Whenever you are designing a building, irrespective of its purpose, you need to factor in the security of the building and its occupants. Unsafe building designs can have fatal consequences and can lead to serious damage to your reputation, and potentially your finances if someone decides to sue.
The following three security considerations should factor in to every major design decision that you make.
Fire protection measures will reduce the rate at which fires can spread through your building. There’s no way of completely mitigating the risk of fires. Most modern buildings will either have sprinkler systems or a design that is able to contain a fire until the fire department arrives.
Our understanding of how fires start and spread has enabled us to develop a number of design techniques that very effectively reduce the potential for fires to take hold in your buildings. Your legal obligations in this regard can vary within states, so it is important to check with the relevant authorities to ensure that your designs are airtight (not literally).
Occupant Health and Safety
Depending on the intended purpose of your building, there are a range of design measures you can take that will ensure the occupants of your building are able to use it safely. If you’re designing an office space, you’re designing a space for people who are, for the most part young, and we can assume, of average overall health. Compare this to an old people’s home, where the occupants are less mobile. An office can easily be spread over multiple layers, but most old people’s homes in the US are designed as sprawling single-level structures.
There are exceptions to this, of course. In some parts of the US, particularly built-up urban areas where there is less space to work with, there are retirement homes set up in converted mansions and city estates. Similarly, your designs will always be influenced by the local area. Even if you have miles of flat land, you need to consider how this impacts the safety of your building’s users.
Occupant and Building Protection
Keeping your buildings physically secure is important for a number of reasons. We design buildings to protect against fires even though we never plan on starting any fires. Similarly, it is important to prepare for potential security-related events, even if you can’t envision anything bad happening in or around your building.
A combination of secure design features, wrought iron fences and gates around the perimeter of your property for example, and deterrent devices such as visible cameras, perhaps even security patrols, are essential for keeping public buildings secure. If the building you are designing is going to be for public use, it’s important that there are always multiple exits that are clearly signposted. Note that this is different from your fire exits – not all exits are fire exits.
Public security and safety represent significant challenges for civic engineers. The modern world presents us with a number of challenges that didn’t exist before, including the potential for serious crimes and public security threats like terrorism. Secure building design is one of the first lines of defense against man-made and natural threats to human safety.