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How security in schools applies to other building types

Many of the principles and concepts described in our Special Report on K-12 security also apply to other building types and markets.

January 10, 2014 |

AEC Building Teams should work with their clients to conduct a version of the “threat assessment” described in this Special Report.

Such an evaluation should start at the property line and work inward. Many of the questions that a security team would use in a K-12 threat assessment could be applied to office buildings, hospitals, outpatient facilities, hotels, university buildings, stadiums, convention centers, municipal and state government buildings, and other places of congregation:

• Are there exterior conditions that could compromise security—untrimmed bushes that could provide cover for intruders, or unlocked trash receptacles that could become hiding places for weapons or explosives?

• Are exit doors fitted with alarms in case they are propped open?

• Are visitors, tenants, and other building users “funneled” to a main entry point where surveillance at various levels can be conducted?

• Do the security cameras work? Does anyone monitor them? How often?

As our report shows, design and technology are vital to the safety of children, teachers, and staff in schools, but if the staff and users of other building types are not educated in emergency procedures and don’t rehearse them, the damage from an untoward incident could rise significantly.

Staff training and periodic rehearsals in security measures should be de rigueur for virtually every kind of building with public access—hospitals, retail and office facilities, college student unions, performing arts centers, movie theaters, and so on. 

Our report raised the sustainability vs. security question for schools, but that quandary also applies to other public or quasi-public building types and uses, such as office buildings, college residence halls and classrooms, hotel lobbies, and restaurants. Owners and users of these buildings—not to mention the architects, engineers, and construction professionals who design and build them—all want as much natural light as the energy model will permit, but daylighting requires lots of glass, and that could raise concerns about security. Building Teams need to work with their owner clients to balance these occasionally conflicting demands.

One of the surprising findings from our exclusive survey of BD+C subscribers was that fully one-third of respondents (33.8%) said they were unfamiliar with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and that only about one in six respondents (16.4%) said they (or their firms) used CPTED principles on a routine basis in K-12 projects.

These respondents were selected on the basis of their heavy involvement in school projects. If they don’t know about CPTED for schools, is it also the case that those who design and build other kinds of public or semi-public facilities have no training in security-related matters? That would be very disturbing.


(Editor's Note: This article is the fourth in BD+C's five-part special report on security design for K-12 school projects. Read the full report.)

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