• Elizabeth Matthews

Can Architecture Make Schools Safer?

Updated: May 8, 2019

Using design to improve community building

School Safety Concerns

If you are an architect, facilities planner, or educational consultant who works with schools, you have undoubtedly been faced with concerns from parents, administrators, teachers and students regarding school safety. Although school crime is at historic lows, the perception among many in our school communities is that school is a place with a high potential for danger.

Although school level victimizations are steadily decreasing, the risk for harm should actively be minimized. In an effort to maintain safety, many administrators turn to harsh security and surveillance measures which have a dubious impact on safety and are apt to negatively students in a multitude of ways (see this blog post here).

The Good News

The good news is that you do not need to install metal detectors or heavy surveillance to keep students safe. What we do know is that schools are safer when school community members enjoy opportunities to cultivate quality social bonds. Harnessing the power of architecture to help support these all important social connections is essential in maintaining a healthy school environment.

Design for Safety

There are a number of ways that safety can be "built in" to the environment. These can include reducing the number of isolated hallways and areas where victimisation can occur (yet still balancing this with the need for some more private spaces within the school setting), planning efficient egress routes, ensuring adequate visual surveillance at school entry points, and building spaces within the environment that encourage socialisation and community building. For example, designing a space under a large staircase where students can gather, and areas for parents to get to know one another at drop-off/pick up. If you are a practitioner interested in this topic--let us know!

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