Spring is often the time when building owners and HOA boards consider re-designing or refreshing their landscaping with some new plantings. At ILT Vignocchi we understand that aesthetics are always a big factor in plant selection, along with exposure, growth habits, site consistency, and even personal taste.
One frequently overlooked factor when making plant selections and choosing locations is security. Although the ideal time to consider landscaping for security around multi-family or commercial buildings is during the design phase; either at the onset of a new construction project or when a landscaping renovation is being contemplated, security should always be a major factor in your landscaping scheme. In any case, it is important for a designer or landscape architect to “think like a thief” as he/she begins to consider the types of plants that will be used and their specific placement around the property.
In case you were wondering how to use landscaping as a simple, yet effective security feature, read on…
One of the more common security considerations we make is to place low growing shrubs and ground covers under windows and around other entry points to keep sight lines open from street to structure and from inside a building outward. These considerations, along with the use of plants with thorns, spines, or other prickly growth can discourage intruders from crawling along walls and windows. The latter can also be useful around utility structures and other unsightly elements on a property as aesthetic screens which also deter vandalism. However, remember to always take care not to block access for service workers.
A common misstep made by inexperienced landscapers is to plant young trees too close to buildings and other structures in an effort to create instant impact; not anticipating for their growth, and the eventual problems that the close proximity may cause to roofs, gutters, foundations, siding, windows, etc.; not to mention the potential security issues. We place trees so that they will offer subtle screening and aesthetic interest from the street and out from windows; but we are careful to place them far enough away from building faces to avoid structural damage and so that the branches don’t offer easy access to the upper story windows and balcony/deck doors which homeowners may leave unlocked.
Landscape lighting can be a very useful tool against crime both around the outside perimeter of a building or in parking lot medians, courtyards, and loading areas. Low voltage landscape lighting is an especially effective and beautiful addition to the landscape that will also serve to expose potential predators sneaking around the entry points of your building. Illuminating the trees and planting beds around your property will likely discourage thieves from even attempting to gain access to your building.
When you are trying to evaluate a particular landscape design from a security standpoint, view the landscaping around your property as if you were looking for a way to break into the building. Think like a thief. Check your entrances to see if there are any dense shrub masses, tall groupings, or low hanging tree branches that an intruder would be able to hide in or climb on as he/she attempts to gain entry into your building. Heavily planted areas adjacent to parking islands can create safety issues for drivers accessing their cars late at night. The same with service entrances or dock/garage doors where dense plantings make particularly attractive hiding places for someone looking to slip into your building through an open door as you pull in a car, carry out garbage, or unload a truck.
Remember, aesthetics and curb appeal can go a long way to marketing and your property but security and practicality should be of equal consideration when planning any planting job. Intruders tend to seek the path of least risk and resistance. By carefully considering your design choices, lighting the perimeters and entrances of your property, planting trees or pruning tree branches away from structures, planting shrubs with some forethought and trimming shrubs and other brush away from access points such as windows and doorways, you can make your property a far less attractive target for criminals.