The Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) is a large and active group of architects and allied professionals concerned with the quality and design of all types of educational, cultural, and recreational facilities.
Thanks for adding this important topic to the discussion board. I completely agree that the AIA CAE needs to be a leading voice in the conversation on designing safe, secure and connected schools. As a member of the AIA CAE Leadership Group, I know that we are currently working diligently with AIA National on publishing a position paper that takes a holistic look at the issues of school safety. We are also currently encouraging, engaging, and assisting the AIA National Board of Directors as they take a hard look at AIA Policies concerning safety in educational facilities. We understand that this discussion is currently very heated and we need to provide a timely response and hope to be able to do so soon.
That said, I would like to offer some resources for those members having these discussions in their communities. These resources can serve as a starting point for those looking for guidance in designing for safety in schools:
One of the dangers of these and other school hardening resources however is that these measures alone aren't enough. Sandy Hook ES and Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS had some of the "target hardening" elements described in many CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) standards installed and it didn't stop perpetrators from entering the schools and causing tragedies. As architects, we are being asked to develop designs that provide for bullet-proof glass, secure entry vestibules, surveillance camera systems, etc. These can be beneficial to deter an active shooter and can also aid in providing deterrents for bullying and other behavioral elements, but they are not the exclusive answer. Our clients are being barraged with offers from various manufacturers about products that will shield students in the event of an active-shooter situation and you can certainly understand the pressure from parents and community members to provide these measures and more to keep their kids safe.
It is our responsibility as architects, however, to serve as a counterpoint to some of these hardening tactics as well. We cannot let fear dictate design or advocate for designing our schools to resemble prisons. Our schools and communities deserve more from us. In addition to providing enhanced security measures, we also need to look at research on provisions of "soft design" as well. In response to the MSD school shooting, we have seen many school & university officials, national educational organizations, affiliated organizations and individuals come together as an interdisciplinary group to develop a "Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the US" where they stress the importance of creating stronger, more connected school communities focused on development and identification of soft skills in students to reduce the incidence of isolation, depression, bullying and discrimination in our schools. The design of schools can and should be an active partner in this conversation. Through transparency, adjacency and creation of warm, welcoming environments, architects can provide the physical spaces to nurture these activities.
In a recent community meeting, we were asked, "How can the architecture support relationship"? This should be the lens we are using in designing our schools and we as the AIA CAE look forward to continuing to develop opportunities at the national and local level to further this very important conversation. We hope you will join us!
KarinaAIA CAE Leadership Group Vice Chair
It's fascinating that overseas we considerable spend blood and treasure to disarm those who would do us harm, from nuclear threats to AK-47's – but not inside our own country.
Phil L. Scott, Jr., AIA
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In order for architects to take any position on this issue of school safety, we must examine evidence that illustrates the causes of gun violence in schools and then formulate a plan to address the aspects that pertain to the built environment. Evidence is often obtained through research and Congress refuses to fund any such examination on this topic through NIH and CDC Congress Quashed Research Into Gun Violence. Since Then, 600,000 People Have Been Shot.. While school violence and mass-shootings are presented by some as a mostly (mental) health-related problem , there is no denying that beyond the role of guns, the built environment as funded and programmed by administrators and designed by architects should also be included within any such study. For example, research on highway safety must also cover the planning and design of roads and bridges as well as the social ills related to hazards such as DUI, inattentive driving and road rage. I propose that AIA National make a strong effort to either lobby for, or self-perform research on school safety that does not just cover the problem of unauthorized entry by armed malcontents and their mental health or arrest records, but also how school buildings themselves and their overall operation might help to at least mitigate any atmosphere that nurtures feelings of alienation . Architects working with some school clients may for now have to work with owners demanding huge, impersonal schools, but that doesn't prevent us from leading the effort to change the equation in the future to allow for a more sane and humane built environment for children.
