Author Bio ▼

IFSEC Insider, formerly IFSEC Global, is the leading online community and news platform for security and fire safety professionals.
February 7, 2024


Whitepaper: Enhancing security, resilience and efficiency across a range of industries

smart cities

Integrating third generation CPTED in modern smart cities: A holistic approach to safety, inclusivity, and sustainability

Eliana Boldur, Security Consultant at Buro Happold, analyses sustainability in smart cities, moving beyond a narrow environmental focus to integrating safety and security into the core principles of urban planning and development.

Exploring Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) involves delving into a philosophy that utilises urban and architectural design, as well as the management of built and natural environments, to mitigate crime and enhance quality of life.

Eliana Boldur, UK Security Consultant

While the First and Second generations of CPTED are more commonly applied in the planning process, the focus of this article is on Third Generation CPTED, incorporating contemporary considerations to smart cities development.

This article advocates for a holistic exploration, aiming to seamlessly integrate Third Generation CPTED into the framework of smart cities, emphasising interconnected elements like safety, public health, and sustainability.

Efforts to conceptualise Third Generation CPTED range from community-led approaches to incorporating sustainability and green technologies. The central challenge is formulating a theoretical framework that aligns with the original CPTED vision, harmonising environmental design with insights from the social and behavioural sciences. It is imperative to understand that CPTED is not just a set of guidelines, but a comprehensive philosophy deeply embedded in the mindset of architects and designers.

This approach demands a multidisciplinary perspective and collaboration between design teams, public entities, and private stakeholders.

CPTED is inherently collaborative, necessitating partnerships with law enforcement, urban planners, sociologists, and communities to gain a holistic understanding of factors influencing crime and safety.

This collaborative approach ensures diverse perspectives are considered, enriching the design process with insights from different disciplines and community experiences.
Examples of visionary urban developments such as Masdar City in UAE, Songdo International Business District in South Korea, Smart Forest City in Mexico, Neom’s The Line City in KSA, and Telosa in USA, often prioritise infrastructure construction before focusing on cultivating environments to attract diverse communities. These cities aim to become hubs for innovation, business, culture, and sustainability.

Further reading: What does a smart city look like? How video surveillance AI is changing our cities


CPTED Generations


The relationship between urban sustainability and security in developing smart urban environments

Le Corbusier, a Swiss-French architect, played a pivotal role in 20th-century architecture across the world, with his influence felt in France, the United Kingdom (UK), and the USA. As a champion of modernism, he emphasised functionality and clean lines, contributing significantly to the International Style. Le Corbusier aimed to address urban problems through scientifically rational and comprehensive city layouts, with the goal of promoting democracy and quality of life.

His principles included high-rise structures, minimal ornamentation, and the separation of functions within urban spaces.

However, the rigidity of Le Corbusier’s designs lacked flexibility for organic growth, hindering successful urban development. This has implications for modern smart cities, which require considerations regarding adaptability to future technological advancements, changes in population dynamics, and evolving societal needs.
Examining Le Corbusier’s impact on urban planning, particularly in collectivist living projects, provides historical context for understanding the interplay between urban sustainability and security in the context of new smart cities.

Further reading: The central role of access control to the transition to smart buildings

Despite innovative visions such as Unité d’Habitation and Brasília Plan, criticism arose for imposing Western ideals, creating unwelcoming large-scale spaces, and prioritising functionality over human-scale considerations.

Le Corbusier’s approach, applying a factory production process to buildings, viewed residents in a rational, standardised manner. This often resulted in the creation of marginalised and neglected communities.

The Unité d’Habitation in Marseille influenced high-rise housing projects in post-WWII Britain, reflecting Le Corbusian principles.
Architectural endeavours like St Peter’s College in Cardross, Scotland, inspired by Le Corbusier, faced issues such as maintenance problems and a decline in relevance, leading to abandonment. In the U.S., public housing projects influenced by Le Corbusier’s ideas displaced communities and contradicted their intended purpose, contributing to social decay and crime.

Critics like Jane Jacobs emphasised the importance of social context and interaction, highlighting the failure of Le Corbusier’s technical and geometric focus to consider inhabitants’ needs. The disregard for cultural traditions and social networks contributed to the alienation and decline of housing projects. Jacobs was an influential urban activist and author known for her groundbreaking work, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”.

She challenged traditional urban planning, emphasising mixed-use neighbourhoods and community involvement. The disregard for inhabitants’ cultural traditions and established social networks contributed to the alienation and subsequent decline of housing projects.

Le Corbusier’s vision, aimed at improving society through rational urban planning, resulted in unintended negative consequences, particularly in American housing projects. The lack of resident participation, cultural context, and adaptability played a role in the decay and crime in these environments.

