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"It’s a privilege to work collaboratively with architects and housing associations to design, create and deliver safer places.”

A residential development that involved the refurbishment of former HQ of the Northern Ireland Blood Service – a Grade B2 listed building – and the building of brand new homes nearby, has won designing Out Crime Officers Shireen Fisher and Nicola Geddis Secured by Design (SBD) Best Medium Development Award 2020.

The listed building in Durham Street, Belfast, which had fallen into disrepair, has been transformed into six apartments. A more modern office extension to the rear of the building was demolished and replaced with a further six apartments – all 12 of them for active older people.

In addition, as part of a wider neighbourhood regeneration, development work was extended to include two small streets of 11 new homes in Albert Street and Emma Court: ten new houses for families and a bungalow catering for complex needs.

Shireen and Nicola, who work at the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Headquarters Unit in Belfast, were presented with their Medium Development Award (for 10-100 properties) – a new category for 2020 – by Stephen Watson QPM, National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Crime Prevention, and Helen Ball, Assistant Commissioner (Professionalism), Metropolitan Police at SBD’s ATLAS national training event for Designing Out Crime Officers.

PSNI Awards Night photo WEB

The £3.3m development was for Clanmil Housing Association with the contract awarded to GEDA Construction. Rolston Architects were the architects for the project. Work was completed by the end of 2017.

There was regular contact and discussion with all parties as the development progressed, especially with GEDA Construction to make sure all the various issues they encountered met with SBD standards and requirements. Towards the end of the build, there was regular communication with the site manager to ensure all designing out crime requirements were being appropriately addressed.

In addition, as a listed building, it was important to preserve the building’s original features whilst creating modern comfortable homes.

For example, SBD secondary glazing behind the historic windows was not permitted by the Historic Environment Division as this would adversely affect the character of the building. So secondary glazing, a slim profile unit, was agreed in order to reduce the impact on the building. Extra security fixings were negotiated to the existing sliding sash windows in order to prevent them being prised open.

The contractors also restored the brick and sandstone detailing. The building was also extended sympathetically with a glass atrium linking the old and the new buildings. The building’s original internal spiral staircase with a rope bannister was retained and encased in glass and shown off with subtle lighting. When Shireen and Nicola saw the building when they went to check that all the SBD measures had been completed correctly, their joint reaction was: “Wow!”

Durham Street frontage DSC 0101 low res WEB

The development, which attained an SBD Gold Award for the building’s physical security and incorporating crime prevention measures and techniques into surrounding layout and landscaping, went on to be declared winner in the Social Housing category of the Construction Excellence Awards 2019.

The imposing, two-storey Scottish red sandstone listed building in Durham Street, which had also been used as former HQ for the Central Tuberculosis Institute before being used by the Northern Ireland Blood Service, was designed for the Belfast Corporation by Robert Young & John Mackenzie.

On receiving her award, Shireen said: “It’s such an honour. It really is, and that’s not a throw-away remark. It’s a privilege to work collaboratively with organisations like architects and housing associations to design, create and deliver safer places.”

Nicola said she was ‘thrilled and excited’ and added: “The housing association, architects and builders will be so pleased and impressed. This was a listed building and quite a sensitive project with many design and practical considerations which needed to be taken into account.”

Chris Sloan, who is the Strategic Lead for Crime Prevention with PSNI, said: “This award provides formal recognition to the outstanding work Nicola and Shireen have undertaken and the work PSNI Crime Prevention Officers continue to provide in preventing crime and reducing harm within Northern Ireland. It is a pleasure to work with such a dedicated team that take pride in this work and continue to provide an exceptional service. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our partners including the design and construction industry, housing associations and Police Crime Prevention Initiatives, in supporting PSNI in this work.”

SBD Membership Lead, Kenny McHugh, commented: “I am thrilled and delighted that Shireen and Nicola have been recognised by this award. They work in an area that presents many challenges and they always make sure that SBD’s crime prevention measures and techniques are fulfilled in every way, every time, whatever that project is and wherever it is. This award recognises their commitment and hard work and is thoroughly deserved.”

Emma Court Blood Bank DSC 0095 low res WEB

Since April 2008, Registered Housing Associations seeking to undertake new build, major rehabilitation and re-improvement schemes – using Housing Association Grant (HAG) funding – are required to achieve SBD’s Award for physical security and layout and landscaping. HAG funding is when a payment is made to acquire land or buildings and to build, convert or improve housing for rent.

Achieving the SBD standard is a requirement of the Department for Communities (DfC), which took over the roles and responsibilities of the former Department for Social Development (DSD) in May 2016.

For an article on how SBD is gaining support from architects and developers to help with regeneration in Northern Ireland, visit: