feelings of insecurity, rather than comfort. To drive this point home, David Scharia, Director of Counter Terrorism for United Nations Security Council, is demanding that urban designers integrate security measures that are ideally invisible, as a way to make public spaces more “palatable.” Scharia points towards the trend for “human scale” urban design, which proposes the integration of benches, sidewalks, and greenery as a means of creating a space where people feel comfortable and safe. While bollards can be customized to fit a city’s aesthetic, benches combine both protection and pleasantries and are completely indistinguishable from regular urban street furniture. Bollards cannot generally be disguised and will often still be viewed as a security measure. As such, benches offer HVM design that can maintain a city’s liveability and the comfort of citizens.
Return on Investment
Installing security measures comes at a cost. Yet when we look at the return on investment, we can gauge the profitability of installing such security measures. If we compare the return of investment between bollards and benches, benches take the lead. This is because bollards are strictly a security measure, while benches are combining two costs—the cost of street furniture and the cost of security measures. By combining these two costs, landscape architects and urban designers will not have to spend extra time and money on designing and implementing street furniture around the city. It is for this reason benches offer a higher return on investment than bollards.
Durability is another significant factor to consider when deciding which security measure is the right fit. The material used in bollards seem to give them a significant advantage over benches when it comes to durability. In general, bollards are strong and long lasting as they are made out of a uniform and durable material. As a result, bollards can withstand a range of weather conditions and will not stain, rust, or corrode easily. So, whether the bollard is fixed or removable, maintenance is usually not an issue. Benches can be made from a uniform material and are similarly durable to bollards. However, some benches are made from multiple materials—usually a combination of wood and something else. Maintenance for benches with multiple types of material is usually required, as wood can be more susceptible to rot in varying weather conditions—especially in damp areas such as Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.
When it comes to flexibility, bollards tend to offer more flexibility than benches for several reasons. First, they can be automatic and easily installed and removed if need be. This allows for more flexibility when it comes to opening up and closing certain parts of the city. Secondly, bollards are more easily distributed than benches as it is much easier, for example, to place a bollard in between to buildings than a bench. Benches tend to require some thought and planning to position them successfully around a city. In other words, permeability is higher with bollards—they are easier to place at events where a lot of people will be moving around. That being said, there is a growing demand for benches that are easily installable, and it is likely models will be developed in the near future.
To conclude, making the choice between bollards and benches is not always straightforward and striking a balance between design and protective measures can be a challenge. Based on the above observations, benches seem to offer higher returns on investment and security that is design led, while bollards offer more documentation on protection levels as well as durability and flexibility. Nonetheless, making well-informed decisions about security measures is essential to creating cities that are safe and comfortable.