Ottawa-based Terlin Construction tackles public security with new venture

bollard

With Canada Day just passed and Bluesfest fast approaching, many in Ottawa have the security of major public events top of mind. Perhaps none more than Terry McLaughlin, president and CEO of Terlin Construction, which recently formed a joint venture with three European security firms to offer protective installations for buildings and public spaces around the world.

Also led by McLaughlin, Infrasecure Group is a partnership between Terlin, Germany’s Perimeter Protection Group and U.K.-based Dynasystems and Exsel Dytecna. Terlin is the general contractor on the ground in charge of installation, while Dynasystems specializes in blast-proof installations, Exsel Dytecna provides electronic defence tech and Perimeter Protection develops high-security infrastructure such as bollards and wedge barriers.

The Infrasecure partnership has been in the works for about a year, but McLaughlin says the companies have been collaborating on security installations for longer.

Security by design

While the joint venture works internationally in areas such as Africa and the Middle East, the venture will focus on building up infrastructure in Canada, where McLaughlin says the security-by-design mindset is currently lacking.

“What we’ve realized is, the way they think on the other side of the world isn’t the way we Canadians tend to think here,” he says, adding that recent events such as the Toronto van attack in April could be a wake-up call.

“Some of those you’re never going to stop and never going to prevent, but there’s a lot of things we can stop here and protection is not second nature to us.”

He contrasts that to cities in the United Kingdom, where plazas are often designed with details that prevent vehicles from accessing them.

Horseguard's Parade
Horse Guards Parade in London, England. 2017.

There are cost arguments to be made for designing with security in mind, he says. Insurance rates can be reduced if a landlord installs blast-proof windows or vehicle deterrents, and the costs of retrofitting these measures into the building afterwards can get expensive.

Expertise gap

Yet there’s a lack of expertise in Canada about what security measures actually work best. McLaughlin says he’s been disappointed by recent public events that have minimal security measures such as dump trucks blocking the road or ineffective bollards that wouldn’t stop a vehicle if tested.

“When people see bollards here, the six-inch pipes out of the ground with nice yellow sleeves over them – they’re to stop shopping carts and maybe from grandma bumping it, but that’s it,” he says.

Much of the issues arise at the tender process, McLaughlin says, because many are often uninformed as to what solutions are actually effective.

To fix this problem and convince government agencies that advanced security measures are worth the investment, Infrasecure has embarked on an educational campaign. During the CANSEC defence and security trade show this year, the group teamed up with former minister of defence David Pratt to host a public security conference with attendees from across government and academia.

McLaughlin says a similar lack of security know-how pervaded the attendees, which revealed an immediate opportunity: Government agencies with big security budgets need to know where to spend their money.

While Canada may not yet be as focused on security as he’d like, McLaughlin and his partners are eyeing the opportunities in raising the country’s defences.