Site Assessment Survey

PowerPoint Report: CPTED Presentation_N Siegel

CPTED Assessment Report:
Nathalie J Siegel, AAIA, LEED AP BD+C

Assessment Date:
April 2012

Atlas, Randall I. 21st Century Security and CPTED, first edition 1

Doctors are “MD”. Lawyers are “JD”. Architects are “RA or AIA”. While these professionals have common abbreviations after their legal name, some certifications and licenses are sometimes not prevalent enough in their corresponding professions. “CPTED” is unfortunately less mainstream for now. It is a specific certifying tool, so crucial for our society, that architects should require their drafters to add more alternative ways of thinking into their drawings during early stages of design development.

In reference to the only criminologist and architect in the United States, Randall I. Atlas, Ph.D, AIA, CPP, he proves that the multi-disciplinary connection of different professions can tremendously impact our society. Personally, I am in agreement with him on the fact that it is a “surprise that CPTED is not part of the educational requirements for Architecture education or ARE examinations.” CPTED is an excellent certification to be granted, no matter what professional sector you are affiliated with. After learning all about this certifying tool, wherever you go with life, you immediately gain a better sense of alertness and become more observant of your surroundings.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is conducted by criminologists, architects, community activists, environmental planners, and law enforcement. A typical assessment report is carried out by an assessor who is involved in comprehensive analyzing, photographing, surveying, and assessing of three main principles. These principles are intended to reduce fear of crime and enhance safety for the community. Depending on how collaborative a team works with the assessor and how early in advance they implement this, the report findings and its consequences affect the building and its community users. Regulatory standards and governmental codes are intended to be enforced in the law enforcement and architectural aspect. All this teaches professionals and citizens a more in-depth study of what can happen, will happen and has happened inside a building, around the perimeter and around the site area.

Any type of safety measure is so worth the time, effort, and manpower. If appropriate resources are available, validating and enforcing the law is the best way to legally control a community. CPTED consultants and police officers (only the ethical members in good standing) are expected to protect our citizens and our society. Depending on how strong security is for a particular community, traditional CPTED can expand from “First” generation to “Second” generation. The transition would be defined as manpower working with the community and vice versa, via crime prevention strategies.

After having coffee and conversations with a Deputy Chief of Security regarding permission for an assessment analysis on his premises as well as riding with a police officer for another assignment, both law enforcement professionals were not familiar with CPTED. This was a surprise because ironically, they really are using this tool, indirectly, as they enforce their duties for our citizens and our community on a daily basis.

As a CPTED thinker, I am confident enough to believe that this alternative way of thinking has the ability to “urban sprawl” out to other professions in a user-friendly way. Like sands through an hourglass, our world is constantly changing and losing control of human nature. Assets of people, information, and property, or in the words of CPTED, “PIP” are all just as crucial as our natural land and resources.

It is extreme wishful thinking for one police task force member or an advanced surveillance tool to save society permanently. In reference to the powerful emergency RED button built into the desktop of police cars at Division 14 in West Boca, it would be an officer’s dream come true to see how great the power of one button could permanently halt all drug deals in all of Miami-Dade County. Our planet cannot possibly be electronically wired to every single CCTV, motion activated sensor, and surveillance camera everywhere. On an optimistic note, our society grabs at anything new on the market that will help honor our wishes to a small extent or at least to relocate negativity into a more supervised area. This is why safety and protection are the only skeleton keys that can open the lock of essential things that make our world go round and round in a continuous fashion.

CPTED uses three main strategies in observing an existing building or a new project during design development stages. Any type of analyzing and surveying, whether large or small, makes a huge impact on its designated users that enhance the area and undesignated users that complicate the zoning requirements.

One of the main strategies involves simple ways of natural surveillance without building anything, such as setting up a neighborhood watch and promoting awareness. Access control is another way in considering simple changes to a building even after final bid phase, such as adding a path of brick pavers, giving a sense of welcomed entry. Territoriality is the last and final category, which involves signage and public art for that particular building.

Writing up a very concise, comprehensive paper using CPTED principles is always worth an assessor’s time and investment. This would eventually be presented to students, a client or to the city at hand. No matter the audience or reader of this analysis, promoting better strategies makes a difference to anyone regarding areas of threat dissemination, crime reward reduction, and improved urbanism.

