What Materials Go into Building a SCIF?


Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) must be manufactured to very specific, government-mandated standards. This makes sense given that the use of SCIFs is generally reserved for situations where sensitive information is stored, analyzed, or discussed.

Government agencies, the military, and the intelligence community rely on SCIFs to mitigate a wide variety of risks, from espionage to insider threats, and beyond. Whether they’re designed as temporary installations with fast set-up and tear-down times or permanent ones, SCIFs must feature building materials that allow designers to meet those information protection goals. Read on to find out what those materials are and how they’re used.

Sound-Proof Walls

Not everyone realizes this, but the average walls in normal buildings aren’t anything close to soundproof. While it’s true that employees may not notice what’s going on behind closed doors in their bosses’ offices, people actively paying attention would have no trouble hearing what’s being discussed, particularly if they had access to listening devices. Sound-proofing the walls using acoustic paneling for noise attenuation prevents unauthorized individuals from listening in on sensitive conversations.

Window Films and Treatments

SCIF design doesn’t just have to stop people from listening in on conversations. The building materials must also be able to provide visual privacy and protection against electronic data theft. New-built SCIFs can be designed without windows, but sometimes, these secure rooms must be adapted from conference rooms, offices, and other unsecured spaces. When that’s the case, windows must be not only alarmed but also altered to block both electronic signals and sound.

The most common way that SCIF designers deal with this issue is by installing window treatments and films. Window treatments boost privacy, while specialized RF and IR window film blocks radio frequency and infrared signals, respectively.

RF Paint or Foil

RF foil can be applied to concrete, drywall, and other materials directly to prevent radiofrequency signals from extending beyond the walls of a SCIF, and it’s used preferentially in temporary installations. RF paint serves similar purposes, but it’s typically used on irregular surfaces such as window or door frames and on floors. Sometimes, RF paint is also applied to the outside of a SCIF’s walls.

705-Compliant Utility Lines

All utility wiring, cabling, plumbing, and ventilation materials must be compliant with International Directive 705, which establishes the physical requirements for SCIF design. In most cases, that requires the use of Secure Penetration Management Devices that prevent the use of utility infrastructure to advance espionage attempts.

The materials used are generally the same as those found in ordinary buildings’ ventilation, plumbing, and wiring systems. However, they are installed in such a way as to protect them against both internal and external threats.

Soundproof, Self-Closing Doors

Until recently, SCIFs could have only one primary entry door. Although recent changes to regulations have allowed for a second primary entrance to be included in SCIF design, both of the doors must feature a core of solid wood that is at least 1 ¾” thick and 16-gauge metal cladding for acoustic protection.

The doors must also be outfitted with self-closing mechanisms that prevent them from being left open when people enter and exit the room. Additionally, each primary entry door must have a deadbolt, combination spin-dial lock, and intrusion detection alarm system that meets strict federal standards. In-swinging doors are generally considered more secure if allowed under the fire safety codes.

Emergency doors should have no hardware on the outside and must be equipped with panic bars and automatic alarm systems. SCIF designers are required to comply with local fire codes. In full SCIF facilities, that means emergency doors must be included. The exact regulations will vary by location, so designers usually work with the fire marshals to understand what’s required.

The Easiest Way to Build a SCIF

SCIFs must be made from specific building materials that can prevent espionage attempts both in the form of on-site spying and electronic data theft. The easiest way to construct a SCIF quickly is to work with a company that has government approval to construct and deploy temporary SCIFs. These turnkey solutions come with everything required to ensure the protection of even the most sensitive information, and they can be installed just about anywhere and at any scale.

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