This historical analysis triggers a more comprehensive examination of the impact of such designs on social sustainability and security within the realm of smart cities. Contemporary instances, such as the ongoing construction of the Songdo International Business District in South Korea – a smart city accommodating approximately 70,000 residents – resonate with apprehensions reminiscent of those raised in response to Le Corbusier’s projects. These instances underscore the imperative for incorporating human-centric design principles into the planning of smart cities.

Therefore, it is imperative that smart city master planners shift to human-centred design philosophy that answers key questions such as “Who is the smart city for? What communities will live there? How will they sustain, grow, and evolve over time? How will they remain safe and secure?’

Integrating CPTED into smart cities

Randy Atlas, a distinguished professor, and expert in CPTED, underscores CPTED not as a mere checklist but as a transformative ideology. He emphasises the mindset it requires, delving into the intricate interplay between the built environment, human behaviour, and crime deterrence.

Atlas advocates a proactive approach, urging architects to integrate security considerations from the start. This stance enhances crime prevention effectiveness and reshapes the approach to designing spaces with safety in mind. CPTED involves a meticulous examination of intended users, requiring architects to understand their needs and routines, forming the foundation for tailored designs that enhance overall crime prevention.

SmartCity-SmartInfrastructure-23American landscape architect and psychologist Karl Linn’s, while not expressly affiliated with Third Generation CPTED, his work promotes its broader principles, particularly those associated with community-based and holistic urban design. Third Generation CPTED seeks to amalgamate human motivations, aspirations, and social dynamics into the urban design process.

Listen to our podcast episode: Why physical security is integral to the smart building ecosystem, here!

Linn’s advocacy for community engagement, participatory design, and the creation of inclusive and sustainable spaces seamlessly aligns with Third Generation CPTED principles. Both underscore the necessity of factoring in social, cultural, and psychological dimensions during the design process, transcending traditional methods that exclusively focus on physical crime prevention.

In comparison to top-down designs exemplified by smart cities, the philosophy of CPTED champions a community-centric approach. Smart cities, with their technological prowess and centralised planning, prioritise efficiency and innovation but may inadvertently overlook the intricacies of diverse community dynamics and human factors.

The overemphasis on environmental sustainability in smart city designs can overshadow critical aspects, including safety and social considerations. Masdar City in the UAE, lauded for sustainability, faces criticism for limited social inclusivity. This exemplifies the potential pitfall of prioritising one aspect to the detriment of others.

CPTED encourages a balanced and integrative approach, acknowledging sustainability while prioritising safety, community engagement, and overall quality of life.

To integrate Third Generation CPTED in smart cities, a departure from conventional top-down approaches is thus imperative. Embracing Linn’s community-centric principles, developing smart cities should prioritise adaptive designs shaped by local community needs. Technologies enhancing community engagement, such as digital platforms for participatory planning, can facilitate the implementation of Third Generation CPTED principles. The emphasis should be on leveraging technology not as a standalone solution but as a tool to amplify community voices, foster inclusivity, and create urban environments prioritising safety, well-being, and community empowerment.

London, Dubai, Detroit, and San Francisco

In addressing persistent crime issues exacerbated by economic challenges within urban landscapes, the principles of Third Generation Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) can play a crucial role.

The examples of London, Dubai, Detroit, and San Francisco underscore the intricate relationship between socio-economic factors and community safety.

In the context of London, where gentrification leads to the displacement of lower-income residents, Third Generation CPTED emphasises the importance of inclusive urban planning. The approach involves fostering a sense of community ownership, encouraging mixed-use developments, and incorporating affordable housing options within upscale neighbourhoods. By doing so, the socio-economic fabric of communities is preserved, reducing the likelihood of crime resulting from feelings of exclusion and frustration among the lower-income population.

In Dubai, where socio-economic divides are stark between the affluent and the working class, Third Generation CPTED suggests an emphasis on creating socially harmonious environments.

This involves designing urban spaces that promote interaction between different socio-economic groups, reducing the “us versus them” mentality. Integrating amenities accessible to all residents, regardless of income, can mitigate the potential for crime and social unrest arising from concentrated pockets of tension.

For cities facing challenges similar to Detroit, struggling with economic shifts and deindustrialisation, Third Generation CPTED encourages an approach that addresses the root causes of economic decline. By involving the community in the redevelopment process and creating economic opportunities for all residents, the risk of crime associated with economic challenges can be mitigated.

In San Francisco, where the digital divide has widened due to the tech boom, Third Generation CPTED advocates for an inclusive approach to technological advancements. This involves ensuring that all communities have equal access to and benefit from technological innovations, reducing disparities that may lead to crime.

Furthermore, technologies enhancing community engagement, such as digital platforms for participatory planning, can facilitate the implementation of Third Generation CPTED principles.

The emphasis should be on leveraging technology not as a standalone solution but as a tool to amplify community voices, foster inclusivity, and create urban environments prioritising safety, well-being, and community empowerment.

