The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its members are launching a variety of initiatives to help address violence in schools through design.

“Architects have a role to play in addressing school violence,” said 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA. “For two decades, architects have worked with school communities racked by tragedy to develop better strategies in school design. While public discourse on access to firearms and mental health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now. AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children.”

In a statement issued today, “Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety,” the AIA outlines its commitment for improving school design policies. Specifically, AIA is launching a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to help state and local school officials better access information and funding to design safe and secure schools. To that end, AIA will focus on two main goals:

1. Making architectural and design services for schools an allowable use of funds within existing federal funding and grants; and

2. Establishing a federal clearinghouse of resources on school design best practices for school officials, architects and other design professionals to keep them informed.

In addition, AIA member architects are taking part in advising state officials across the country on school design. On Aug. 7, architect Stuart Coppedge, FAIA, Principal of RTA Architects, presented to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Commission on School Safety during its listening session in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Coppedge provided the Commission with insights into the collaborative design and community evaluation processes architects employ to create great educational environments with enhanced safety.

On Aug. 1, the Institute participated in a two-day Department of Homeland Security 2018 National School Security Roundtable. During the meeting, two leading members of the AIA Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE), Karina Ruiz, AIA, Principal of BRIC Architecture Inc. and Brian Minnich, AIA, of GWWO Architects explained how schools can be designed with open and positive learning environments while also enhancing safety and security. Recommendations from participants in the roundtable—including members of the academic community, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services and other experts—could be included in future updates to federal design guidelines for schools.

In May, the AIA announced the appointment of architect and former AIA President Jeff Potter, FAIA, to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s roundtable, which is intended to identify enhanced safety and security strategies for the state’s schools and communities. Additionally, AIA components in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states have been advising their governors and elected officials on the issue.

On Oct. 19, the Institute’s CAE is holding 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 that include 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.

Visit the AIA’s website for more information on school design.