School Safety by Design

Written by Dave Leonatti
Image & Design by: FHAI

One of the most troubling aspects of modern life, is the seeming endless string of school shootings, which are happening a much too frequent basis. We recoil at the tragic outcomes and feel such panic and sympathy for the students, staff and families impacted by these tragic events.

As school architects, MMLP, and the architectural profession as a whole, has had to adapt and revisit our holistic approach to school design, with school security now being thrust to the forefront of design considerations.

And you no doubt have heard the calls to fortify and ‘harden’ school facilities. “We need fewer doors”; “Get rid of the windows” are few of the more reactionary refrains we hear.  Herein lies the continuing push and pull of design challenges – how to make schools ‘safer’, all the while creating buildings that also inspire, support and foster innovative 21st century instruction, and are welcoming and functional as community centers.

MMLP uses the tools and resources available through many professional organizations – the American Institute of Architects – has promulgated white papers and researched School Safety.  The information is linked here.

Another association formed to explore and expand the design vocabulary of school security is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design – CPTED. This collective of professionals from across the spectrum (design, law enforcement) is performing important research and assisting Architects, Engineers and School Districts with integrated concepts and practices for enhanced security.  Here is their website which has insightful articles on the topic: Fundamentals for Schools.

MMLP is also lucky to have national expertise in school design available through our association with Fanning Howey, an integrated architecture, interiors and engineering firm specializing in learning environments .  MMLP has been an associated Illinois firm with Fanning Howey for 16 years now.  The MMLP-Fanning Howey partnership has produced successful new and renovated schools throughout Illinois. Their website provides excellent information on comprehensive security design principles, as well as ways to encourage community use of schools in a safe and appropriate manner. This is an excellent primer on the five key precepts of CPTED.

We continue to learn and adapt to the new reality of contemporary culture and the threats to our public and private schools.

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