Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Home Security Architecture

Don Williams said...

Ferfal, I had a question. Are you seeing any changes to architecture in Argentina due to the 2001 crisis and resulting social changes?

In the Roman Republic, for example, the wealthy had homes in which the exterior walls had no windows --entrance was via a single guarded doorway and family life focused on an inner courtyard.

Pretty secure building plan. Including spare water supply in the atrium's fountain and room to grow fruit in inner courtyard. Plus stalls on outside of building could be rented out to merchants to raise cash.

In Scotland, I saw what are called Z towers -- square towers with extensions on two diagonally opposite corners. The extensions being to prevent blind spots at the corners where attackers could hid from fire of defenders inside the building.

An extension (Like a small thick tower) allowed defenders to sweep the two outside walls (connecting) at the corner with fire. By having two such extensions on diagonal corners, all four walls could be swept of attackers.

Seen any fortification methods being used to protect Argentinian homes?

Almost all Argentine homes are made of brick and mortar.
1 foot wide brick walls were very common, today replaced by hollow ceramic bricks. Still pretty tough and with the kind of thick cement layer used here, bulletproof ( at least for handguns)
It’s not common to find stick frame or metal frame construction.

So houses are already pretty solid, and almost all of them have burglar bars on windows. Many also have grating doors besides the usual wood or metal door.
It’s very common as well for people to set a rather high perimeter gate, about 7 feet tall.
This greatly increases security, specially when combined with good locks, an alarm, and motion activated lights.
In terms of architecture, unfortunately architects do a rather poor job designing with secure design in mind.
Reason why yours truly is working with other Architects in a little project that truly integrates security measures to the design before the building even starts.
The no exterior windows design you refer to was first seen about 8000 years ago in Mesopotamia, when the first large cities of man kind where created… of course, crime was a problem there as well. :)

Ventilation and lighting was achieved thanks to the central courtyard you mention.

Very cool designs, and they can still prove useful.

This one is also worth looking.
The Architecture of Irak: The Lost Art of Clay Construction



Anonymous said...

I like these:

FerFAL said...

Nice link, thanks! :)


CapnRick said...

Saludos. My wife and I reside in a second floor (1era planta)3-bedroom apartment in a stone and brick building. Our apartment fronts on the street with a large balcony that extends over the sidewalk. There are a lot of security problems with the way the apartment is set up. Primarily, the all important defensive “kill zones” are not set up in such a way as to allow the defenders to clear access points of all attackers from behind adequate bullet stops. I am currently having a tough time convincing my wife that it is worthwhile to spend the money to fortify this structure... something to think about, because the cost is prohibitive. Most of our money is tied up in Florida real estate, and we currently have a couple of vacancies. So, little by little, I will do the best I can.

My security survey has uncovered a few areas vulnerable to an athletic climbers. There is a single story building next door that presents security issues, since their roof presents alternative access... dangerous paths, but, doable. I should point out that the best access to our building from the street (except from busting the front door) is OUR apartment. So, I have put together escape route ideas... busting through a plaster-and-lath wall by the bathtub into the back apartment, rope ladder down to the ground floor to try to escape from that level out the back, or over the roofs of the attached buildings. None of this will work if all my access points are covered with attackers... one can only hope for a bit of incompetence on the part of the attackers. One must hope for the best and plan, plan, plan to try to make up for the deficiencies.

Kill zone #1 is the front door, directly below our balcony. The best access point is FROM ACROSS THE STREET from another apartment building. The folks that own these apartments are not year round residents. Mar del Plata is a summer residence location where labor unions financed vacation homes for their members. Failing the unlikely opportunity to have a mutual defense agreement with gun owners from across the street, one must expose oneself to directed fire from attackers, including fire from the cover of parked vehicles on the street. My kingdom for a few boxes of grenades! :^P

Kill zone #2 is the stairwell leading to our apartment's front door from the buildin's front door. This stairwell is the primary access for ALL the apartments in the building. Fire could be directed to sweep this zone via a fortified window from our small patio. Attackers could direct fire to this position from the roof of our building or the second floor patio of the apartment in the connected side building. Beefing up this position is doable... but, expensive and inconvenient for normal living/quality of life. It is a better place to spend limited fortification pesos than zone 1. Any contributors with ideas on these issues would be appreciated. I have already thought about a fortified front door with weapons slots at various levels for a limited field of fire.

Kill zone #3 is behind the walls of the flat roof on the attached single story building next door on the other side. This is the real disaster... the most vulnerable approach. One ceiling to floor double glass door and three huge windows would need to be bricked up completely to provide security from this direction. The only secure position from which to engage attackers in this zone is from our building's roof or a third floor, forth floor apartment. I have no confidence in my neighbors having the right attitude, equipment or skills to engage attackers from these positions.

So, until there are tens of thousands of pesos available, I will continue to plan and investigate ways to get out of Dodge through the back while the attackers are attempting to overcome passive defenses. This will require work to seal bug-out bags, etc in the floors and walls under concrete covered in wallpaper or floor tiles.

We are only a block away from the local police station, two blocks from the county/municipalidad and state/provincia headquarters. Although we are starting to see more gang activity from Mexican and local criminal groups in Argentina, Mar del Plata is not a (relatively) high crime area except for December/Jan/Feb summer months. Here the biggest and most dangerous gang is the police... rogue cops who are using their daily duties to scope out potentially lucrative targets. Having them within sound distance of a gunbattle at my home is no guarantee of a response.

Another Argentina-specific problem is legalized home invasion. If my wife and I did not hire a house sitter to take care of our dog and live in the home while we were both out of town, we could actually lose our home to squatters. I could not believe my eyes when I saw a report of a family in a BsAs suburb being kept out of their home by police protecting the right of squatters who took over her “abandoned” apartment during a few months stay in another town with relatives. It will take them years and lots of money to pursue their return to their home. Courts in Argentina exist only to enrich lawyers and judges... not for justice. And, the laws are made by other lawyers to aid the courts in stripping civilian litigants of their last peso.

Guess what my BIGGEST fear is... that while we are out of town, our employee house-sitter will let in the squatters, or claim squatter's rights themselves. I plan to draw up formal agreements with the employee who will house-sit for us during our trip to Italy next year... anything that would help the police decide to help US rather than the squatters. Casual thefts could be planned by visitors during our employee's stay here... no way to assure she does not invite friends over to visit or party while we are out of town. She may or may not be aware of her friends' intent to return to rob us after we have returned and the house sitter is gone. All we can do is change the locks as soon as we get home. Sad, ain't it?

All the above does not detract one iota of my enjoyment of life in MarDel... I love it here. My situation is not as dangerous as FerFal's... so his “fortress' needs to be several grades more secure than mine. My best defense is a low profile. Hard to do when you are a big, ugly gringo walking a 40kilo dogo look-alike in the park!

As we say in Texas, “Suerte, ya'll!” :^P -CapnRick

micah said...

What about the builing of huge walls to surround a community, small greek city states??