Can the power of design tackle gun violence?
The tragic issue of US school shootings has been an ongoing point of grief and frustration in the country for decades. While everyone can agree on the need to curb gun violence in schools, debate surrounding how it can be curbed has raged, particularly between advocates and opponents of the second amendment.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA), however, revealed its plans for a non-partisan solution to the issue. They have set out a series of initiatives that will harness the ‘power of design’ in order to create a safer environment for young people.
Although reported back in February, the plans are very much current and could not have come at a more urgent time, with 18 shootings already having taken place for the year to this period.
Bringing together US Congress for a safer future - The AIA’s initiatives, entitled ‘Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety,’ point to the need to develop a bipartisan solution to gun violence in conjunction with the US Congress.
The key aims they have identified for the project include giving schools the option to employ architectural and design services as an “allowable use of funds” and developing an intuitive resource to describe best school design practices. It is hoped that this resource will be accessible by state and local education officials, as well as other professionals involved in school design such as architects.
State officials to be advised on improving safety in schools - In order to realise their goals, the AIA is planning to give state officials comprehensive guidance on school safety.
Already architect Stuart Coppedge, the principal of RTA Architects, a Colorado Springs-based organisation, has been offering advice to the US Department of Education’s Federal Commission on School Safety. During a listening session in Wyoming, he told members of the commission how educational facilities could incorporate a safety-first approach when it comes to gun violence.
The AIA has also recently been involved in the Department of Homeland Security 2018 National School Security Roundtable in order to discuss safety with law enforcement, academics, and fire and emergency medical services. The outcome of these sorts of discussion will be used to inform updates to federal guidelines.
An urgent issue that needs to change - The importance of such work as the AIA is undertaking cannot be overstated. According to a report by the Washington Post, there have been 130 school shootings in the US over the past 18 years, a number that far surpasses other developed countries.
It is not totally clear yet how the design guidelines for improving school safety will look. However, the security of a school can be fundamentally improved if its design is right. From fencing to doors to school desks, getting the design of a school just right has the potential to save lives.