Five Must-Do Safety Tips in Architectural Design

Following is a sample of five must-do safety tips for communities and schools to consider when they are upgrading and building new systems.

Engage the community. Nobody knows better the safety or security of a particular environment than that community. By engaging the stakeholders in conceptualization, a design team can learn a tremendous amount about what that community needs to protect itself, and what level of security is appropriate for its design. Additionally, by involving the community in the design effort, that design becomes more valuable to the community, hopefully raising the awareness to preserve that value long term.

Position administration front and center. If a building or campus design houses an administration component, it's important to locate that administration element adjacent to the primary entrance and with good visual access to that entrance. More than likely, an administrator will be occupying that space at all times so as to have eyes on the entrance.

Provide door and window hardware with the ability to "lock down." In an emergency, it's important that occupants in a building have the ability to escape. On the other hand, the ability to protect occupants inside a building may also be a strategy for safety. Providing door and window hardware that has the ability to remain open, or be automatically or manually locked from the inside is of particular importance when a lock down scenario occurs.

Consider the overall placement of security systems. Nobody wants a building or campus to look like an institution, unless that is the intent of the design. Careful consideration of the placement of lighting, fencing, gates and camera systems can complement the architectural design and also maintain security. Buildings, other structures and landscape can provide good "barriers" to access and provide safety and refuge where necessary. They can also create blind spots and dark corners when not designed properly.

Develop an "inward focus" design. Access to natural light is critical to the design of educational, corporate and residential spaces, but can also weaken the line of defense. Consider the placement of glazing facing inward, or toward a safe environment. If glazing must be placed adjacent to the exterior or public way, consider locating it above reach, or with enough strength and the ability to be obscured in case of an unsafe situation.

Brian P. Whitmore, AIA, LEED-AP, is vice President of design at BCA Architects. BCA Architects partners with clients in a mission to achieve excellence in design. BCA goes above and beyond the task at hand to ensure their clients succeed. For more information, visit