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AIA Pushes for School Design Legislation

Thursday, August 23, 2018

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Shortly after announcing an initiative to influence local, state and federal governments on updating school design guidelines, the American Institute of Architects made its way to the White House to testify on such practices.

The Testimony

Jay Brotman, AIA, partner at Svigals + Partners, talked to White House cabinet members last week in a push for bipartisan legislation that has two main goals, according to AIA:

  • Make architectural and design services for schools an allowable use of funds within existing federal funding and grants; and
  • Establish a federal clearinghouse of resources on school design best practices for school officials, architects and other design professionals to keep them informed.  

 “The desire to craft design strategies that mitigate the challenges schools face is an absolute priority. As architects, we do this every day,” said Brotman, who designed the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“However, two ongoing problems prevent local school officials from implementing these solutions—a lack of access to quality school-design information and the ability to fund them.”

Brotman went on to use details of the new Sandy Hook as an example of why such research is important for schools, noting the elements of natural security that were pulled into that design project.

“There’s a rain garden with a sunken rock 'river,' along the entire front of the school—creating a moat of sorts, that is clearly not friendly to cars or people. The design then has three small footbridges to cross the rain garden to enter the school, which also controls entry,” said Brotman.

“The children are unaware about the security benefits provided by the rain garden—and they don’t need to know. This small but impactful example shows the value of taking a comprehensive, design-centered approach to school security. It is a highly specific answer to multiple physical and emotional considerations at once.”

Other Pushes

The AIA is collecting signatures for its “Power of Design” petition on school safety, which is says will be delivered to officials at local, state and federal levels once the petition gets 50,000 signatures.

The AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education is also holding a national multidisciplinary symposium entitled, “The Design of Safe, Secure and Welcoming Learning Environments” on Oct. 19 at the national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The symposium will bring together a wide variety of perspectives from stakeholders that include law enforcement, educators, mental health advocates and security consultants, as well as architects and other design professionals,” AIA says. “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.”  


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Good Technical Practice; Government; Laws and litigation; North America; Schools

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