Jane Embury looks at the terrorist threat.
“May you live in interesting times,” is widely regarded as an ancient Chinese curse. But it is neither ancient nor Chinese.
It originated in the USA, being first used in the 1930s and popularised by Robert Kennedy in 1966.
However, there’s no doubt that we do live in interesting times. The threat from terrorism is showing no sign of diminishing.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the Manchester bombing and the recent murder of Sir David Amess shows that there are dark forces out there.
The difficulty, of course, lies in countering a threat that is organised internationally. But often waged by proxy through locally-radicalised individuals.
That localisation has seen recent attacks across Europe, sometimes by individuals who weren’t on anybody’s radar.
And as the IRA once boasted after a failed attack: “You need to be lucky every time; we need only to be lucky once.”
The emergence of social media channels such as WhatsApp makes the work of security services even harder.
Range of threats
At Wrightstyle, we design, fabricate and supply advanced internal and external glazing systems to mitigate against a range of threats – most commonly, fire. However, our systems also protect against bomb and ballistic attack.
The integrity of our system was independently tested at a specialist site in Northumberland. It involved the structurally-glazed system being subjected to the equivalent of 500 kilos of TNT.
That’s roughly ten times the size of a car bomb. You can see videos on our website.
The importance of the test is that, in urban areas, between 80-85% of all secondary blast injuries are caused by flying glass.
Our system’s strength is achieved by a high-specification glazing technique that bonds the glass to the framing support system. In an explosion, the components work together to safely absorb the thermal shock of the explosion.
In the test, the lorry bomb was immediately followed by a simulated car bomb (100 kilos of TNT-equivalent explosive). The lorry bomb was detonated 75 metres from the test rig and the car bomb was detonated at a distance of 20 metres. Both tests were equally successful.
We need maximum resilience to be built into our buildings and urban landscapes, protecting places where people gather for leisure, travel, work, shopping or worship.
However, as design critic Stephen Bayley said in relation to enhanced security: “We might live in dangerous times, but they don’t have to ugly ones too.”
It’s a comment we would endorse because our blast-mitigation system looks no different from an ordinary (non-protective) glazing system. That’s an important consideration, as one aspect of effective building security is to disguise its level of security.
This is, of course, now happening, with security professionals and planners working together to design out crime and build in counter-terrorist features.
But it’s a paradigm shift that also involves everyone in the built environment, including those of us involved in the glazed facades of modern architecture.
Bombs may kill, but glass is the bigger threat – and our systems reduce that risk.
Jane Embury is a director of Wrightsyle