Answering a question, connecting the dots, drawing a picture, and building a model are technique-related tasks that serve a purpose or make a difference, no matter what skill level. When an architect goes through the exhaustive, mind-boggling process of designing a building and giving it an appropriate, safe fit within the site, it should stay there, be safe and have long-term effects on its users and its community. It goes the same when using the CPTED process.

Here is a story of reasons why an assessment analysis was conducted on a “luxuriant of luxury”, magnificent residential gated community, the home of the #1 Country Club in the United States with million-dollar, five-star views of all assets.

Boca West Drive is the main transportation infrastructure that gives Boca West and its golf community its name and prestige. The Country Club and the Golf Club including world-class recreational facilities are located on this road. It connects all three main gate entrances and ties in all 54 villages of mid-rises, rentals, condos, and townhomes. While it takes forever on this long, winding road, it gives you the feeling that your car is in neutral mode, driving along a Boca Raton version of “Movie Star Homes of Hollywood”.

Small lakes and ponds weave in and around the private golf course and the homes. All speed zones are all limited to 35 miles per hour on Boca Raton Drive. Development streets limit speed to 10 miles per hour. No matter what the limit is, all around the community, driving at a reasonable speed is wise especially during “season”, with tons of grandchildren outside and golf caddies crossing the street.

Not just safety for recreational activity, but also positive feedback for our lush wildlife in the vegetative forests and tropical ecosystems. Wild birds and ducks roam our pathways, streets and parking lots. Sometimes you see a lane of cars backed up at one of the gatehouses because a mother goose is slowly, casually taking her time to cross over to the other side towards the lake with her family of little ducklings following behind. It is absolutely hilarious and so nice to see how appreciative our residents and guests are in patiently allowing animals to prosper as much as we do living here.

Along with miles of activity depending on the season, the pedestrian sidewalks separate the private golf course from public traffic. The concrete sidewalks are painted the color white, as bright and shiny as a brand new white SUV leaving a “Deluxe” top-dollar carwash.

Jogging and walking along the path is great, until the golfers, their caddies and their carts start honking at you to move over so you can share only 25% of “their road”, because they think they “own” all of Boca West. As a CPTED observer, legal road signs are clearly marked to allow cars to stop for golf carts crossing the road, so at least that is a positive safety measure to observe before approaching the specified building for this paper.

The Willow Wood condos are geographically located a close proximity to the southeast corner of Boca West, near Jog Road. This gated entrance is parallel to Florida’s Turnpike. The road runs north and southbound and aligns with this fully-compartmentalized community. Unlike the Turnpike, Jog Road is happily free of charge with no one prosecuting you for accidentally driving in the Sun Pass lane with no Sun Pass! (*Picture #1) Untitled-1

When you calibrate 6815 Willow Wood Drive, off of Boca West Drive, into your GPS, you drive 10 miles per hour or jog along the sidewalk using your Run Keeper app. You then head east towards the lower curve of Willow Wood Drive. At last, you arrive at final destination of the 4th mid-rise building. These condos are all 8 stories. Each is 6 units per floor, totaling 48 units. This particular mid-rise sits in the expansive parking lot, sharing an outbuilding with building 3000 to the east. All buildings orient at the same pattern along the curved street with a corresponding outbuilding per every two mid-rises. Each outbuilding includes a bike storage area and pool deck area. The very last outbuilding shared with building 5000 and 6000 includes the property manager’s office besides the pool and bike area.

Day or night, it is easy to navigate any of these eight-story mid-rises at a distance, since 75% of Boca West community is either one or two story structures, along with a few other mid-rise developments. Just by counting 1 through 6, the mid-rises act as tall landmarks in way finding your way through Boca West. As you weave through a beautiful traditional road and million dollar homes, you notice all monotone, low-key, natural color tones blending very well with landscaping, until you see a change in sensory awareness.

You then gain a “WOW” factor! Stark black and white towers with clean, crisp lines jutting out, contrasting the observations you experienced previously. I would give an “A plus” grade to the architect or urban planner who wanted mid-rise developments “peeking out” at other mid-rises and the rest of Boca West, as if they were the law enforcement patrolling the entire community at a large scale. (*Picture #2) Untitled-2

The fourth mid-rise, the topic at hand, is set back far behind a thick bay of luxurious greenery all around. Green along the horizontal axis. All this separates spatial areas where people walk through and drive through. In front of the condo, it is sensible to have tall shrubbery as a natural barrier separating the private zone from public, transitional zoning. The shrubbery gives a well-defined look of “ownership” and territoriality for local residents.

