Spotlight On Student Housing Safety

According to data collected by the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, 2018 was the worst year on record for school shootings (the data starts in 1970). For new college students, leaving home for the first time and moving into their college residence hall or apartment can be an exciting time. But in the face of increased gun violence in educational facilities, students and their parents and instructors also want to be sure that they will be safe in their new campus homes. The architects at KWK Architects, St. Louis, MO, want to ensure that their design of student housing facilities ensure safety and security. Javier Esteban, AIA, LEED-AP, explains some of the strategies that KWK Architects implement when designing safe student housing.

Q. How is student safety prioritized when designing student housing facilities?
When designing or renovating a student housing facility, square footage, number of occupants, and budget are often top design considerations. Designing for student safety ranks even higher.
Protecting students from intruders and dangerous individuals is always top of mind and frequently discussed during the design process for any student housing project that KWK Architects is involved with. There are several common safety strategies that we as architects always strive to implement in any design. Sophisticated new technologies are adding a valued extra layer of safety to traditional designs.

Q. What are some safety strategies that architects implement in their design?
Traditional design theories that incorporate basic layers of security and the human element on site, throughout the building, and in individual units should still apply in today’s student housing designs. Some of these include: Creating a clear separation between public and private areas; reducing the number of entry points in order to guide people past a reception desk, while still maintaining an adequate number of exit points; providing adequate exterior lighting; creating clear paths to public areas and reducing hiding places; controlling access points at the main public floors between public and residential floors; incorporating a reception area; locating large windows in the first-floor lounges that face building access; and designing laundry rooms with glazing-facing corridors or locating washers and dryers in a manner that does not create dead-end situations.

Q. What role does technology play in design for housing safety?
The safety and security industry is moving toward more personalized security systems where a user’s data resides directly on access cards to gain entry to student housing facilities, and fingerprinting or other biometric processes are being used to access secure areas. The new generation of security cameras also provide higher-definition images at lower lighting levels, with the ability to cover much wider angles, creating a very strong, multilayered security system. Local alarms at exit-only stairs and exits notify security of potential breaches, including timers on doors for alarms to sound in case a door has been propped open. Additionally, this technology can also provide a vital tool for forensic examination should a security breach occur.