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An office is an urban object which accommodates employment facilitating the provision of services. It is where business is conducted, be it of a professional, commercial or bureaucratic nature.


In the context of urban security and safety, it is important to consider offices with regard to the potential number of employees (usage of the building). Different office functions and use will determine the floor area per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee. For example, a general office may allow 12 square metres (sq.m.) per FTE, a call centre may provide 8 sq.m. per FTE, while an IT/data centre might provide 47 sq.m. per FTE (given its specific requirements). In addition, offices where public access/services is facilitated will have a level of visitor footfall.

Office based employment enterprises can occur in a wide variety of urban contexts, ranging from city centre locations (often in the upper floor of retail or services buildings in a High Street or city centre context) to large business parks in peripheral locations and which feature a range of differing employment activities. Locational factors will influence the range of transport modes available and utilised for access to offices.

Modern urban areas have a wide variety of office locations available, dependent on the requirements of the individual tenants. Tenant requirements themselves will vary substantially, of as a result of the type of business or the economic sector within which it operates. Large offices with significant workforces will often require extensive floor spaces; the type of office space required to accommodate this type of operation is therefore more suited to more peripheral locations. In comparison, small offices, with less substantial space requirements, can easily be accommodated anywhere within an urban area, from city centre to peripheral locations.



One of the key social functions of office employment is in the provision of employment for citizens. The growth of the economy and societal development relies on maintaining a low unemployment rate and providing opportunities for employment. Societal functionality requires goods and services, the latter of which are often provided through office-based activities. The location of office development is an important feature in urban planning because of its impact and contribution to the urban area, as job creation and employment policy are usually important features in urban planning.

Vulnerability assessment for offices as urban infrastructure should include the following aspects from asocial point of view:

For example, it is known that the perceived direct benefit of an infrastructure (such as office infrastructure, which generates one’s income) increases the felt risk to that infrastructure and the need to protect it.[1]

Aspects like those listed above show the importance to involve future users in risk assessment and planning for office objects. VITRUV identified a set of general practical methods for such citizen participation. Related to office-type urban structure, a suitable participation method would be the Future Workshop, where urban planners and future office users develop visions and scenarios for physical and social settings for office objects in urban environments that are secure and are also perceived as secure.


Office space primarily accommodates commercial and public activities performed by individuals and groups of people. Together with residential, retail and industrial areas, office space is one of the most valuable urban spatial structures due to its economic effects for the local, regional and national economy (both in terms of office space development[2] and the commercial activities that take place in these premises). In sum, office development can be a catalyst for wider economic regeneration. The economic impact of offices can be estimated with the help of economic tools/techniques.

The location of office space in terms of economic reasoning is for a large part determined by the accessibility of the location per car or public transport, the availability of parking space, image and representativeness, and the availability of adequately skilled labour. The location of office space in more remote parts of the urban environment can raise specific security issues (e.g. burglary, vehicle theft, assault, etc.). In general, burglary and vandalism are the most relevant security issues to be considered for office space. These type of crimes generate economic effects in terms of anticipation (e.g. security locks, surveillance, etc.), as a consequence (e.g. loss of valuable property), and in response to (police investigation, legal system, etc.) the criminal event. As a secondary impact, crime has (amongst others) an economic impact (of crime) on the local real estate value.

Security measures such as intervention force, target hardening, surveillance, mitigate the negative effects of crime and terrorism, but are not without direct investment costs (both temporary and permanent) and more indirect economic effects, the economic effects of security measures. The ‘designing out’ or 'sustainable design' approach in the earliest stages in the planning process could be in the long run an effective measure from an economic point of view to prevent security threats and to reduce the economic damage. In general, these measures demand larger investments than traditional security measures, but at the same time they are able to avoid future costs due to the long-term prevention of crime.


The mobility requirements of offices will depend on the type of service provided and the number of people employed. Offices in central locations will be able to take advantage of public transportation modes, whereas offices in more peripheral locations will be more dependent on private car use.

For offices with good access to public transportation, there may be a security risk connected to those public transportation modes, such as bus, metro or train stations.

For offices in peripheral locations, parking lots or garages are required. Parking lots are sensitive for car break-in and sexual assault. To reduce this risk, parking lots should be easily overseen without e.g. dark corners.

