AIA and members continue to advocate for safer schools with federal commission

Architect Russ Davidson, FAIA, testifies on how architect-led strategies enrich educational environments and safeguard students and teachers.

LAS VEGAS – August 24, 2018 – Expert school-design architect Russ Davidson, FAIA, testified yesterday in Las Vegas before the Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) to advocate for school design strategies and legislation that will support safer schools in the United States.

During his testimony, Davidson—managing principal and president, KG+D Architects—advocated for designing open and welcoming schools that leverage physical attributes to increase visibility, which bolsters security. He also recommended using a layered approach that should be customized to each school, which would make it more challenging to breach.

“While we know that design alone cannot eliminate the threat of violence, there is more we can do, not only to defend, but to deter,” said Davidson. “This is not an either-or proposition … as we seek to promote schools that are more secure, transparent, engaging and conducive to learning.”

The remarks were delivered at the Department of Homeland Security’s field hearing and tour of the Miley Achievement Center in Las Vegas, a secondary school recognized for providing specialized behavioral, social and emotional support for students.  

“I can tell you that the minimum renovations … required for reasonable safety in many of these buildings is not easy: funding is not available, and the minimum improvements needed may not even be possible due to the configuration of these very old buildings,” said Davidson. “No meaningful improvements to school security can take place if communities do not know what to do nor have access to funding to get it done.”  

The AIA launched legislative initiatives last week that outline the Institute’s commitment for improving school design policies, which includes a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill focusing on two main goals. The first is to make architectural and design services for schools an allowable use of funds within existing federal grants. The second would establish a federal clearinghouse of resources on school design best practices for school officials, architects and other design professionals to keep them informed.    

Architect Jay Brotman, AIA,—who designed the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut—echoed Davidson support for AIA’s initiatives when he testified before the FCSS on August 16.

In addition to the testimony of Davidson and Brotman, other AIA member architects—with an expertise in designing safer schools—are also taking part in advocating for safer schools.

On October 19, the Institute’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) will hold a national multidisciplinary symposium: “The Design of Safe, Secure & Welcoming Learning Environments,” at the AIA national headquarters in Washington. The symposium will bring together a wide variety of perspectives from stakeholders, including law enforcement, educators, mental health advocates, and security consultants, as well as architects and other design professionals. Together, they will share in a dialogue about the development of safe, secure and welcoming schools, which may inform the resources included in a federal clearinghouse.    

Complete details on the October 19 event and other school design resources are available on AIA’s website.

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