Architecture That Defends

January 1, 1996

MENLO PARK, Calif.--You can't stop terrorists from targeting your buildings, but you can stop your buildings from being easy targets.

"Architecturally, the most valuable thing you can do to protect a building is to keep vehicles as far from the building as possible," says Eve Hinman, a senior engineer with Failure Analysis Associates Inc.

Reflecting pools, large staircases, and setbacks make it difficult for a vehicle loaded with explosives to cozy up to your property.

Use adjacent, rather than underground, parking. "Again, you're keeping vehicles from having direct access to the building," says Hinman. If you must build out to the street, heavy sidewalk planters can offer some protection. Finally, design your building to resist progressive collapse so that the removal of one beam or slab won't cause other parts of the building to fall.

For a small cost, a structural engineer can calculate what's likely to happen if a bomb eliminates a beam or slab. The engineer can also suggest ways to build your next property with safety in mind.

Tapping Commercial Lenders

NOVATO, Calif.--Finding financing is easier these days. Commercial banks and life insurance companies have money to lend for commercial construction, and new conduits are searching for permanent loan customers.

To benefit from lenders' widening purse strings, developers need to have their projects at least partially preleased, says Andrew Neilly, editor of the Crittenden Report on Real Estate Financing, based in this Marin County suburb near San Francisco.

"Lenders are looking for developers to bring in 10 percent to 20 percent cash or land to get a project started," he adds.

If you don't have that kind of cash, time is on your side. Those equity requirements will drop over the next year as more banks start chasing potential borrowers, Neilly predicts.

Commercial mortgage banker Stephen Wood, chairman of Woodmark Inc., Brentwood, Tenn., says lenders making permanent loans today are more interested in the property than in the borrower.

"The borrower isn't as important as the type and location of the property and its past history," says Wood. Today's best bets include apartments, anchored retail centers, industrial buildings, distribution centers, and warehouses.

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