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School Safety: What Architects Can Do To Help

By: David Luttrell, RA, FCP, CSI, LEED AP

Expansive windows, open spaces and increased light make spaces safer.

As parents, we take many factors into consideration when we choose the school that our child will attend. What are the qualifications of the teachers? The goals of the curriculum? The location, amenities and safety of the campus? Will my child learn and grow and be happy here? While these are all essential questions, the safety of our children and their school environment should be one of the most important elements we consider.

Between 2001 and 2014, sex crimes on campus increased 205 percent and in the 2013-2014 school year alone there were over 48 school-associated deaths – all justifying parent’s worries. Because of bullying and all-too-frequent acts of terrorism, schools have had to reevaluate the ways they protect students while they educate our future generations. Today, consideration of a vehicular threat is just as important as a shooter on site.

Practicing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED, pronounced sep-ted) is one of the ways that architects and professionals in the field of crime prevention have shown their devotion to the health, safety and welfare of our students and our communities. CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to increasing the safety of buildings and open spaces by using elements like lighting, landscaping, window placement, interior and exterior views, access controls and building orientation to deter criminal activity. The term was first coined in 1971 by renowned criminologist C. Ray Jeffrey, and has been further explored and refined ever since by professionals in the fields of psychology and crime prevention. The Florida Safe School Design Guidelines incorporates some CPTED standards to follow as well.

As an architectural firm that specializes in the design of educational facilities, DAG Architects has always upheld a high standard of safety and security considerations for the students. Two of our principals, Jack Baker, AIA, FCP (President) and David Luttrell, RA, FCP, CSI, LEED AP (Associate Principal) completed a 64-hour, two phase rigorous advanced training class in CPTED through the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute to be formally certified by the State of Florida Attorney General’s Office as Florida CPTED Practitioners (FCP.)

Jack and Dave had the opportunity to put their training into practice when DAG was asked to help the Walton County (Florida) School District. Since 2013, Jack and the DAG team have worked closely with the School District’s Administration to improve the safety and security of all 15 schools in the District.

School Safety Assessment

Like the show “It Takes a Thief” where a burglar assesses a home’s susceptibility to robbery, our professionals follow an intricate process that considers every element of the building and site design and how it can be improved to support the CPTED mission. First, thorough studies were conducted on each school’s campus and surrounding community to make sure that every security concern was identified and documented. Then, after presenting the results of the study to the leaders of the school district, improvements were made to increase the safety of each campus. Secure entries and lobby areas and access control protocol were designed and implemented while exterior assessments were made to improve lighting, protective landscaping, and overall target-hardening.

In psychology, it is said that behavior is the product of the interaction between a person and a setting and by using the techniques of CPTED in architecture, we can effectively create settings that are less accommodating to crime both in and around our schools. While most adopt a ‘fortress’ mentality when ‘Safety and Security’ are mentioned, CPTED implementation is all about Design and early implementation in the design process is essential. CPTED has become an intrinsic element of every DAG school design and we take pride in our ability to use this skill to help protect the students, teachers and administration in the school districts we serve.

If you would like more information about CPTED or DAG Architects, please contact one of our offices or one of our CPTED professionals



To review the latest crime and safety release of the National Center for Education Statistics Click Here

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