Academic journal article Journal of Real Estate Literature

Terrorism Protection and Prevention Measures for Office Buildings

Academic journal article Journal of Real Estate Literature

Terrorism Protection and Prevention Measures for Office Buildings

Article excerpt


The events of September 11, 2001 in the United States have changed the perspective of owners and management companies towards the security of office buildings. The initial reaction, which included general security measures with an unclear prevention role, is continuously being replaced by improved and more thorough decision-making process of prevention measures targeting specific types of threats. This paper proposes a layered approach for the protection and prevention against terrorism attacks on office buildings and the development of a city-wide Property Anti-Terrorism Taskforce, which will increase the cross-collaboration between real estate and law enforcement and emergency management agencies, while strategically preparing owners and property managers.


Terrorism can be defined as the premeditated use, or threat of use, of extra normal violence to obtain a political objective through intimidation or fear directed at a large audience (Sandler and Enders, 2003). Terrorism assumes a transnational character when a terrorism incident in one country involves victims, targets, institutions, governments, or citizens of another country. In addition, macroterrorism describes a spectacular act of terrorism with multiple strikes possible at several locations, which cause more than $1 billion of loss or 500 deaths (Woo, 2003a).

From the late 1960s until the latter 1980s, transnational terrorism was primarily motivated by nationalism, separatism and Marxist ideology (Wilkinson, 1986). However, in the 1990s, the motivation of terrorism changed with "the emergence of either obscure, idiosyncratic millennium movements" or religious-based fundamentalist groups (Hoffman, 1997). More disturbingly, although transnational terrorist attacks have decreased, their lethality has increased, so each incident is almost 17% more likely to result in death or injuries (Enders and Sandler, 1999). The targets selected through time have also changed from specific individuals or government buildings to attacks towards unsuspecting crowded areas (e.g., the Bali club bombing in 2002 and the Madrid train bombing in 2004).

A number of papers have been written on the relationship between economic conditions and terrorism incidents. Blomberg, Hess and Orphanides (2004) argue that terrorism versus other forms of conflicts is more frequent in democracies and high income countries. In addition, terrorism incidents may have a negative economic effect on growth compared to either external wars or internal conflicts. Quan and Schaub (2004) indicate that economic development of a country and its top trading partners reduces the number of terrorist incidents inside the country.

In this paper, the office market trends of major cities in the United States are examined before and after the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001. In addition, a collaborative scheme between real estate organizations and law enforcement is proposed to enhance the effectiveness of measures taken in the future by building owners and managers, to identify potential building weaknesses that need to be addressed and to formulate contingency plans to mitigate future attacks. Unfortunately, commercial property is generally not heavily defended and has less trained security guards. In addition, only a few buildings have vehicle stand-off limits of 15-50 meters (Woo, 2004). Finally, a number of surveys of real estate executives are reviewed for their findings on the new threats towards real estate and measures proposed or already taken to stop or mitigate any new attacks.

Literature Review

Global terrorist activity from 1968 to 2002 can be seen as cyclical, although there is a year-to-year variation, as well as an incidence drop after 1993 (Exhibit 1). The comparison of terrorism incidents with their casualties indicates that peaks of terrorism activity do not trigger similar increases in causalities. However, in 1981, 1983, 1996 and 2001, a decrease in terrorism incidents also resulted in an increase in casualties (Exhibit 1). …

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