Security at public buildings can be enhanced when architects are able to provide appropriate design strategies to achieve desired levels of protection, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach, a leading expert on building security testified before Congress today.
“There is no single design solution to providing physical security to facilities in the built environment,” said Barbara A. Nadel, FAIA, and principal of Barbara Nadel Architect, a New York City-based architectural and consulting firm. “Each building and site is different, and presents different security challenges.”
“A high-rise office building in suburban Arlington, Virginia, for example, may be subject to a different range of threats and vulnerabilities than a mid-rise office building in a medium sized Midwestern city or suburb,” Nadel added.
Nadel, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, said a comprehensive security plan integrates design, technology and operational measures, which are put in place by building owners. Building owners must have the flexibility to raise or lower security levels as needed, based on actionable intelligence and other factors. Customizing security strategies for each building and site allows a wiser use of limited resources and taxpayer dollars.
“Design of building exteriors, windows, and glazing materials can contribute to building security, along with underground parking policies and site design,” Nadel said. “In urban settings the goal is to mitigate risk,” Nadel said. “Building security should prevent mass casualties, minimize injuries, protect assets, and enhance resilience. Owners, architects, and security experts can assess the risks and options most suitable and affordable for each facility, and develop design strategies to ensure an appropriate level of protection.”
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