Karina,Thank you for your efforts on this topic. We, as members of the AIA are best suited to be at the forefront of this issue. I believe it is our duty as responsible designers. We have taken the mantle of sustainable design as a professional organization, and I believe designing schools to be their safest and simultaneously a place that fosters learning and inspires not frightens, to be the next great challenge. One we should embrace. My research at Penn State University is specifically aimed at this issue. As a practicing architect, I changed direction of my career a few years ago to help find solutions to the problems we face with mass shootings. After Sandy Hook I was left wondering what might be missing. As I continue my research I am eager to learn what you, in the Committee on Architecture for Education (which I have recently joined) have to say. My efforts to find others within the AIA who are interested in security specific issues was not particularly fruitful, but given the gravity of the topic within the education community, perhaps this is the right place. As a member of the American Society of Industrial Security's (ASIS) Architecture and Engineering Security Council (AESC) I want to let you know that we are dedicated to improving security within the built environment. Many ASIS members are AIA members as well, including our past president Tom Vonier.As you suggest CPTED is not a panacea. It is a criminology theory aimed to eliminate crime rather than punish or reform the offender after the criminal act has occurred. But the key is design. CPTED as a criminology theory is taught within sociology and criminology schools, yet architects are uniquely qualified to make the greatest impact in this effort. But we are not trained in the CPTED principles. Non-designers are trained at making changes in the built environment without any design training. It's a real missed opportunity for us. CPTED principles are so simple yet most architects I suspect are unaware of what they are or have even heard of CPTED. As a result, our designs head out of the gate already under-performing. If we are unlucky, we discover the failures after a tragedy. Passive security strategies such as improving natural surveillance can help eliminate the inevitable reliance on mechanical security strategies such as cameras. We spend so much time on design and leave the security vendors to wreak havoc at the end.As society is confronting this issue as either a gun control matter or a mental health issue, I believe there is a place in the middle to seek solutions. This is the realm of architecture. While we may not be able to stop every possible event, we should not believe we won't make a difference. It just may be that our design expertise may make all the difference at saving life. How many people can say they can make that kind of impact?
As a new member of the CAE I look forward to reading many of your insights on this issue.
I agree with Brad that we cannot get into the gun debate. If we do any message we create will be dead on arrival.Interesting that there is an app that can detect concealed guns but we are not looking at the technology for its application at the entry points of schools. This could prove exceptionally useful.We know at Columbine and Parkland the incidents could have been prevented had law enforcement acted on information they were provided. We need assurances that this will not happen again. We know that most attackers project their intentions and have been pushing reporting these projections. There have been several attacks that were prevented by following up since Columbine. Programs for educating people within education environments on how to recognize the early behavioral patterns and how to respond to it.Not sure though this is a banner for us to wave other than to support local efforts when it is discussed.Medicating our kids? In several of these cases the killers were on a medication and were not taking it at the time of the incident. I would advocate that we need to study how medications are effecting behavior. We had access to M14's etc. when I was a kid but we were not doing these types of mass killings. What has altered in the culture, psychology that has contributed to greater gun violence in schools? Has the medicating of our children altered brain chemistry to make them more violent? I would highly support a study on this. We have to get to the root of why kids are opting for such a horrible violent path.Bullying and societal isolation needs to continue to be addressed. We can make some headway here in design. Getting away from the gauntlet that double loaded corridors create would be a great beginning. More transparency throughout the building so we have eyes everywhere would also fit well with the education cultures we are promoting. It also makes pedophilia more challenging when everyone can see throughout the schools.FEMA 428 is a very good source but needs more refinement. We do not need a new separate standard. FEMA 428 was written by Security experts and Engineers. There were no Architects, Education Planners or Educators credited in the authorship. We need to develop a committee of Accredited Learning Environment Planners, Educators and Architects to oversee the development of recommendations that work within education facilities. We need to begin by researching what we have learned from all of the attacks. Then we need to sit down and rewrite FEMA 428. This should also be followed by establishing a baseline of mandatory design requirements that have to be built into every new school and timeline for adapting our existing schools.I have attached a paper I wrote on Baseline recommendations. There is a lot of good information out there but we are still learning.
I can't add a whole lot more to the excellent points you and others have posted but I do want to jump on this bandwagon. I am not a school architect in the strictest sense, although I have designed a school building or two in my career. But the basic approach to thinking creatively applies to this issue as it does for any other. We have the ability to take a pro-active approach and influence our clients through the power of design. We do this every day on every project. Now that the entire educational community across the country is paying strict attention to the issue of school safety, we have a unique opportunity to contribute significantly to this serious situation. Legislators move with the speed of molasses. No one can wait on them if we want to make our educational environments safe for our children. As Angela said "WE are the visionaries", so lets together put our efforts together to make meaningful changes.
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We are over taxed! We need a shift in government funding. A re-balancing of funding priorities is needed. Simply throwing money at the school districts solves very little too, since it tends to get absorbed into salaries. We know our economic prosperity is directly correlated with the level of education our entire populace achieves. With this in mind our investment in economic growth should begin with funding education. That is not enough. We need to fund only projects that are supported by a pedagogy that allows all learners to succeed with STEM, STEAM and project based learning. Teacher to student ratios that are effective and school sizes that are appropriate to the population served.