Architects’ Group: Better Design Can Help Keep Schools Safe

The American Institute of Architects announced a series of efforts that aim to improve school designs in a way that boosts security while keeping it invisible to students.

After a year that saw numerous school shootings on high school and college campuses—including the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February—many have safety and security top of mind as the new school year starts.

And at least one association is focused on school safety from a design perspective.

This week, the American Institute of Architects announced a series of initiatives that aim to address the issue of school safety. Among them: AIA will make architectural and design resources available to schools, and it will also help create a library of best practices for school design.

The power of design can improve school safety now.

Additionally, AIA put out a policy statement laying out its stance on the issue. A key passage:

As architects, we believe that schools are intended to be communities and should be planned without sacrificing the inherent positive qualities of the school environments we all desire for our children. We know there is no one-size-fits-all design solution to school safety. School design must adapt to differing and evolving community concerns, support student health and safety, and create productive learning environments, all while respecting stretched school budgets.

The issue has been a focus of the organization for months, in part because the Parkland shooting raised such questions. AIA has also participated in a series of events regarding the issue, including a Department of Homeland Security roundtable at the beginning of August.

Meanwhile, a June piece on AIA’s website highlighted interest in the issue among its members, who have suggested that design is a way to boost security without being obtrusive to students.

“In a daily experience, [visible security] really impacts the students and how they feel about themselves, and it kind of perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline issue,” stated Jenine Kotob, a designer with Quinn Evans Architects who serves on the association’s Committee on Architecture for Education.

In a news release, AIA President Carl Elefante noted that one positive of the focus on design is that it helps avoid much of the political debate that has made it difficult to make headway on the larger problem of school security.

“While public discourse on access to firearms and mental health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now,” Elefante stated. “AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children.”

(SolStock/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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