AIA takes a firmer stand on making schools safer with better design

The Institute urges the formation of a federal clearinghouse for best practices, and wants security-related design to be eligible for grants.

August 14, 2018 |

AIA is taking various steps to help lawmakers, school officials and other stakeholders to make the connection between design and security. Image: AIA

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is becoming more proactive in its efforts to help school districts address violence.

The Institute is launching a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to help state and local school officials access information and funding to design safer and securer schools.

It outlined its commitment to that process in a statement titled “Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety.” In that statement, AIA says it will lead efforts at the local, state, and federal levels of government to update school design guidelines. It is also supporting collaborative and continuing education to achieve safe school design, and is striving to make such design eligible for federal grants.

AIA is taking a vanguard role in pushing for the establishment of a federal clearinghouse on school design that would become a repository of architectural and design resources that are accessible by educational officials, architects, and other design professionals.

AIA has gotten the ball rolling via its own website for school design safety resources that includes academic research and recent articles on this topic.

“Much of the public debate about school safety has focused on access to firearms and mental health services. Neither approach to solving school violence has progressed much over many years despite all-too-frequent tragedies. Architects can improve school safety through the power of design now,” AIA says in its statement. 

“To design and build the new schools we need and to retrofit existing schools requires significant support and resources that go beyond just the architecture, engineering and construction communities. The AIA urgently calls on all policymakers and stakeholders to work with school communities to safeguard students and teachers while keeping schools positive places of learning and growth.”

On October 19, the Institute’s Committee on Architecture for Education is scheduled to host a national multidisciplinary symposium on “The Design of Safe, Secure & Welcoming Learning Environments,” at AIA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event will bring together myriad perspectives from law enforcement, education, mental health experts, security consultants, and architect and design professionals.

The Institute and its members already have started to advise state officials on school design. RTA Architects’ Principal Stuart Coppedge, FAIA, presented to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Commissions on School Safety during its Aug. 7 listening session in Cheyenne, Wyo.

On August 1, AIA participated in the two-day Department of Homeland Security 2018 National School Security Roundtable, at which Karina Ruiz, AIA, Principal of BRIC Architecture, and Brian Minnich, AIA, LEED AP, Project Manager with GWWO Architects, explained how an open and positive learning environment can also be designed for safety and security.

Last May, the Institute appointed former AIA President Jeff Potter, FAIA, to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s roundtable that identifies enhanced safety and security solutions for schools and communities in the state. Earlier this year, AIA Florida began working with that state’s Governor Rick Scott, state legislators, and the Florida Department of Education to develop design standards and best practices for the state’s schools.


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