During the evening, the parking lot has plenty of pole lighting, equidistantly positioned, along the tall shrubbery, at the front of the development. While there is lots of density blocking the area, the lighting adds territorial definition, since it follows the path of the greenery along the curve. The four driveways break up the long curved green bay. As each driveway cuts through leading to the corresponding mid-rise, a concrete half wall is built in at each point with perfectly clear address signage and upward, downward nighttime lighting. The landscapers must maintain the shrubbery area leaning over the signage very often though.

As you walk or drive closer to the Willow Wood condo, you observe more green along all directions. The feeling of being surrounded by nature begins when you notice black olive trees reaching above you, grass under your feet, cluster trees giving you warm shade, and tall palm trees making you feel really short. Along with bushes next to you as you walk the path, you are connecting closer with the natural, healthy amenities of this community.

So much landscaping maintenance is involved on a weekly basis, during the spring and summer! I did notice that the landscaping crew consists of highly trained young men, wearing matching uniform shirts and visibly color-coded for drivers passing by. These men are so handy that they take the time to help out residents during an emergency. Once my car needed jumper cables, and one of them came to the rescue and helped start up my car.

As you enter the fourth driveway, you are given a stellar first-impression as you see the painted white, tall, concrete mid-rise, geometrically and symmetrically-shaped with vertical, black framed screened balconies all around. If you are by the east side, you see all windows and balconies facing you, if you are on the west or south side, the building follows suit. Immediately, you feel that people are watching you at a tall distance. This is a perfect example of natural surveillance. (*Picture #3 and #4) Untitled-3 Untitled-4 

The residents up in the building can see cars driving by, but luckily, you cannot see the residents inside their units, because of the faded,” pixilated” look of wire mesh altering the interior view. It is perfect protection for all of our residents, even if our lights are on after sunset. A random driver or a neighbor walking at a closer distance in the parking lot, can at least decipher a silhouette outline of someone sitting outside on the balcony or sitting at a desk by the balcony door.

The Willow Wood Condo along with the rest of the mid-rises, are heavily secured inside as well as around the building perimeter, anytime day or night. The adjacent outbuilding off to the southeast side includes a locked enclosed bike area as well as a locked enclosed pool area, both only by specific building key. The pool area is just grand. Inside, views of the golf course, mid-rises, jacuzzi, and pool are just breathtaking. The area is bordered by a white, high picket fence, with narrow spacing in between each vertical support to gain a quick surveillance view of surroundings. The only way to get inside the area is accessible by the specified building key, matching the building you live in, not any other Willow Wood building.

All residents are given only one set of keys, one for the building, one for the unit, and one for the mailbox. Another set of keys are in the property of the manager’s office on the premises, to the west of building 4000. Permission for a guest or maintenance person may be granted access but the entire key set must be returned to the office by 5pm. Also, this person must be on the guest list of Boca West, matching all data to all three gate houses, day and night. Permanent guest lists are available for close family members, but a security code must be confirmed by the resident each time a guest comes in.

Boca West Security office runs an entire staff of law enforcement and security guards on the premises under the Boca West Master Association, Inc. The Deputy Chief of Security, Joseph Lastella runs the show. I was given the approval by him to assess the fourth mid-rise of Willow Wood Condos. He was more familiar with the three main CPTED principles in general, not much on the traditional labeling of “CPTED”. I saw he had a few books on his shelf using keywords of Crime Prevention. I knew I had come to the right place and was going to be in good hands with this term paper.

He informed me that routinely a few days a week, depending on their shifts with the police department, two officers drive through the parking lots of the Willow Wood area, during the day and during the evening. Also, I see security patrol men in uniform shirts labeled Boca West Security, driving around in those golf carts. Yes, sometimes golf carts give you the authority to protect and serve, if used appropriately, not like those “snowbird” golfers that want to win the Masters and prove to Tiger Woods that “age is just a number”.

As a resident, I really cannot say that no, we never have break-ins or criminal activity of any kind. In reference to background checks and online crime reports such as CAP Index and neighborhood reports, I could only find a few random traffic violation incidents outside of Boca West off of Glades Road. Being that Willow Wood and Boca West abide their world-class reputation, although built at least thirty years ago, I can still say that while there will always be some issues anywhere, there is so much more that over compensates all this.