Another security risk is that high office buildings might be a target for terroristic attacks, thinking of the WTC 9-11 attack in 2001 [3]. For such serious attacks, it is important that the building should have good accessibility for emergency services and that there are clear emergency routes and exits inside the building.


Safety functions associated with offices, include the usual functions such as:

  • shelter from the environment (weather)
  • prevention and repression of incidents (fires, floods, air quality, etcetera)
  • constructional safety (including the dynamic stresses that large crowds can exert)
  • facilities to assure a timely retreat to a safe environment for the people present in case of incidents (Evacuation Management).

Security Issues

Security issues associated with offices, are related with the fact that it can be an attractive object for thieves. This is related with the presence of valuables, which would be highly dependent of the use of the office. This makes these kinds of urban objects vulnerable for the following security issues:

Other issues that can be associated with offices, such as fraud and white collar crime are not considered relevant in the context of this Securipedia, as they are out of the urban planner's control.


Controlling entry and exit of an office building is one of the most basic security measures

The measures for each type of security issue can be found on the respective pages. There are few measures they are specifically suited or unsuited to this kind of urban object, but some general considerations can be mentioned:

As offices are closed (non public) areas, the flows in and out the area can be strictly controlled if needed.

  • Ownership is required for the public to be aware to enter private space and know to act accordingly.
  • Access control is closely related to ownership and one of the most rudimentary measures as it ensures the possibility to determine who does and who does not get access to the office. It is usually enforced by having a reception and a form of dynamic barrier, such as a turnstile, a blockable revolving door or a guard on duty.
  • Screening is a measure that can be employed supporting access control. By screening your visitors, a more rigid access control can be enforced.
  • Directing traffic flows can be employed to ensure only the expected kind of traffic enters via the entrances. Examples of directing traffic flows for offices are: directing all cars away from the entrance by, for example, locating the parking facilities some distance from the entrance, closing parking garages from entry on foot or creating separate entrances for trusted visitors.
  • Target hardening can greatly increase the effort needed for criminals to enter the object and thereby reduce the attractiveness of an object. Target hardening is especially effective in combination with detection measures, such as alarms or surveillance and intervention force. The object of target hardening is to delay the crime long enough to be detected and intervened upon by a intervention force. A target which - in the perception of the criminal - is hardened to a level that entry is not likely before detection and intervention, is not attractive.
  • Surveillance can be effective against security issues, particularly as office districts can be very much 9-5 places – i.e. they are deserted in the evening time. Dedicated observation can incur high costs, both if implemented on location or remote. A more natural form of surveillance is surveillance by the inhabitants (also known as 'natural surveillance') and/or dwellers. A way to achieve this is to stimulate the use of an office district for night-time activities, by providing additional restaurant, shops and a university to extend the ‘street activity’ into the later evening or combine the area with residential use, provided that the inhabitants have a good surveillability.
  • Intervention force is needed to make detection measures, such as alarms or surveillance effective.

For an optimal security policy for the organisation in the office, all aspects of security should be coherently considered in the security strategy. This means that physical/procedural/organisational security measures should be coordinated with cyber/information security and personnel security. If this coordination is not assured, security gaps and overlaps can occur in the security regime, both of which can be detrimental to the level of security.

Footnotes and references

  1. Cf. Coppola, D.P.: Introduction to International Disaster Management. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007, pp. 164-166; Siedschlag, A./Jerković, A.: Summary of CPSI Country Case Studies: Austria – Bulgaria – France – Germany – Italy – Netherlands – Sweden – United Kingdom. Sigmund Freud Private University Vienna, CEUSS | Centre for European Security Studies, Analytical Standpoint, No. 13, 2010. Retrieved from:; Slovic, P./Fischhoff, B./Lichtenstein, S.: Facts and Fears: Societal Perception of Risk. In: Monroe, K.B./Abor, A. (eds.): Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 8 (1981), pp. 497-502. Retrieved from:
  2. Office development creates direct construction activity (primary economic impact, including planning professionals, commercial real estate agents, attorneys, designers, marketing, landscaping, etc.). The secondary impact of construction generates business for a variety of business types such as insurance companies, cleaning services, security companies, etc. On the long term, office space creates local jobs, income and taxes generated by the consumption and other spending of office users (e.g. for lunch, office products, office maintenance, etc.).
  4. Clarke Ronald V., Thefts of and From Cars in Parking Facilities, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series, Guide No. 10