Dezeen Magazine

South Los Angeles High School by Brooks + Scarpa

"Architects have a role to play in addressing school violence" says AIA

The American Institute of Architects has revealed plans for a series of initiatives that will use "the power of design" to help address violence in US schools and create safer environments for children.

Following a wave of violence in US education facilities this year – including 30 shootings since January 2018 – the American Institute of Architects (AIA) wants help improve architecture and design of schools, to bolster the safety and security of children.

"Architects have a role to play in addressing school violence," said the AIA's president Carl Elefante in a statement released yesterday. "For two decades, architects have worked with school communities racked by tragedy to develop better strategies in school design."

"While public discourse on access to firearms and mental-health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now," he added.

AIA initiatives aim to improve resources and funding for school design

Titled Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety, the statement highlights a series of initiatives that the AIA aims to develop as a bipartisan project with US Congress.

Among the key objectives is to make architectural and design services "an allowable use of funds" for schools, and develop a resource for best school-design practices. The AIA plans for this resource to be accessible for state and local education officials, architects and other professionals involved in the design process.

"AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children," Elefante said.

Architects to advise state officials on ways to improve school safety

In order to develop these documents, the institution intends for its members to give guidance to state officials.

Earlier this month, architect Stuart Coppedge, principal of Colorado Springs-based firm RTA Architects, offered advice to the US Department of Education's Federal Commission on School Safety on ways to incorporate safety in education facilities during a listening session in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Also this month, the AIA took part in the two-day Department of Homeland Security 2018 National School Security Roundtable to discuss school safety with members of the academic community, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services. Its Committee on Architecture for Education is also set to gather a similar multi-disciplinary group for symposium called The Design of Safe, Secure & Welcoming Learning Environments at the institute's headquarters in Washington DC, taking place on 19 October 2018.

The outcome of both discussions could later be used to update federal guidelines.

AIA members are already working with their local communities on these issues, including former AIA President Jeff Potter, who recently participated in Texas governor Greg Abbott's series of roundtable discussions about gun violence.

Design details for improving school safety are yet to be clarified by the AIA. However, architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa has provided an example at a school designed for one of Los Angeles' most dangerous neighbourhoods (pictured), which is surrounded by bright yellow metal screens to make it "visually open but entirely secured".

US schools experience many more shootings than other nations

The US experiences an alarmingly high amount of shootings in schools, attributed by some to the relatively relaxed gun laws in the country.

Earlier this year, CNN reported that 57 times more school shootings occur in the US in comparison to other developed nations, like Canada and the UK, combined.

In the past 18 years, there have been 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 at colleges and universities, the Washington Post reported.

Just this year, 23 shootings in which someone was injured took place in the first 21 weeks, and have been seven more since.