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10 Tips for selecting the right type of fencing

Airport weldmesh fence

Selecting the optimum type of fencing requires a careful balance to be made between security, aesthetics and cost

Hywel Davies, the Managing Director of Procter Contracts, offers ten tips to help architects and specifiers select fencing that will achieve the optimum balance between aesthetics, security and cost.

Whether the need is for fencing around schools, factories, warehouses, public utilities or other premises, Procter Contracts can advise architects, specifiers, contractors and end users on the optimum specification for every project. Most importantly, the company is committed to providing an exceptional level of customer service.

Specifying fencing may sound easy but there is more to this task than many people realise. Furthermore, there is plenty of scopes to get things wrong and end up with fencing that does not meet the requirements fully or is more costly than necessary, either initially or in the long term due to ongoing maintenance. The following ten tips will help architects and specifiers select the right type of fencing for the optimum balance between security, aesthetics and cost.

1. Understand why you need fencing
Broadly speaking there are three main reasons for erecting fencing: security, aesthetics and boundary demarcation. In reality, it is often a combination of two of these so that, for example, the fencing provides the necessary level of security but with acceptable aesthetics. Elsewhere, it might be that boundary demarcation with high aesthetics is required, which might lead to bespoke railings being specified.

2. If security is important, conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment will identify the threats (eg trespass, theft, vandalism and unauthorised access/exit) and the frequency with which a security breach is anticipated, enabling appropriate fencing types to be considered.

3. Select fencing to suit the security levels required

Railings and timber fencing typically provide a relatively low level of security, while palisade and welded wire mesh panels (weldmesh) offer higher security. Beware that although chainlink may look secure, in fact it is quite easy to breach. Remember, also, that a higher fence will offer greater security, and some types of mesh panel (eg Procter Pro-sure 358) offer higher climb resistance and cut resistance than other mesh panels that may appear similar to the untrained eye.

4. Are complementary security measures required?
In many cases erecting a fence provides adequate security, but sometimes further measures are required. This might include toppings (eg rotating spikes or extensions carrying razor wire), electronic intruder detection systems and electrification. Aside from the fencing, it might also be necessary to install CCTV or use security patrols.

5. Consider access at the same time as fencing
Authorised access for vehicles and pedestrians should be considered at the same time as the fencing, as it is usually best to source fencing and gates from a single supplier, and also have them installed by that supplier. If you are not familiar with specifying gates, talk to suppliers to understand fully the pros and cons of all the options, such as manually operated gates, powered/automated gates, sliding gates (tracked and cantilevered), swing gates, telescopic gates and bi-folding gates (‘speed’ gates). Furthermore, consider the access controls that will be needed, which range from keypads, swipe cards and an intercom, to ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) and inductive loops beneath the roadway. Perimeter security should, ideally, be considered as a whole, which is why it is best not to specify fencing in isolation (for example, it would be unwise to specify high-security fencing and then compromise the site security with poorly controlled access points).

6. Durability and finish
With some applications, such as multi-use games areas and storage yards, the fencing is likely to be subjected to harder use than, for example, a car park behind an office. Galvanising provides durable, long-lasting protection for steel fencing, and a polyester powder coat on top will improve the aesthetic and also be very durable in most circumstances. For coastal environments, stainless steel can be used for railings, though it is strongly recommended that an electro-polished finish is specified rather than the more usual passivation, as electro-polishing provides up to 30 times better protection.

7. British and European Standards
There are numerous British and European Standards relating to fencing and railings, so architects and specifiers should check to see which are applicable to the fencing they are specifying and then quote the standard(s) when requesting quotations. Most importantly, when quotes are received, make sure the products being offered to do, indeed, meet the standards, as it is easy for an unscrupulous supplier (or one not paying attention) to substitute, say, a fence panel made from lighter-gauge wire, which will not provide the requisite security or durability.

8. A fence is only as good as its installation
It would be a mistake to specify good quality fencing or railings, then try to save money by having it installed cheaply. Properly installed, fencing and railings will last for many years with little or no maintenance; poorly installed fencing and railings are likely to need ongoing maintenance that will soon cost far more than the additional cost of installation by specialists.

9. Do you really need the same everywhere?
The chance is there are some areas of the site that warrant fencing that provides higher security or a better aesthetic, but that does not mean it is necessary to install the same fencing everywhere. Considerable cost savings can be made by specifying different types of fencing for various areas, particularly for large sites or those where the threat level varies around the perimeter.

10. Check local planning requirements
Often planning permission will be required before erecting fencing. There may be restrictions relating to, typically, fence height and the use of toppings, so it is worthwhile checking the requirements before specifying the fencing and requesting quotations.

Procter Contracts, a division Procter Bros Ltd, which has a history dating back to the 1740s. The family-owned business has been manufacturing and installing fencing, railings and gates for over 100 years. Procter Contracts has an extensive website with a number of Guides, White Papers and a Fencing Selector that have been developed to meet the needs of architects and specifiers. In addition, the website contains product data, CAD drawings, a gallery, case studies and a wealth of other useful information.  Go to the product range to find out more, or contact Procter Fencing Systems to discuss specific projects by means of the Live Chat facility on the website, email [email protected] or call +44(0)800 2944177.

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