Architects In Michigan | Show You What You Are Missing?
There have been more than two dozen school shootings in 2019 up to May 7. There have been nearly a dozen deaths, and more than three dozen people injured in these incidents alone. Many people have been trying for years to figure out how to prevent school shootings, especially ever since the Columbine shooting in 1999, where 15 people died, including the two gunmen, and two dozen were injured. The country is split, however, about what kind of solution or measure should be enforced in order to eliminate these types of mass shootings, or really any type of shooting. The point of this article, however, is not to examine the best method to get rid of all school shootings, but to take a look at how architects in Michigan can realistically help to improve school safety through the means of good design.
As school shootings continue, school districts are looking to implement various ways of protecting their students and faculty. It is to be emphasized that the approach for school shootings is not, Òhow do we prevent school shootings from happening in the first place?Ó but rather, Òhow do we ensure the highest level of safety for our students and faculty in the midst of an attack?Ó School administrators are hiring architects in Michigan to help them come up with designs that protect people, but also protect the learning environment they are trying to cultivate. The problem with only designing for safety is that the building still needs to function as a school–the solution is not to create barricades against the outside world, or eliminate windows or have only one access inside. In fact, only allowing students and faculty inside through a single door might make the problem worse in the event of an attack because that means the entire school population will need to try to evacuate the building through that one single door, which will create a bottleneck and trap more people than help. So the goal when designing schools today is to create a safe environment that encourages learning that also does not feel like a prison. That is a difficult objective to fulfill, but an important one, especially in todayÕs world, where youth are already feeling constantly attacked, whether in person or online. Bullying has evolved with the advent of technology, and with advances with social media knocking at young peopleÕs doors at all hours of the day–a constant reminder that they are not beautiful enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not thin enough, not athletic enough, or not popular enough–our young people are already up against the world without having to be concerned about their lives being at risk. Therefore, it is imperative that schools preserve the best possible elements of an encouraging learning environment and resist the urge to tip the scale toward heavy, harsh, cold, restrictive buildings that suffocate all chances of growth.
Architects In Michigan | Cannot Beat The Feeling?
How do architects in Michigan achieve this? Whether a ground up new build or a retrofit, architects in Michigan need to consider creative ways to integrate safe zones in key areas of the school buildings, especially individual classrooms. Some architects in Michigan will plan for nooks in the classrooms where students can retreat away from hallway view. This also may require shrinking the sidelight that is common in classroom doorways to decrease the line of sight into the classroom, so that a potential intruder has a more difficult time seeing into the classroom, and might think no one to be inside, and moves on from that classroom. These nooks can also be placed in more public areas such as hallways, bathrooms, or cafeterias, so that students and faculty who may not be in a classroom at the time of an attack still have an option to retreat from the intruderÕs view. In addition to these safety nooks, hidden escape routes are a new element of school design. Having these measures in place gives more opportunities for students and faculty to find safety in the event of an attack. These elements are also helpful when considering those more commonplace issues that affect schools such as bullying and harassment, as was mentioned previously. Providing spaces where students can ÔescapeÕ those encounters is becoming increasingly essential as the internet has encroached on our everyday lives.
These elements are of course easier to implement when designing from the ground up, as opposed to a retrofit, but part of being an architect is solving those problems. We investigate those problems and work toward viable solutions that best fit those individual schools.
Other things architects in Michigan need to consider when designing school spaces are ways to allow first responders to arrive at the school if an attack does occur, and preserving visibility for administrators who need it. This means things like slowing people down and creating obstacles to entry into the building, so that all people can be thoroughly checked before being allowed into the school. It also means not allowing an easy escape for the attacker. Visibility allows for those responsible for the school to be constantly aware of who is coming and going in the building, and to be able to respond quickly when they see something that looks like a threat.
Some more obvious implementations for school safety include bulletproof glass and glass breakage sensors, along with more lighting in key areas and the appropriate visibility for the appropriate areas of the school and faculty and administration.
These methods are only a handful of those architects can use in their designs for safer schools. Unfortunately, school shootings or other attacks are becoming more of an expectation than something that just happens Òat that other school far away from our schoolÓ. But fortunately that means we are thinking more about how to prevent those attacks, and when we are unable to prevent them, to mitigate them to the minimum amount of harm. Until our society solves several other issues that cause these attacks to happen, protection is our best approach. Architects are willing and desire to be part of this conversation to the best of our ability.