The gatehouses, the security men with their carts or their SUVS, and property management as well as golfers, are all great examples of natural, technological, and manpower strategies in surveillance and territoriality. The social control of streets, outdoor activities, and wildlife are all a part of the development “ownership”. In the back of the building on the south side, natural surveillance is doubled as residents inside casually relay the “eye” back out to the golfers on the course, just like Jane Jacob’s version of “eye on the street” or at least “eye on the golf course”.

The Willow Wood Condo and the rest of the development have had a “family” on staff, longer than before I was born. Back in the early 90s, my family owned a two-story condo in a different development. Since Boca West is a closely knit community where “everyone knows your name” just like the Cheers theme song, family is family. Their “casa” is our “casa”. In fact, 20 years later, my name is still on the permanent guest list from our former residence. As of today, whenever my friends and family check in at the gatehouse for my name, the security staff always asks, “Which Nathalie Siegel?” Although it is outrageously funny, on the other hand, I think it is subconsciously a safer mentality for a young professional living on her own.

Speaking of the “family system” at Boca West, all of Willow Wood including my building has the same mailman and the same cleaning crew that maintains our high up-keeping and building access. The mailman knows our first names and we call him “Mr. John”. He is always dressed in uniform and knows when we are in town or out of town. Mr. John is the kind of guy that will put a temporary hold on mail knowing we are on vacation or something. Since he is part of our family, he originally was screened by the Master Association office, fingerprinted and went through a tedious, long series of interviews and orientation for Boca West. When Mr. John is on vacation or just needs to get to the beach, Boca West has already fully screened his assistant enough to enter our premises as well. Both men are good examples of “casual” manpower in observing vacancies in and out of our building, especially if our mail has not been picked up in awhile.

The property cleaning crew consists of a mother and daughter team. They come by in the golf cart every Monday early morning. The crew goes through the same routine on a weekly basis and even take the time to greet us as we enter and exit the main lobby. They wear a t-shirt and shorts, nothing formal. I do not know their names, but they are as sweet as they can be. Sometimes the crew helps us carry our groceries. They are responsible for everything in the lobby hallway including furniture, interiors, and walls.

Also, while they are of small size, they still use their woman-power to abide their duty in emptying out large waste dumpsters, bigger than them put together. Thankfully, as a LEED AP and a tree-hugger, I am glad to know that three of the four dumpsters are color coded for recycling efforts, red, blue and yellow. Such a huge task for these young women, but they do this with pride and are not greedy, amongst the typical stereotypes of most Boca West residents (not entirely true, since I have evidence arguing this, but that is a different story).

Our property trash policy is strictly enforced for the building. We have a trash chute that connects all floors to the main dumpster in a room on the ground level, on the south side. Outside the building, anyone can access this trash room. This is to accommodate property staff and maintenance for trash or recycle efforts, even for the city. Inside this room, there is a door leading to inside the mid-rise. Fortunately for unwanted users or wrong building residents, no one can get inside from this room, even with the correct building key. This door is only accessible while being inside the building, not inside the trash room. As you open this metal door from the inside, it swings so fast that you need something to brace it open while you drop off trash. This must be a good old “tongue-and-cheek” trick. (*Picture #5) Untitled-5.jpg

CPTED speaking and transitioning from “outdoor perimeter” to “property entry” to finally “residential entry” talk, at this point, going home sounds like the best thing to do now. Upon entering, onto your right of the main entry, you come across the technological asset of a wall-mounted intercom, emergency phone system and address signage. After you have been “approved” by the technology via key access or intercom/phone access, you enter the heavy double glass doors. Just like opening up a new book, the introduction gives you a first impression. The main lobby entrance defines your first impression of this grand, tall space. The space leads you towards the south direction, passing through adjacencies of a large, spacious sitting area off to each side.

As you enter the area and greet your neighbors sitting in luxury, you will notice that this space draws you into the next chapter of a “Boca West” story. The space breaks an interior, non-load bearing wall into two with built-in storage rooms, on each side. The locked storage rooms are full of caged wire-framing with individual locks, equidistantly spaced out to fit the needs for each resident. A shopping cart complimentary borrowed from the local Publix sits in the clearance space, available to transport belongings upstairs. Alternatively, due to the excessive chaos during “season”, a second storage area is built into the east portion of the interior wall, along with traditional mailboxes built-in with key access.

