Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Secure & Sustainable

Safety and sustainability


Safety and sustainability represent two of the most important issues on college campuses today. Both are major concerns of students, parents and administrators. Where do these issues intersect? Can a safe campus be green? Does LEED certification mean a building is less secure?

Security is admittedly a headline-grabbing issue. The FBI reports that active shooters are on the rise and they have been for years. According to their website (, “the number of events drastically increased following 2008. The rate at which these events occurred went from approximately 1 every other month between 2000 and 2008 (5 per year) to more than 1 per month between 2009 and 2012 (almost 16 per year).” Chilling as that is, the stats grow scarier for education professionals when the Bureau reveals that 29 percent of these events happen at schools.

But administrators also must consider other less attention-grabbing threats to security, such as theft, assault and vandalism, all while making their environments look and feel inviting. No one wants to go to school in a prison.

And, of course, colleges and universities strive to be green. Between student and parent awareness and commitment from college administrators, most new building on college campuses features sustainability on some level — perhaps with LEED certification, maybe with an eye toward meeting a zero-emissions mandate.

“An integrated approach can address these issues and more like accessibility, cost effectiveness and historic preservation, if necessary,” says Richard Paradise, P.E., BSCP, director, Whole Building Design Guide, a program of the National Institute of Building Sciences. He wrote a definitive article on the subject over 10 years ago. Here are some synergies and trade-offs he points out.

The Building Site

Siting a building with sustainability in mind can impact security. Traditional green practices, such as choosing an urban area to protect natural habitat or locating parking nearby or underground can be problematic. According to Paradise, these strategies put buildings at risk from car bombs. Even using landscaping and covered walkways to reduce heat islands can be problematic, as they may give criminals a place to hide. Schools will need to weigh individual threats when siting a building. As far as landscape questions, Paradise suggests looking for synergies like planting landscaping that will reduce environmental impact and deter crime by allowing clear sightlines.


Rainwater collection systems that stand apart from the main structure can also provide hiding places for criminals. Paradise suggests integrating the collection tank into the architecture of the facility, such as in the façade. Constructed wetlands offer a great synergy between safety and sustainability. “They can be incorporated in perimeter protection strategies to control vehicular and pedestrian access,” writes Paradise.

PHOTOVOLTAICS (PV) is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. Photovoltaic power generation employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells containing a photovoltaic material. The direct conversion of sunlight to electricity occurs without any moving parts or environmental emissions during operation.

Solar photovoltaics is now, after hydro and wind power, the third most important renewable energy source in terms of globally installed capacity. More than 100 countries use solar PV. Installations may be ground-mounted or built into the roof or walls of a building (either building-integrated photovoltaics, or simply rooftop).

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency can be tricky to balance with security if your facility requires the installation of onsite power generation or increased power reliability. However, there are synergies to be found. For instance, the roof of covered parking shelters could house photovoltaic modules. Building automation can also be helpful. An automated security system knows who is in the building and where that person is going. It can send light and air precisely where they are needed, saving energy while keeping occupants safe and comfortable.

Server rooms traditionally use more than their share of energy to keep valuable and sensitive equipment cool. Jeremy Krinitt, general manager, Frontier Security, suggests consolidating servers, moving storage to the virtual cloud or take advantage of virtualization. “Virtualization lets a server share its resources,” he says. “It adds efficiency and savings.”

Windows and Ventilation

Windows represent an important area where security and sustainability can clash. For instance, daylighting is a crucial factor in obtaining LEED points, and operable windows increase occupants’ comfort and control. However, windows can be a glass hazard during natural disasters, accidents and blast events. External sunshades or other ornamentation can break away and endanger people outside the building.

Natural ventilation is a great addition to any building. Occupants can take advantage of good weather, reducing energy bills and improving mood. However, a critical or high-risk building should avoid natural ventilation and choose mechanical ventilation with special filters to protect against possible chemical, biological or radiological agents from entering the space. Air intakes should be protected by placing them high on the building’s façade.


Natural access control is a design concept that is directed at decreasing crime opportunity. It is based on the simple premise that a person who is confronted with a clearly defined and/or strategically developed boundary will typically show it some deference by respecting the way it guides and influences their movement as they transition from public through private space. Natural forms of access control include fences, low walls, landscaping, gates and any barrier that is natural for the environment including topographical features, sales counters and even distance. Successful natural access control applications include:

  • providing clear border definition of controlled space
  • limiting uncontrolled and/or unobserved access onto properties, buildings and private space
  • adding dense or thorny landscaping as a natural barrier to reinforce fences and discourage unwanted entry
  • using space to provide natural barriers to conflicting activities

Mechanical forms of access control such as locks and alarms and/or organized forms such as security and police patrols can complement natural access control. Mechanical and organized forms of access control should be emphasized where natural forms are limited.

— Source: CPTED Ontario (

Security Cameras

In some situations, surveillance cameras offer the best security options. But what happens when schools upgrade this equipment? Do dated cameras end up in landfills, or are their ways to integrate old and new technologies in a way that still keeps a population safe?

According to Mike Driscoll, northeast regional manager, DVTEL, schools on average replace their security surveillance equipment every seven to nine years.

“Most often the equipment that is being upgraded or replaced is the head end; that means that the old DVR (digital video recording) technology is typically being replaced with network video recording solutions,” he says. Field equipment, such as existing cameras, are often kept in place until additional funding can be found for newer, high-definition, networked cameras.

Driscoll advises that schools evaluate environmental and cost impacts before upgrading to new technologies. “When embarking on a surveillance upgrade, for example, moving from analog systems to IP-based security solutions, schools can work closely with their systems integrator to determine what equipment can be migrated to the new system moving forward and what has reached end-of-life,” he says. Recycling surveillance equipment is like recycling computers or other technology.

Lessons Learned

In the end, a secure and sustainable facility doesn’t just happen. “There are lots of opportunities to achieve both if you get everyone together early, but security is one of the last things that gets considered,” says Krinitt. “Proactive organizations have the opportunity to consider security in their design. The two don’t have to be competing interests.”

Paradise agrees, of course. He insists that all stakeholders, including planners, designers, engineers and owners, should work as a team from the onset to develop creative solutions that yield multiple benefits.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .