Sustainable Security

Sustainability programs have become part of the policy and culture of many college and university campuses. More than 350 institutions of higher education worldwide have signed on to the Talloires Declaration, a ten-point action plan for incorporating sustainability and environmental literacy in teaching, research, operations, and outreach. Increasingly, eco-sensitive educational initiatives are being integrated into both the academic program and the institution’s daily business. Schools are also actively seeking business partnerships with companies who place an emphasis on sustainability solutions.

Administrators committed to ensuring their campuses and surrounding communities are safe are also looking to align with contract security partners who want to provide security solutions with sustainability in mind. I lead the Higher Education division of one of the country’s premier contract security services companies, and many of our country’s finest universities and colleges are our clients. The most forward-looking are expecting that our programs be delivered in line with their strategic expectations for improving the quality of life on their campuses.

Sustainable Communities and Safety
Sustainability is much more than achieving environmental improvements. A university must create a community where its students, faculty, and support staff can find opportunities to live better. Creating quality neighborhoods around the campus that feature higher-density mixed-use developments; reducing auto use; and providing convenient, walkable shopping and community services are important steps on the path to sustainability. A fundamental challenge is to keep these communities safe while building neighborhood character by design.

As a former university finance officer and urban planner, I believe that a vital component of sustainability can be achieved by creating vibrant neighborhoods surrounding a campus through affordable housing for the in-house and contracted staff that works in, or nearby, the academic community. Economic sustainability can be achieved for low- and mid-income workers who have access to these communities and who are afforded a great place to live that is close to work. These employees have lower fuel costs and use fewer natural resources, as they have access to public transportation or are in walking or bicycling distance to work. The employees are part of the community that they are professionally serving, which builds loyalty and familiarity. Keeping these communities safe extends the footprint of the campus into its surrounding areas. This requires the commitment of resources for improved patrol, surveillance, lighting, and response. Implementing a high-quality security program will help establish a strong security presence and safety-conscious environment for the entire campus and community.

One of the nation’s most admired sustainability efforts is the University City District in Philadelphia, surrounding the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Established in 1997, University City District (UCD) is a special services district dedicated to improving the quality of life in the 2.2-sq.-mi. area of West Philadelphia, known as University City. The UCD builds effective partnerships to maintain a clean and safe environment and to promote, plan, and advocate for University City's diverse, urban community. The organization is funded by the institutions in the District as well as the businesses it supports in the community.

The institutions make a substantial investment in the University City neighborhood and ensure that affordable housing is available to their staff. To keep the community safer, the UCD hires Community Ambassadors who live in or near the District. The Ambassadors serve as a highly visible deterrent to crime, provide directions and pedestrian assistance, and can call for help in emergency situations. Each Ambassador undergoes training in public safety and crime prevention; emergency first aid and CPR; interpersonal relations and customer service; city services; and University City and Philadelphia history, attractions, and services. Ambassadors also track public safety hazards such as potholes, problem street signs, blocked sewers, and broken fire hydrants that are referred to the city for corrective action. The Ambassador services are offered jointly with the University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Public Safety.

Through the UCD’s sustainability initiatives, the West Philadelphia/University City Community is thriving. Availability of affordable housing on or near campus for students, faculty, and staff, including the security officers, is a valuable recruiting tool for the institutions in the area. The Community Ambassadors are part of both the vibrant collegiate family and the neighboring community. Visit the University City District web site for more information at

Sustainability and Technology — The Security Officer of the Future Is on Campus Today
A major objective of contracting for additional security staff is to increase the visibility of the security force and serve as a deterrent to perpetrators. Improved mobility allows for increased patrol and speedier response rates. Today’s security officer may be patrolling a campus on a personal transportation vehicle like a Segway, American Chariot, or T3; on a mountain bike; or driving electric vehicles to respond to alarms. These vehicles increase “the cool factor” as well as provide substantial advantages to a patrolling officer through improved mobility, visibility, and approachability. These devices are not only popular, but cost effective and environmentally friendly.

Behind the scenes, you may find today’s highly skilled and trained security officer piloting a host of IP-connected digital applications, including video surveillance, life and fire safety systems, and remote online access control systems. These technological solutions all contribute to a cleaner sustainable campus.

Sustainable Building Design Considerations and Safety
There are many opportunities to integrate a security strategy with sustainable building design. Whether for access control; surveillance; blast protection; chemical, biological, or radiological protection; or occupant safety; there are numerous techniques to improve building safety without compromising sustainability objectives.

For example, when using barriers to prevent vehicles from intruding, natural and environmentally friendly barriers like trees and retention ponds can be designed for your facility. Vehicle barriers can include large reinforced planters or seating around the building perimeter. Video surveillance can be enhanced by a well-integrated landscaping and day-lighting scheme. Lighting systems must consider safety and environmental responsibility. Where lighting is restricted, low-light and no-light cameras can provide improved intrusion detection. Chemical and biological protection can be enhanced through energy-efficient HVAC systems or a strategy as simple as preventing unauthorized access to fresh air intakes using recycled steel bars. The American Institute for Architects Building Security through Design primer and the National Institute of Building Science’s Whole Building Design Guide are great resources for ideas.

Eco-Sensitive Virtual Training
State-of-the-art training is crucial in keeping the burgeoning physical security workforce ready and able to take on the daily challenges they face. Nowhere is technology’s power more visibly demonstrated than with training. Factor in digital training that educates, empowers, and connects the vital security officer sector, and you have campus security officers primed for success.

Today’s security leaders are making training not only better, but also more accessible. Taking advantage of technological advancements and the fact that many of today’s security officers are avid computer-users, security companies have created online training programs for their officers. This is especially ideal for campus officers who would like to continue their standard training but work in remote locations or work atypical hours — making attending classroom training in a district office a challenge.

The University of British Columbia Sustainability Office ( said “universities have always existed to nurture healthy communities and economies through education. But today, more than ever before, universities are realizing they need to set positive social, environmental, and economic examples for their societies to follow.” In the university setting it is important to ensure the long-term viability and integrity of the institution by reducing environmental, energy, and social impacts without compromising quality of life and education. Sustainable universities participate in environmentally friendly activities and ensure that all processes and activities address current environmental concerns. The security services sector is a vital component to university life that is continually assessing optimal ways to take advantage of eco-friendly methodologies while delivering exemplary service. As colleges and universities look to partner with contract service provides such as security services, it is important to select one who shares your commitment to sustainability and is dedicated to helping further and enforce your initiatives.

Glenn R. Rosenberg is vice president of AlliedBarton Security Services Higher Education division. Rosenberg has worked in Higher Education for more than 30 years as a senior university administrator, management consultant, and business developer. He can be reached at [email protected]