Listed and historic buildings call for special attention in many respects: they need niche experts when it comes to renovation, specialised insurance cover and very special permissions concerning planning and alterations.

So it stands to reason then, that listed buildings are going to call for this same special attention when it comes to security. 

Security is always going to be a major concern for buildings of historic interest. They are often seen as high-value targets for burglars and in fact estimates suggest that artworks and sculptures worth more than £100 million are stolen from historic buildings in the UK each year. Another problem is that many of these properties allow public access to areas containing artefacts of significant value, both in terms of heritage and financial worth.

Historic buildings also tend to be more prone to the elements, especially fire, due to the fact that many of the contents date back to well before any sort of fire safety regulations were introduced.

It is true to say that securing heritage buildings can present challenges. The strict rules governing these properties, and what you can and can’t do to them, can make it tricky or very costly to put an effective system in place. Here we explore some of the main challenges to securing a listed building, and follow up with a few suggested solutions.

Intruder Alarm Systems

Fitting an alarm system is often the first thing that springs to mind when looking to secure any property. But with a building that is open to the public, and has strict rules about what can and cannot be on show, not to mention a desire to maintain aesthetics, it calls for a lot of consideration.

An intruder detection system for a listed building needs to be specially designed and carefully installed to ensure false alarms are kept to a minimum as visitors peruse the artefacts. Wireless alarm systems will avoid the need for unsightly cabling, and will allow more flexibility over the siting of the sensors so as to provide the best protection with the least possible false alarms.

Perimeter Protection

Security starts at the perimeter of a building, but the fact is that few historic buildings in built-up areas benefit from a perimeter wall or fence. If this is the case, paying attention to improving the level of security presented by the ‘skin’ of the building is essential. Of course ensuring doors and windows are well-maintained and secure is paramount. But other points of possible entry must be included in the security plan: coal chutes, ventilation ducts, delivery shutters, skylights, utility duct covers, boiler room access panels and the like could all make the property vulnerable.

Perimeter security can be boosted with the use of detection devices such as sensors on windows or beam systems on fences or walls. Physical security measures will also assist: replacing glass with a toughened or laminated substitute that looks no different is one option. Another is to fit subtle but effective window bars and catches.

CCTV

CCTV is an important element of any security system, but in listed buildings thought has to be given to the appearance of cameras and any associated cabling. Surveillance of precious exhibits, displays and galleries lends itself to CCTV, but you do have to think about who will monitor it and respond to any real time incidents.

Wireless CCTV systems are extremely reliable, and offer excellent flexibility. There is no obtrusive cabling and cameras can be located strategically. For smaller properties where there is no budget to employ dedicated security personnel, there is the option of a system that links up with a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to login securely and view live pictures from any location via an internet connection.

General Listed Building Considerations

A security expert with experience in listed building security will be aware of how any changes to heritage buildings must meet certain criteria. These include:

Compliance: The security system must comply with all legalities: building regulations, fire regulations and listed building consent.

Suitability: The security system must be fitting with the level of risk.

Minimal intervention: Any changes to a listed or historical building must cause as low a level of impact to the property as possible. Work carried out to enhance security should not cause needless disruption or damage during installation or maintenance.

Reversibility: Any changes to a listed building have to be reversible wherever possible.

Sensitivity: Due consideration must be given to the general appearance of the property and where possible existing features used to conceal any cabling, for example chimneys, ducts, voids and risers.

Necessity: Reaching the agreed objective with the minimum amount of work necessary, and justifying the work with a detailed risk assessment, is essential.

In Summary

Overall, the aim of a security system should be to discourage potential intruders by giving the impression that the building is going to be more trouble than it is worth to break into. Perimeter fencing, security gates and grilles, well-made doors and windows and subtle signage will all aid the cause.

Conducting a risk assessment is a crucial initiative and the first thing to do before any investing in any security equipment. Once clear on which items, fixtures or fittings are to be protected, who is likely to want to obtain them and when and how this would be most likely, you can then bring in an expert to conduct a bespoke security survey.

If you are looking to secure a listed building or heritage property, whether it’s a private residence or a house that’s open to the public, speak to Barry Bros Security. Our experts have all the knowledge you need to devise a security plan tailored specifically to your needs, in-keeping with the rules surrounding historical properties.