As you walk further into the residential hallway to the east side, you will see a locked bulletin board with a glass enclosure displaying property policies, contact information as well as notices for future board meetings. This is a great example of “Second” Generation CPTED which focuses on community involvement. The notice for a future board meeting is open to residents in hopes of bringing more awareness to building issues tenants have, especially during “season”.

Most residents do not like the idea of flyers inserted under their doors as it causes a major disturbance to their privacy and gives them the feeling that they are living in a freshman dorm, with house rules and some young kid wearing a t-shirt printed, “Residential Advisor” as their only manpower to rely on. Our property association has very thorough, well-maintained procedures in informing our residents during legal routine and or emergency situations.

Finally, as you continue walking and reading towards the south side of the building’s first floor, the zoning is more appropriate for service technicians or property management staff. Typical activity would be men in their uniforms routinely and updating the fire alarm system, sprinkler system and or electrical system. The building key access is set up for these appropriate users.

In addition to the south side, there are two staircases nearby. Each staircase shares the back of the building core which also includes two elevator cars on the front. One staircase runs from top floor of the east side of the building core, all the way down to the ground, sharing the same space as the door leading into the trash room. This circulation can either take you into the trash area or around the lobby to the main entrance. It really is not considered the fire escape route. The fire escape route is located at the south side of the building core. It goes all the way down to the ground floor, directly outside an exit door into the outdoor, recessed hallway of service areas, facing the pathway parallel to the golf course. (*Picture #6 and #7) Untitled-6.jpg Untitled-7.jpg

As you take your book and ride up the elevator, you will notice on every floor, all fire extinguishers are placed to the west of the elevator and to the east is the trash chute and laundry room, closed with unlocked metal doors. All doors are metal and painted white, along with white-washed walls and ceramic mezzuzahs nailed up on the right side of the door framing. You will also observe some locally-grown plant hangings and “outdoorsy” sculptures from the flea market in Delray. All hallways are carpeted very nicely and vacuumed on a weekly basis. Fire exit signs are legally mounted to the exterior of every elevator lobby on each floor. All unit addresses are visually appropriate for wanted and unwanted users, with any type of vision, perfect 20/20 or approaching early signs of near-sightedness.

After walking through the lobby space, to the “cross-over” storage area, up the vertical elevator through all the floors, the next chapter in this story would allow you to enter one of the individual units and observe its surroundings. All windows are manually-operated and user-friendly with a chained lock. On all levels excluding the first level, balcony doors are operated with a manual-lock switch. The balconies are safely enclosed with screening wrapped around and no exterior access. The interior furnishings, wall paint and carpet materials are all under the homeowner’s discretion, as each unit is individually attested to each one’s needs and customized lifestyle.

Cleanliness and high maintenance are words Boca West carry as a torch around the community. Unfortunately Willow Wood Condos do not allow any cats or dogs. Sadly, I have one of each but my parents took temporary custody of them and treat them like royalty. On the positive side, it does make sense to live in a residence with easier property maintenance without additional expenses and investments for felines and canines living on the premises. Due to the age of our mid-rises, it is obvious that the property owners have to incur more and invest more in order to keep the old with the new.

A fully-occupied building is always the best measure for residential security. These buildings of Willow Wood have a 75% occupancy rate of full-time residents including myself, as opposed to other properties with very low full-time occupancy. Since Hurricane season is approaching in June, this is the really quiet season where most of the seasonal “snowbirds” go back up north to Long Island, Philly or Cleveland. During the chaotic months of September to April, all of Willow Wood is in extreme full capacity, as renters or as homeowners. The temporary demographics for this property are mostly young families of grandparents who reside here. They immediately fill up all parking spots and guest spaces and are guilty of delaying the speed of elevator traffic!

When the season is switched from “snowbird” to “hurricane”, the United States demographics system probably should request a formal statistical change for all of Boca Raton. Right after the last Continental flight departs Palm Beach International domestically for LaGuardia, immediately, Willow Wood’s demographics automatically switches into “55 plus” married couples that live and work at home. This includes older singles and little me, known as the “granddaughter” of everyone here.

