Designed to Protect

Selecting security bollard solutions that are engineered to protect as intended and look good while doing it
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Sponsored by Forms+Surfaces
By Amanda Voss, MPP

Learning Objectives:

  1. Assess project security needs to appropriately specify bollards as security barriers.
  2. Describe current testing and standards used to certify bollard performance in the field, which allows product specification with confidence.
  3. Examine bollard foundation engineering and the impact of its design on the effective performance of the bollard as a barrier system.
  4. Explore modern design innovations for security bollards that allow high durability in combination with lighting performance and exceptional aesthetics.


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Site security is a major concern in today’s unpredictable world. Public and private buildings, government facilities, campuses, and public parks are all susceptible to accidental as well as deliberate vehicle infringement. Design professionals, city planners, facilities managers, and engineers must now be increasingly sensitive to the safety and security requirements of public and private spaces, and balancing these concerns with a site’s aesthetic criteria.

Photo courtesy of Forms+Surfaces

The requirements of site security and safety increasingly govern the design of today’s most visible commercial and public spaces. New advancements in security bollard manufacturing allow for creation of a secure perimeter while preserving the desired design aesthetic.


There are many ways in which to create safeguards for structures and people while maintaining a standoff distance for vehicles. Barriers or devices used to prevent vehicle ingress are referred to as vehicle security barriers. Bollards are one of the most commonly used vehicle security barriers. A bollard refers to a constructed post used to demarcate an architectural or protective perimeter. Bollards can be specified with almost any material, with the most common manufacture being from metal, stone, cement, or plastic. Traditionally, bollard material and style have been defined by their function. Now, designers are finding a wider variety of shapes and styles to accentuate or complement the desired design aesthetic.

“We’ve seen demand for rated security bollards skyrocket in recent years, to the point that they are quickly becoming some of our highest selling outdoor products. Our team of designers and engineers have been working to bring new innovations to the market to support this demand,” notes Ryan Seiler, Engineering and Design, Forms+Surfaces.

Today’s built environment features bollards in almost every application imaginable. Design professionals incorporate bollards to manage pedestrian and vehicle flow, to enhance exterior design, as wayfinding and lighting for pathways, to secure and protect buildings and people, and even to provide bike parking. Bollards can also be found indoors, creating perimeters. For example, bollards are employed in warehouses to prevent damage to structures or utilities by machinery, or in entrance lobbies, creating better flow and more clearly defined spaces.

Security bollards placed at points of ingress are an excellent way to guard against vehicle infringement while still allowing for pedestrian access. Security bollards act as both a physical and visual barrier. They are varied in their shapes, sizes, and designs. Bollards and security barriers protect lives and property by creating a controlled traffic setting. Knowing the differences between types of bollards helps the engineer and design professional to select the best solution for a site.

What Makes Up a Security Bollard?

Until recently, security bollards have frequently taken the form of generic pipes or cylinders that offer little in the way of design or lighting functionality. Design enhancements now provide a solution that blends security, performance, and style. By adding a pre-engineered security core, leading manufacturers are responding to the demand for functional designs that combine lighting performance and high durability materials. The needs of today's public spaces can be met with beautiful, illuminated bollards that meet stringent high-impact crash requirements, or bollards designed to seamlessly integrate into an existing landscape. Additionally, modern security bollards provide highly customizable solutions that fit various types of installations—retractable, removable, and custom foundation engineered bollards.

security bollard is often composed of three distinct parts: its foundation, core, and sleeve. The core is set in its foundation, per specification, and the combination of these two elements give the bollard its strength. In many designs a sleeve is also then mounted over the core. It is the bollard sleeve that forms the most visible part of the product and can be used to enhance the landscape and building design.

Photo courtesy of Forms+Surfaces

The needs of today's public spaces can be met with beautiful, illuminated bollards that meet stringent high-impact crash requirements or bollards designed to seamlessly integrate into an existing landscape.

Evaluating a Project’s Security Needs

With the growing necessity for site safety, security bollards are not only in demand, but they also are facing increasingly stringent standards. By necessity, older fixtures are being replaced with newer models that stand up to enhanced requirements.

Security bollards are often used to restrict movement of vehicles into perimeters where pedestrians and infrastructure may be exposed to certain specified hazards, such as terrorist attacks or vehicles used for ram raids. The effectiveness of vehicle anti-ram bollards is dependent on their ability to resist the energy from the impact. The U.S. Department of State, Guide to Active Vehicle Barrier (AVB) Specification and Selection Resources (2003), specifies criteria to help engineers, design professionals, and building owners select a barrier for use at facilities. The Department of State rating is based on type of impact. This selection is done based on crash-rated barriers or engineer-rated systems. Specification for bollards considers the speed and the mass of the approaching vehicle, as well as the distance it travels after impact. While the guide focuses on Level 1 or Level 2 Facilities, the decision matrix discussed is useful for many projects.

Beyond specifying bollards for Level 1 or 2 facilities, a designer may want to consider an assessment of the threat level for their project. The needs of a site will likely fall into three categories: low, medium, or high security needs.

A building with low security needs may be an office building with low pedestrian activity. Bollards for these lower threat perimeters are designed to stop passenger cars and direct traffic that might accidentally come into the building’s path. Typical applications include store fronts and pedestrian pathways that front parking or low speed traffic activity.

Buildings that face a more moderate threat to security are those whose site or location may allow vehicles to pick up some speed, traveling at up to 30 miles per hour (mph). These areas may also contain high value properties or host large public gatherings.

Buildings and areas that face a greater security threat and need high-threat solutions, include federal buildings, high-value properties, and areas, both outdoor and indoor, designed for hospitality and public events. This includes government buildings and pedestrian corridors. These buildings may also be near major roadways or areas that could face ingress from a larger vehicle traveling at high speeds.

Conducting a Security Assessment

An initial security review can include assessments of perceived threats, an analysis of the project’s site, an understanding of the consequences of compromise, and highlighting perceived vulnerabilities. The structure, roads, terrain, and landscaping all combine to impact the security of the site. The placement of exits and entrances, and locations of critical infrastructure, should also be reviewed.

Whole life-cycle planning also helps to inform the specification and selection of security measures, including bollards. The cost, not only to acquire, but also to install, maintain, refurbish, and replace a product, needs to be evaluated. The selected bollard should fit the site design and address the threat; its installation, operation, and maintenance should also not burden operations.

Finally, design professionals may also want to consider bollards that are non-crash resistant or non-rated as a supplement in their security plan. Non-crash-resistant bollards provide a visual barrier, direct traffic, provide enough space for pedestrians, and can be chosen as a deterrent. They can be used by themselves or be worked into a larger security plan. Engaging bollards with lighting to create a unified design and perimeter not only bolsters the safety of a site, but can assist with wayfinding, signaling to vehicles and pedestrian where to travel and adding to the branded identity of a site. Finding a product family that offers a variety of options also creates a cohesive look across a project. Additional elements that can enhance a security design include pathway lighting and pedestrian lighting.

Photo courtesy of Forms+Surfaces

Modern security bollards provide highly customizable solutions that fit various types of installations and security needs.


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Originally published in October 2022