Using Glass to Make Safer Schools
Since 2000, the trend has been toward ever increasing use of glass in school design because of the positive benefits it brings. After the tragic Sandy Hook shooter gained entrance to the Connecticut elementary school through a tempered glass window, there was a momentary pause to look again at where and what types of glass can be used to increase school safety.
It turns out that today’s advanced glazing products can serve in dual capacities, providing the Yin and the Yang to create positive and safe learning environments. The positive benefits of glass in schools are well documented and include increased collaboration, better student performance and energy savings. And now, the application of safety and protective glazing in key places has become a key tool in creating safer schools.
A school’s safety is only as secure as its weakest link. Glass can increase security, not weaken it. But, it is important that the right kind of glazing is installed in the proper place. All schools — not just new construction — need to assess ways to replace unsafe glass and fortify weak links.
Replace Traditional Wired Glass - An estimated 90% of the 2,500 annual glass injuries in school facilities to kids aged K-12 are from wired glass. In June 2013, the Kent Washington Unified School District paid out $2 million and issued an apology for not upgrading the dangerous wired glass in an impact area. The severely injured student filed a federal lawsuit against the school district saying the school officials were negligent because they should have been aware of the inherent danger of the glass and removed it. Read more…
Fire-rated security products - Fire-rated security products will most likely be used first in entry point upgrades. Ideas for improving school entry security include: funneling visitors, adding glass to see who’s entering, creating vestibules to slow down intruders and buy time for first responders, adding laminated glass to deter forced entry and adding detention or ballistic glass. There are three categories of protective glazing products available that offer progressively more protection from external threats. They include:
- Intrusion resistant glazing to deter “smash & grab” forced entry. Two layers of glass bonded with an interlayer. Tested to UL 972 or ASTM F122.
- Ballistics glazing designed to be bullet resistant for small arms (but not for high caliber rifles or bombs) Multiple layers of glass and interlayer. Tested to UL 752 or ASTM F1233.
- Blast resistant. Generally require a specialized security consultant.
Trends in Higher Education Construction
America’s colleges and universities have and will spend about $11 billion annually building or renovating campus buildings. Building Design + Construction observes some trends in college construction, including, large multi-use university centers, bringing science labs and dining rooms out of the basement, adding lounging areas and study areas to dorms, and sustainable design and construction integrated in ways that are visible to students. Read more…
The Need to Rebuild Crumbling Classrooms
“An estimated 40% of the nation’s 100,000 public schools are in ‘bad to poor condition,’ according to Glen Earthman, Ed.D.,” a professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, reports Parade Magazine. Earthman has studied the link between infrastructure and student performance since 1993, and found that children attending schools in subpar condition score up to 10 percentile points lower on standardized tests, even after controlling for poverty.
Quantifying The Environmental Value of Building Reuse
The Preservation Green Lab has published the first-ever report to quantify the advantages of reuse compared to new construction. The exhaustive study uses life-cycle analysis to look into six building types: single family residential, multifamily residential, commercial office, urban village mixed use, elementary schools and warehouses. Across the board, the report finds that renovating schools cuts carbon emissions, uses fewer resources and is better for human health and ecosystem quality. It is also cheaper to reuse the schools we have. Read more…
Light and Learning
Recent studies confirm that when school spaces are brighter, students learn faster, teacher morale improves, and districts can dramatically cut energy costs. As a result, school districts and their architects are working hard to find new ways to maximize the amount of light reaching into windowless spaces previously designed to control temperatures and prevent student distraction. Read more…
Reducing a School’s Carbon Footprint
Buildings use about 70% of America’s electricity every year. Design that reduces energy usage not only saves money, but also reduces carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Over half of the electricity used annually in educational buildings goes to light and cool facilities. These two uses are related due to the amount of heat generated by traditional artificial lighting.
The U.S. Green Building Council created the LEED rating system to recognize existing or new buildings that adopt sustainable building practices that limit the use of energy and water, and reduce the amount of generated waste. Many LEED strategies work to increase energy efficiency by adding daylight and by sharing low-energy, electric lighting. Applying appropriate glazing in walls, roofs, corridors and stairwells goes a long way toward building green.
