Security for construction sites

Photo © BigStockPhoto/Sosnitskiy Evgen
Photo © BigStockPhoto/Sosnitskiy Evgen

By Joe Wilson
Construction site theft, vandalism, and arson on commercial and residential building projects comprise numerous serious problems for contractors. According to insurers Zurich Canada, the country’s builders suffer an annual loss of $46 million because of theft and damage to construction sites. With this destruction comes a slew of financial strains, including:

  • replacement of costly equipment;
  • delayed completion dates;
  • too much downtime for operators;
  • higher insurance premiums; and
  • jeopardized bonding and borrowing power.

Pre-emptive action against construction site crime is critical to mitigate the significant risk presented by current crime rates. Company reputations and finances can be severely damaged through failure to act against such crime. To stand out among property managers and builders, architects and engineers should include installation of the latest security-verified technologies as part of their initial proposed plans, to ensure protection for any site on which they work.

Security concerns should be considered and addressed in contract documents by designing verified security services that will benefit the site throughout construction, and continue to protect the building when development is complete. This type of verified electronic security system integration is becoming more common, and somewhat expected from builders.

Verified security uses infrared, heat-censored cameras that offer a live view of motion, even in the darkest conditions. Photo © Peyvand Padidar Photography
Verified security uses infrared, heat-censored cameras that offer a live view of motion, even in the darkest conditions.
Photo © Peyvand Padidar Photography

When the most advanced verified security technology is embedded into the initial planning, development and operations teams save time and money by not having to reactively incorporate installation of a reliable security system on top of structural plans. The result is there is not a moment in any phase of construction that the property goes unprotected.

As cameras, computers, and capabilities continue to advance, so do security measures. With an ever-increasing industry demand for amalgamation of services, expectations of what creative solutions architects and engineers can incorporate into building design are expanding, bringing high-level verified security to the top of the list.

Unfortunately, plans to install security systems are still often brushed off to the final building stages, and sometimes are not addressed until long after a project’s completion. This gives thieves ample opportunity to steal equipment and vandalize construction sites, and get away with it. Construction sites are a huge target because of their remote locations and easy access—they are often located in vacant and unpopulated areas. Sitting unoccupied and unprotected at night, construction sites become prime targets for criminals due to the value of the raw materials, metals, and equipment often found. With these vulnerabilities and embedded security systems staying low on the priority list, a misconception of what security technology will suffice in appropriately protecting new properties is rampant, and funds are not budgeted for appropriate verified systems.

Construction sites are a huge target for thieves because of their access. Photo © BigStockPhoto/Muellek Josef
Construction sites are a huge target for thieves because of their access.
Photo © BigStockPhoto/Muellek Josef

The problem: old habits
The most common security offerings and protection methods on the market are not the most effective in handling the unique needs of construction sites. Older conventional technologies continue to be the norm, even though much more advanced, effective, verified technology exists. Most of these outdated, conventional systems use low-quality technology like simple door contacts, motion sensors, and traditional recorded closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) that result in a 98 per cent false alarm rate and no police response. These shocking realities are the result of salespeople, rather than security consultants, selling inferior, older security systems that lack verified active audio and video detection—aspects that are crucial when it comes to effective criminal deterrence and protection today.

Without audio or video verification, it is impossible for the conventional alarm provider to determine whether a crime is actually taking place. This can result in wasted time and money for police and construction companies. Installing unverified motion detection, common in most standard security systems, only serves to provide minimal security by covering a small portion of a facility. By only protecting a limited number of entry points, thieves are free to break into a facility, do damage, steal items, and get away without even tripping a motion sensor. Most break-ins are not even noticed until staff arrive the following morning.

Unverified, older security cameras do not stop a crime from happening–they simply provide footage of the crime taking place, after property has already been stolen and damage done. Photo © BigStockPhoto/Kenneth Sponsler
Unverified, older security cameras do not stop a crime from happening–they simply provide footage of the crime taking place, after property has already been stolen and damage done.
Photo © BigStockPhoto/Kenneth Sponsler

Many construction companies hire a security guard to stand watch, or dogs to protect their sites. Guards cost upward of $10,000 monthly to employ, but can be ineffective—there have been many instances of security personnel falling asleep due to boredom on the job. Guards could be incapacitated by violent thieves; under some circumstances, they could be active participants in the theft because they are not paid a significant amount and are stationed onsite alone. Guard dogs, which are between $1000 and $1500 monthly, are also ineffective as they are very easily incapacitated or befriended. (Additional downsides to dog security are the feces they deposit around a construction site.)

The solution: advanced technology
Although these traditional forms of security can be disappointing and ineffective, there are two emerging technology solutions available capable of diminishing crime woes.

For exterior protection, a ‘verified’ video alarm is provided. It is the key factor lacking in conventional CCTV systems. Video monitoring is provided around a construction site or equipment compound using infared cameras with exterior heat and motion sensors that can detect people and vehicles as they enter a protected environment. When a person or vehicle comes onto the site, video is immediately transmitted to monitoring staff who dispatch police or a guard to apprehend.

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