My neighbors, while much older than me, are the absolute nicest ever. Without even knowing their first names, every day I know that there is a huge feeling of natural surveillance in the hallways and on the lobby level. One of my neighbors down the hall actually picks up the newspaper deliveries from outside and drops them off at the subscribers’ units. Every day, he makes sure that everyone has their daily newspaper and knows the status if we are in town or not.

Since the walls are pretty thin and mostly likely are built from materials that do not even exist today, you hear people talking in the hallways. Sometimes, kids are running in the hallway, which is highly unusual because of the “season”. While we all have freedom of speech and can do whatever we please in the building, even if playing loud music (which never happens), we all know it is great to have action around for safety reasons. Being surrounded by neighbors in case of an emergency, as opposed to a fully unoccupied mid-rise is one of the great reasons of living at Willow Wood, full time.

As the sole assessor for this project, I am walking over to the next section of the surveys, wrapping up my observations and starting to throw in my two cents. It is now time to “critically critique” this project as if it were the final review of architecture studio. On the first floor level, residents either on the east, west or south sides of the building have an additional amenity. They all have private entrances to their screened-in porches. No need to have to use the elevator and to constantly greet the same neighbors sitting in the luxury lobby every day. Perhaps those neighbors really are hired to greet everyone and observe the premises?

Of course, there is the other side of your brain thinking what about security? What about surveillance outside the doorway? Is the entryway visually capable to navigate after sunset? Without having to view attached photos, you assume that with all the extra lush landscaping blocking the sidewalk path, it would not be such an easy task. (*Picture #8 and #9) 

Untitled-8.jpgUntitled-9.jpgScreen doors are traditionally inexpensive, black aluminum framing with wire mesh pattern stretched all the way around. No visible colors stand out behind landscaping and dark areas. Color is a major concern. This is an example in why exotic animals living in the wild jungles of South Africa (or at least what is unfortunately left of), can easily hide and acclimate to its environment. The color of exotic animals’ outer skin or fur meshes very well with the color tones of the wild vegetation and landscaping out there.

Color works multi-functionally to protect the species or in this case, vulnerable assets of a condo unit. While the screen balcony may be hidden and “camouflaged” for privacy on ground level, you cannot observe it clear and present, day or night. Material color can be so color-blinded. If the light, as the color of contrast, is turned off in the balcony area, it defeats the purpose of anyone wanting to visit you.

The bushes along the sidewalks of the building happen to be mostly taller than an average person, which is a major security issue, day or night. This impedes natural surveillance for a visitor or a resident, whether you are seated in your car or walking tall in the parking lot.

Without even knowing what CPTED is or watching that really cool Lt. Horatio with his sunglasses on CSI Miami or wanting to be a cop just like Elliott of Special Victims Unit on Law and Order, it is obvious that tall greenery is just not the wisest choice. After having a conversation with the Assistant Property Manager for Willow Wood Condos, Barbara Bockiaro, she informs me that these condos were built during the last phase of Boca West, at least thirty years ago. What was built then, eventually suffers future consequences of what is needed today.

The long horizontal bay of tall shrubbery at the beginning of the development replaces the traditional territorial strategy of open white picket fencing. The fencing would be much more of a wiser choice or at least just to break up the thickness and to help you find which mid-rise lobby to enter. If these buildings were low-rises, tall landscaping would not be the correct choice, but thankfully due to the tall height, you are able to view atop the thick density. (*Picture #10) Untitled-10

Ironically, the other day, after I took pictures of the outer perimeter area, the landscapers came by and started preparing for the Hurricane season. They must have read my paper and changed all of my observations of “tallness” in Willow Wood! Thankfully, I took photos as prior to this!

Exterior lighting is also a major issue in trying to find the corners of the building perimeter, on the first level. There is one tall light pole shining in the middle of the circular driveway, mixed in between the trees and bushes. It looks like the landscape architect, no offense, wanted to show off the really tall vegetative plantings blooming in that area, as if they were the main reason why people visit the area! There is absolutely no visibility in seeing the front doors of the main entry, viewing from outside or viewing from inside. The color green fills up your eye in both directions. Looks like you really need the stars to shine brighter in this development or at least a flashlight app downloaded from iTunes!

