Safety in the Built Environment

November 24th, 2015 by Andre Marquez Architects

With all the craziness in the world around us, we need to face that there is more uncertainty in our daily lives. We can try and say that “things like these” don’t happen to us; or that we live in a safe place; or that we can’t let fear rule.

However, a call to preparedness is not fear mongering; think the whole insurance industry!

Where you work, where you go to school, shop, worship, celebrate, visit… these places expose you to the world around in ways that may be outside your control. However, there are things you can do to help in the event of an emergency.

Yes, as the flight attendants always remind us: locate all emergency exits. But also, take note of where the space you are in relates to the spaces around it. Are you inside a store inside a mall? Or are you in a stand-alone restaurant surrounded by parking? If you have to make a quick exit, will you have to deal with stairs, or can you exit directly out to the street? Where are the support facilities, like restrooms, located? Out of the way down empty corridors, or across from service doors through which unsavory characters could make a quick exit? When approaching the main entry, do you have to walk by dark alleys or service entrances, or go through other spaces like hallways and unsecured lobbies?

From a design perspective, there are things we designers need to account for when we are working on any project, public or private. However, especially when working on high density buildings, like office complexes, commercial malls, schools, designers need to be aware of, and plan for, the safety of everyone inside and outside.

Your best survival plan is not paranoia, but spatial or situational awareness. Talk to your loved ones and especially your children about always knowing what is in front, behind, all around them, whenever they go to a new place. Being prepared and being aware should empower you.

And when looking to have your next building designed, make sure you discuss with your architect the importance of crime prevention through environment design (CPTED).

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