Expanding on the analogy of urban planning as a culinary masterpiece, Third Generation CPTED acts as the crucial tasting and refinement stage. It involves continuous feedback loops, considering the cause-and-effect relationships of design decisions on users and the community. Just as a chef considers the inclusivity and accessibility of a restaurant, urban planning, guided by Third Generation CPTED, ensures that design decisions contribute to a safer, more harmonious, and equitable urban environment.

This approach aligns with the commitment to fostering sustainable, efficient, and equitable urban landscapes by conscientiously distributing resources, opportunities, and amenities.


In the endeavour to shape emerging smart cities, the integration of comprehensive strategies becomes imperative to address environmental challenges while concurrently averting the emergence of social problems.

The success of these initiatives hinges on the nuanced consideration of both environmental and social factors, ensuring a symbiotic and inclusive trajectory for urban development.

At the core of this delicate equilibrium lies the foundational principles:

Community engagement: The involvement of local communities from the project’s inception is deemed pivotal. Through meticulous engagement sessions, a profound understanding of local needs, preferences, and concerns is garnered, setting the stage for the conscientious development of a smart city that resonates with both social and environmental consciousness.

Inclusive Design: Inclusive design principles assume critical importance in efforts to create sustainable communities. The prioritisation of designs accommodating diverse social groups serves to avoid inadvertent exclusion or segregation. This approach guarantees the equitable distribution of the full range of benefits stemming from smart cities to their populations, thus precluding disparities, and fostering a collective sense of ownership among residents which manage the risk of crime.

Social Impact Assessments: Alongside environmental impact assessments become imperative, allowing for the identification and mitigation of potential challenges, thereby forestalling unintended social consequences including crime.

Affordable Housing: Addressing housing affordability and accessibility must become an intrinsic element to smart city design. Smart city projects ought to be complemented by initiatives facilitating affordable housing options within the development. This serves to thwart the displacement of low-income communities, thereby preserving the social fabric of the area, and creating truly sustainable communities.

Job Creation at all Levels: Strategically intertwining environmental projects with endeavours for job creation and economic opportunities emerges as another pivotal recommendation. Considering career progression or transitions into maintenance or operational roles within smart cities post-construction can significantly contribute to job creation across various levels. Integrating environmental initiatives with efforts to generate employment and economic opportunities represents a crucial recommendation.

To make this transition possible, investing in education opportunities and skills development programs becomes paramount. By fostering learning environments and equipping individuals with the necessary skills, can stimulate economic growth but also address social inequalities and unemployment. This approach contributes to the establishment of a balanced and thriving community, reducing the likelihood of crime, and ensuring that the benefits of smart city development are accessible to a broader spectrum of the population.

Public Health: The incorporation of public health and well-being considerations in the planning process is paramount. Prioritising access to green spaces, recreational areas, and healthcare facilities for everyone ensures that environmental measures contribute positively to the overall well-being of residents.

Cultural Heritage: Preservation of cultural heritage is upheld as a guiding principle, emphasising respect for the cultural identity of the area. New emerging projects must avoid actions that could erode cultural ties or displace communities with historical roots across new developments.

Education: Educational and awareness programs play a pivotal role in fostering community understanding and ownership of both environmental and social aspects of smart city development. These programs contribute to instilling a sense of shared responsibility among residents.

Technology and Adaptability: Designing projects with the capacity to evolve in response to changing social and environmental dynamics ensures the longevity and relevance of the smart city whilst leveraging technology for social connectivity is positioned as a potent approach to integrate disparate communities residing in smart cities. Digital platforms can facilitate communication between residents and decision-makers, fostering a sense of community and shared responsibility in shaping the city’s future.

Transparency: Transparency and accountability are deemed foundational to every stage of the development process. Upholding openness in decision-making and establishing mechanisms for accountability ensures a responsive and responsible approach to any emerging social challenges.

Privacy: As smart cities progress, the convergence of privacy and residents’ data emerges as a vital concern. Striking a balance between the innovative capabilities of data-driven technologies and the essential need to safeguard individuals’ privacy demands a governance framework that is both transparent and ethical. Embracing a “Privacy by Design” methodology and maintaining transparent data utilisation practices throughout the development and lifespan of smart city technologies is crucial.

This entails incorporating privacy considerations at the initial design stage, actively tackling potential privacy challenges in a proactive manner rather than relying on reactive measures.

Security as a Sustainability Enabler: Within the realm of sustainable design elements in master planning, due emphasis should be accorded to safety and security. Prioritising safety and security measures ensures that the urban environment is not only environmentally sustainable but also provides a secure and resilient foundation for the well-being of its residents.

Keep up with the access control market

The physical access control market is moving fast. Find out where you stand with the latest edition of IFSEC Insider's comprehensive 2022 State of Physical Access Control trend report, covering all the latest developments within the market. We assess the current technology in use, upgrade plans and challenges, and major trends on the horizon after receiving the views of over 1000 security, facilities and IT professionals.

Get your copy for free today.

Related Topics