The pathway has low standing lights, equidistantly spaced out not much higher than 2 or 3 feet along any of the paths, which create shadows, in front of the building and in the back along the golf course. Around the perimeter, there is no down or up lighting mounted along any of the sides of the building or by the corner entrances. When a guest checks in with the gatehouse and comes by to visit you, you would want their experience to be inviting, not a nail-biting experience. Calling all architects and landscape designers, please!

It is one thing to live behind the golf course during the day, but in the evening it is totally pitch black out. This situation increases rewarding opportunities for an unwanted user or wrong building resident to watch golfers, in the recessed “building maintenance” area of the south wall. This outdoor hallway with service doors on both sides is shielded underneath the building and openly accessible to hide anything.

A few months ago, according to the Property Management Office, there was a small incident, due to the wild birdlife in our area. Some birds were flying into our pool area and causing unsanitary conditions in the water. Since this tremendously deterred weekly pool maintenance, the office decided to put in a flotation device in the shape of an alligator. While comical, this was mainly to scare away the ducks and birds coming in our pool.

On the other hand, this floating alligator, without a doubt, also scared away little children coming in to go swimming. So of course there were plenty of complaints and requests in having the alligator removed. The office came up with a final, low key solution in adding a figurine sculpture of an owl right on the ledge of the pool. I think this whole thing was hilarious. It was solved by using inexpensive methods of protection away from unwanted users! Since I have been a resident here, I only have heard or seen hilarious reports of incidents involving bird life as unwanted users.

While the continuous parking lot stretches as long as the green bays along the curved street, it is also an issue. It takes up much more space than the total all of the mid-rises, even if adding another mid-rise was proposed in the future. Sometimes, people think “Willow Wood” is just the parking area. There is no sense of direction for incoming and outgoing traffic. This causes confusion for pedestrians walking around the area, even random neighbor birds and sometimes clashing with confused drivers pulling in or out. (*Picture #11) Untitled-11.jpg

Also, the red stop sign at the edge of the driveway looks like it is just an accent piece of color. Most cars usually do not stop at that point because the parking lot and curved driveway is just way too broad. In fact, residents subconsciously use the traffic area as part of pedestrian social activity areas, because there are no set zoning areas.

Along the large circle of greenery centralized directly from the main lobby area, communal areas are limited outside to a narrow sidewalk that outlines the brick circular driveway. No transitional space for residents is available to stand, sit down or socialize outside along the narrow path. (*Picture #12) Untitled-12

It appears to me that the original landscape designers had way too much excess space that they did not know how to use it wisely as fully-functional. Apparently, they minimized all social activity and threw the rest of the extra space as automotive circulation. Talk about very expensive paving and parking bumper maintenance. So many guest spaces are way in the back of the lot closely aligned with dense bushes. Not the best choice for guest spaces. Our residents cannot extend our “eye” strategy far out to the very edge of the parking lot and to see what is going on with traffic flow of guests. Sometimes, natural environmental surroundings are a benefit as well as a deterrent for safety and crime prevention.

Another fire code issue with the interiors of a unit is the ceiling. While I am not familiar with all of the older building codes especially in the state of Florida, at least way before my time, I see that an old-fashioned tray of miniature light bulbs is mounted with an edge overlapping the side of the sprinkler. Now that is strange. Someone in the first grade would even wonder how would a sprinkler fully spray out water in all directions while partially blocked by an old fashioned light fixture? Talk about dinosaur age! What was the electrican or fire marshall thinking? Imagine if the light fixture tray was full of halogen lights that would probably have blown out into a larger fire, downplaying the water sprinkler. (*Picture #13) Untitled-13

Ironically speaking, when I first moved to the 4th building of Willow Wood Condos, I had no idea that your building key is only accessible to one particular pool area, not others. One day, I was around a different pool area and so a neighbor let me into the area, assuming my key was not working. Ah ha! A perfect example of better neighborhood security approaches needed. The “fortress” approach really does serve a positive response, to a certain extent. All pool amenities and both restrooms are key accessible as well as main fence area, all lockable from inside and outside.