Evidence Based Design (EBD) Changing School Design
Schools are built to last. The average age among the nearly 100,000 U.S. public schools is 42 years. Schools under design or renovation today need to be performing for children entering school in 2050. How will students of the future learn best? The practice of basing decisions about physical space on research and data, or Evidence-Based Design (EBD), can help architects design schools that meet future needs. EBD is used extensively in healthcare architecture. Since EBD for schools is relatively new, rigorous data on which to base design decisions is a little difficult to find. The one exception is a study conducted by Pacific Gas & Electric called Daylighting in Schools. The study analyzed more than 2,000 classrooms involving 21,000 students and the results were peer-reviewed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The study found that students in classrooms with large windows and skylights perform 7-18% better than students in rooms with little natural light. And, test scores improve even more if the windows are operable.
Long-Term Trends Shape School Design
The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) recently completed a third edition of “Educational Trends Shaping School Planning, Design, Construction, Funding and Operation.” It looked 40 years into the future and tried to anticipate changes in teaching corps, school size and organizational structure of schools. Here are some of what NCEF found.
School demographics. School age population will increase 35%. Student population will become more diverse, with the percentage of non-Hispanic white students declining from 52% (2010) to 35% (2050). The number of special needs children in regular classrooms is growing and has already increased nearly 40% in the last 20 years.
Bigger campuses. If the current average school size is maintained, the U.S. will need 30,000 new K-12 schools by 2050. Finding funding for that many schools will be difficult. As a result, school size could grow despite parent pressure to keep schools small.
Eco and technology innovation. Schools are increasingly viewed as a key component in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment. Building eco-friendly schools cost 2-3% more than traditional schools, but over the long haul, green schools more than pay for themselves.
Replacing Traditional Wired Glass to Improve School Safety
Schools built in the last century had little choice but to rely on traditional wired glass for fire protection. It was one of the only fire-rated glazing options available. Unfortunately, traditional wired glass is not safety glass. In fact, wired glass breaks easily with minimal human impact. In 1977, traditional wired glass was given an exemption from meeting the Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s (CPSC’s) impact safety standard when used in doors, sidelites and other potentially hazardous locations because glass manufacturers claimed that they did not have the technology to make fire-rated glass that could meet the glass safety standards. Today, there are safer, wire-free alternatives that provide both fire and impact safety. The International Building Code (IBC), was changed in 2003 to require that all glazing in potentially hazardous locations in educational facilities must comply with the CPSC safety-glass standards. In order to reduce liability and improve school safety are choosing to replace traditional wired glass with impact safe fire rated glazing. Learn more about the wired glass replacement program at Middlebury College.
The Link Between Visibility and Safe Schools
Design Guidelines issued by the Safer School Design Initiative, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities each recommend sight lines that maximize visibility and foster positive social interaction among legitimate users of private and public spaces. Here are some of the other safe school recommendations:
- Main entry control. There should be one entrance at the front of the building for most of the day, and all visitors should be required to check in there.
- Operable windows in classrooms with inside labels indicating their use as an “emergency escape.” Measures should be taken to limit access from the exterior.
- Keep windows and place them strategically. Use clerestories and secure skylights in situations where windows may not work.
- Maximize sight lines within buildings.
- Make sure all corridors are well lit with natural, shared or artificial light.
- Remove any recessed dark areas. Add visibility in stairways.
- Provide sidelites adjacent to classroom doors.
Passive Fire Containment in Educational Facilities Hits 87%
In the last century, the number of annual deaths from school fires has dropped dramatically, but the frequency of fire and the amount of property loss remain stubbornly high. The U.S. has the “highest fire losses in terms of both frequency and total losses of any modern technological society,” according to the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Whole Building Design Guide. Data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System shows fire losses on non-adult school properties is about $85 million annually resulting from 14,700 fires a year that require fire-department response. TriData, a division of System Planning Corporation, evaluated data in the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), which collects data from over 15,000 fire departments in 50 states. The focus was on fire containment (or fire spread) in both residential and non-residential buildings during 2003. TriData’s analysis turns the active-versus-passive fire protection debate upside down. TriData found that a combination of building construction, design, containment, fire load and fire department response resulted in limiting fire spread to the room of fire origin in just over 50% of all fires. The study also found that the level of passive containment in educational facilities was an impressive 87%. Read more...