Marshalls porject in Barrow in Furness

Innovation based on historic foundations

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Tuesday 28th May, 2019

As new threats to safety in our built environment have emerged, the landscape protection industry has entered a period of rapid innovation. At Marshalls Landscape Protection we’ve prioritised designing products which are pushing the boundaries of strength, while also integrating seamlessly with attractive public spaces.

While these new approaches are designed to mitigate a very modern threat – vehicles being used as weapons – they are based on principles that go far back into history. Defending spaces against ground attacks is not a new challenge, medieval castles and fortifications were designed to do just that. Analysing how these fundamental approaches have been modernised provides insight into how our built environments are being made safer for the public who use them.

Reducing impact speeds

Reducing the impact of battering rams on castles and fortresses required measures to slow the attacking object and dissipate the energy transferred to the defences when it made contact.

In medieval times this would be achieved by lowering large pads of sacking in front of gates or other weak points, much like the way we use bollards and other street furniture today to stand up to high-speed vehicle impacts. However, today’s defences are designed to flex slightly in the event of an impact, reducing the forces exerted upon critical parts of the structure.

Horizontal deflection

Another common feature of the layout of castles was a tight corner directly in front of entry gates. This made it difficult for battering rams to be manoeuvred into a position to build up any straight-line speed and therefore create a greater impact. Known as horizontal deflection, this approach is still commonly used, with obstacles placed on the approach to vulnerable spaces to prevent a hostile vehicle gaining any significant approach speed.

Stronger, not deeper

Historically, solid defences required sinking heavy foundations deep into the ground – more than 20 feet below the surface in the case of many medieval castles. Until relatively recently a large excavation depth was also a requirement for vehicle-resistant bollards. This creates a longer lever that allows the structure to resist being overturned by the force of being struck.

However, the requirement of deep excavation can prove very problematic in urban areas due to the presence of utilities infrastructure close to the surface.

For this reason, our designers are focusing on providing protection with minimal excavation depth. We’re testing and producing products which focus on adding width rather than depth to the foundations, allowing the longer lever to be in place, but without the potentially problematic need to excavate.

Look and feel

Perhaps the major difference in how we protect public places now compared with historical approaches is found in the look and feel. In the past, deterring attacks by demonstrating a strong show of defence was the priority. Today we must also consider people’s enjoyment of public spaces.

Creating a heavily fortified look and feel will have a negative impact on how people use and appreciate the built environment. That’s why, in addition to designing the strongest defences possible, we create measures that can be so well integrated into street scenes that uninitiated passers-by may never realise they’ve been put in place for their protection.

You can find out more about our protective street furniture range by downloading our latest brochure. Our team can also be contacted on 0370 600 2425 to advise on we can help secure your project

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