So after a few hours of hanging by the wrong pool area, I realized that I was locked out! I observed to see if there was any furniture to climb onto to get over the fence, but of course Willow Wood, thirty years ago, incorporated their smarts into the fencing. The white picket fence was too high for an average height person to climb over and land onto another landing. But then there was the case of climbing a tree. Not my cup of tea. All three pool fence exits were locked from within. The spacing in between the entry fencing was impossible to weave your hand through to turn the doorknob with a key, just like those really successful cat burglars in all those movies. Talk about huge criminal rewards where things appear much easier on the movie screen than in real life! I called Boca West Security and two Boca Raton police officers came by and unlocked the gate. What an unforgettable experience with the southwest corner behind Willow Wood building 3000, as an unwanted user in the wrong building! (*Picture #14) Untitled-15.jpg

After finding the correct hidden lobby, getting locked in the pool area, and being stuck in traffic to allow ducks to cross over, I must be craving CPTED certification so fast! There is so much that needs to be done! Inquiring minds always want to know more anyway.

Just like the movies that say “the end” or the last page of a book where people like to peek at even before starting to read, after all this, I feel like the end is opening up a new chapter for me. It is as if I went through architecture school all over again and can now call myself a CPTED professional. I am now ready to report for my next duty assignment! With my architect-in-training thinking cap, here are my recommendations in a nutshell.

Firstly, homeowners on the first floor level need to do something about their exterior, private entries, now and fast. No matter the age group here or the sleepy sounds of the golf course, we need some bright and positive energy freshening up those dark corners, dark by day and dark by night. The sunshine cannot always be the main source of happiness and natural light. It is not Halloween and it is not the Twilight Zone. Let’s repaint the aluminum framing a low VOC, white finish with weather resistant durability properties. Not to cause light pollution or eye glare when lizards climb around the area or residents pass by. Next, add some wind chimes, a ceiling fan, some garden furniture or outdoor art from the flea market in Delray. Maybe throw in some reflective or brightly lit signage for address way finding. Lastly, keep reminding yourself the limits of your value worth on these personal assets so it will not draw attention as vulnerable targets further inside your building unit.

In regards to the interior of the building, adding some kind of security camera or intercom on the back door of the south wall would be an excellent CPTED idea. Most residents use the main lobby entrance as it is more common and convenient. Not too many of them know about this back door. It would be highly advised to add some security, since it is inside a recessed, outdoor hallway facing the private golf course. Perhaps something that slows down the speed of public entry but is still easily accessible to run from inside to outside in case of an emergency.

Next, due to the ridiculously expanse of driving space in the parking lot, we need to get down there and create a directional flow of traffic by separating both directions with median planning and some low landscaping atop of it. Call an electrician that is knowledgeable of cost-efficient, LED lighting and have him wire the median with a row of lights all around. This row of flights should follow suit around the central circle of the driveway.

Being a LEED AP, a tree hugger and an advocate for recycling at Willow Wood, I am also focusing on suggestions that would not only enhance the safety but also the long-term benefits of living here. With common sense, it is always advisable to up-keep the interiors of each unit of each mid-rise. This also goes without saying that maintenance crews are hired to routinely check all building perimeters and all publicly-shared interiors. Sustainability is the key to have you plan years ahead your safety, if Willow Wood will stand its time.

Another idea would be to add some spacing in between the green at the center of the circular driveway or at least trim down the tall levels. This would help anyone finding the address signage on the north wall. Years down the road, Willow Wood would not want to have the reputation of visitors saying it is “just way too complicated to find the correct building”. Now is the time to make simple, inexpensive changes.

This also goes for the greenery which tends to grow fast and hang over part of the sidewalks. As spring and summer approach, landscapers know how fast all plants and shrubbery grows and bloom new roots.

The concrete narrow sidewalk needs to be widened and throwing in a few outdoor benches as well as a few pole lights shining down and away from the benches. It is time to reassess the social control needs and circulation patterns after thirty years. Just like how we have maintenance for all of our amenities on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, in the long-run, sustainability plays a major factor in long term up-keeping and upholding Willow Wood’s reputation for satisfactory lifestyles.

As a future architect along with a semester course in CPTED, I feel that my knowledge and skills have been sharpened even more at a universal level. After completing this class, I can now look at things differently as I walk the streets and observe people, surroundings and property assets within an area whether it be Willow Wood or some unknown area. After thoroughly executing two surveys, one on Homeland Security and the other on the Federal Way along with interviewing the Deputy Chief and Property Management, once again, I am definitely wishing that I could expedite my ARE exams and become the architect-on-staff for this property. There is so much that could be done, that would be done and must be done soon as age really ages eventually in an anti-aging community of Boca Raton.


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