While safety and security have always been an important part of school planning and design, the recent increase in violent school tragedies have renewed the sense of urgency and put safety at the forefront of conversations about school buildings. KG+D has worked with many educational facilities throughout the Lower Hudson Valley to address this critical issue and fortify schools without turning them into fortresses.
“Security in schools often comes down to finding the right balance between visibility and the ability to isolate a portion of the population,” said Russell Davidson, one of the firm’s principal architects. “Completely open plans with lots of glass are and completely closed buildings with no visual connections can be equally inappropriate. The ability to see what is going on and to be seen, behind a secure enclosure, by law enforcement can often lead to a safer environment. Of course this needs to be combined with the ability to find a safe refuge where you cannot be seen when there is an active threat. These are the reasons why security planning is an architectural design challenge often completed in active collaboration with building administrators and security specialists. Each solution is a unique approach that is tailored to the population and the specific building configuration.”
As school architects, our goal is to incorporate secure design solutions without detracting from the impression of the learning environment. The goal is to increase the time it takes to get into and out of buildings; the overall strategy to create delay and in turn create more time for administration to react and for first responders to arrive. While schools cannot be designed completely around aggressive intruders, they can incorporate secure design solutions that increase student and teacher safety.