SALT LAKE CITY, Utah(News4Utah) Electronic locks, shatter-proof glass, and high-tech cameras. Today’s schools are designed and built with safety and security in mind. Heightened awareness about school violence has led to significant innovations in architecture and design. Curtis Livingston from Curtis Miner Architects, joined Brian Carlson, to talk about how the school safety standards have changed.
Livingston says the biggest challenge facing school designers today is building schools that are both secure and inviting. The goal is to prevent intruders from accessing the building,while also creating a welcoming environment for kids and the community. So, one common theme in today’s school designs is invisible security. The best security is the security you don’t see. Canyons District, for example, has installed security vestibules at all of its schools. All the external doors to the buildings are locked, and all visitors must enter through the front entry and be buzzed-into the Main Office where they must check-in before entering the school. This impedes traffic flow, but the entryways are colorful and brightly lit so they don’t feel like bunkers. Schools should feel like schools, not fortresses. Livingston says they often locate schools out of visibility of main roads and grade the landscapes so that playgrounds are shielded and people can’t easily see inside the school.
Livingston says building materials have come a long way. They now make tamper-resistant door hinges, bullet-resistant barriers and window glazing that impedes forced entry and prevents glass from shattering. Many schools have electronic door locks that can be triggered with a swipe of a card, or panic buttons that allow school staff to discreetly summon emergency assistance. There have also been a lot of advances in security cameras, remote monitoring and communications tools. Livingston stresses that these tools are only as good as the people who are trained to use them. That’s why it’s very important for architects to collaborate with teachers, principals and administrators to design buildings to fit their school’s unique emergency response protocols.
Livingston says safety and security evolves as threats evolve. Safety has always been integral to school design, from fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, or building a structure to withstand an earthquake.
Along with safety related to threats of violence, Livingston says schools are also built for earthquake safety. With earthquakes being a serious risk in the Salt Lake Valley, all the buildings are constructed to meet seismic safety standards.
For more on how schools are being equipped to provide the utmost security for students, visit CanyonsDistrict.org.