The Value of The Architect, Designing Value: Making Buildings Safe

October 1, 2021

Reading Time: 8 minutes

“Towering Inferno” Architect (Paul Newman) and the Fire Chief (Steve McQueen) image by Irwin Allen / Warner Brothers

The Value of The Architect

Designing Value: Making Buildings Safe

Series Founder: Edward N. Rothe, FAIA

Part One Building and Site Security 



Contributing Writers:  Michael Bieri, AIA; Carla Bonacci, AIA; Edward N. Rothe, FAIA; Joshua Zinder, AIA. Editor: Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA.


Today, a frequently asked question and a subject often misunderstood by the public is “What Do Architects Do?” 


According to the New Jersey Administrative Code, Architects are the only professionals “through education, training, and experience, skilled in the art and science of building design, that are licensed to practice architecture in New Jersey”. The Practice of Architecture” means “the providing of services in connection with the design, construction, enlargement, or alteration of a building or group pf buildings and the spaces within and surrounding those buildings, that are for human use or habitations. Services include site planning, preliminary studies, architectural designs, drawings, specifications, and other technical documentation, and administration of construction for the purpose of determining compliance with drawings and specifications”



Whether the project is a single-family or a multi-unit residential tower, a retail development or shopping mall, a mid or high-rise office building, an education, religious or healthcare facility, a place of public assembly such as a movie theater, concert hall, sports arena or meeting hall, or a transportation center such as a bus, train, and subway station or an airport, SAFETY issues such as FIRE PROTECTION Ratings and Systems, Exit Locations and Distances of Travel,; Building and Site SECURITY and STRUCTURAL Design needed for earthquake, wind loads, beam depth, column spacing, vertical and horizontal bracing, foundation selection, long span and cantilever design, can all influence an architect’s design and address responsibly for MAKING BUILDINGS SAFE.

In Part Onc, the Architects will discuss Building and Site Security.


According to Michael Bieri, AIA, PP, of FKA Architects, one of the most prevalent issues facing school design today is security.  As architects, we have considered school security inherently in our designs for decades.   Considering current events, there is public awareness on the subject that has not existed in previous years.  As public awareness of school security heightens, Architects face an additional challenge of designing facilities that can be safely locked down while at the same time permit safe passage and exiting during other types of emergencies.

This attention, coupled with lockdown protocols, has created a flurry of products on the market to secure classroom doors for lockdown situations.  These devices include props, barricades, and locks that are designed to stop intruder access into the classroom.  Although they may secure the door from intruders, many of these devices also prohibit safe egress and create a safety issue by their installation.

New Jersey’s Building Code has finally caught up with this issue to prohibit such devices, but they are still available in the marketplace.  A safe, code-compliant lock-down device must consider both securities from the corridor side as well as safe egress from the classroom side of the door.  This type of lock will permit the teacher to lock their door from the inside of the room, without having to enter the hallway, rendering themselves vulnerable.  New devices on the market can also be synchronized with the building’s emergency notification system such that all classrooms and spaces can be automatically locked down from the push of a button in a single location.

Courtesy of FKA Architects

Schools can be designed with clear and intuitive paths of egress to enhance their safety.  For example, the placement of a window at the end of a corridor gives the building’s occupants a sense of orientation within the building while providing natural light to the space.  Locating the stair and the end of corridor, adjacent to the exterior window creates a naturally obvious path of egress to the safety of the stair exit.

Good school design will balance and address the many ways in which a school is used.  It will provide for safe and secure areas in event of intrusion.  As we have hardened the windows and walls of a classroom to provide this security, it has become even more important to provide a clear, safe, and effective means of evacuation from these spaces during other emergencies.


Carla Bonacci, AIA, Assistant Director of World Trade Center (WTC) Infrastructure & Project Development, describes the enhanced safety and security through environmental design on her campus.


The World Trade Center (World Trade Center) campus is a mixed-use area that continues to be a “city within a city.”  The heart of the WTC campus is the National September 11 Memorial Plaza.   It is surrounded by other iconic mixed-use buildings, including the Oculus, One World Trade Center, and several soaring office towers. There are also several “buildings” below street level, including the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the WTC Transportation Hub (which connects MTA subway and PATH rail customers to the campus), and Westfield WTC retail mall, a Vehicular Security Center and roadway network, and various central plant facilities.  The WTC campus will also soon have new, completed cultural facilities, including the Perelman Performing Arts Center and the St. Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center.


The WTC’s facilities are experienced by tens of thousands of daily commuters, business visitors, shoppers, and tourists.  As such, the various sidewalks, streets, and interior circulation routes all need to remain open and accessible to the public. This was the design challenge: to coordinate and integrate the various pedestrian and vehicular movements relative to buildings and open spaces, while also maintaining a high level of safety and security.  An architect’s vision and understanding of the user experience in mixed-use spaces – including the application of both visible and concealed features and equipment – is essential to achieving a seamless and open environment that is also highly safe and secure.


There is an approach to the design of safety and security called Crime Prevention Thru Environmental Design (CPTED), that architects incorporate through 4 principles – openness, accessibility, boundaries, and technology – into their designs to promote campus and building security. We have incorporated and integrated these principles throughout the WTC Campus. 


To See and Be Seen (Openness and Accessibility)

According to the CPTED principles, “openness” means to “see and be seen.” Long view corridors, wide sidewalks, transparent glass buildings at street level, and appropriate lighting create feelings of safety.  The Oculus, for example, has wide passages and view corridors with visibility from end to end, and natural light above to create an open feeling.  Public mass transportation entries in each building integrate pedestrian movements and create linkages throughout the campus so that there are many visible pathways and connections between open spaces and the buildings.

Accessible environments utilize pathways, bollards, lighting, signage, and landscape to clearly guide and direct the flow of people and vehicles. There is also a layering of elements that create a hierarchy of movement from public to semi-public to private spaces. Each transition defines access parameters and controls to create safe environments.  As one moves from the public sidewalk to the semi-public office lobby, there is transparent, security glazing that allow for visibility while providing separation. As one moves into the office lobbies, visitor desks and turnstiles set a physical barrier for further entry so that the private office spaces are accessible to only those designated to be there. 

Neighborhood Setting (Boundaries and Technology). “Creating boundaries” introduces pavement treatments, landscaping, and signage to distinguish public areas from private areas to discourage potential trespassers.  For example, there are stainless steel-encased bollards that ring the sidewalk areas, separating vehicles from pedestrians and defining the WTC Campus perimeter. Lastly, security systems and their maintenance are critical so that properties can be adequately upkept, and potential destructive behavior is minimized. It is important that systems for camera surveillance and building access control, including lighting, are always in excellent working condition. 

Architects shape projects in the built environment to enhance the customer experience by meshing visible security elements with concealed security elements and incorporating flows and movements of people and vehicles into everyday life.  This holistic approach has aided in the success of the WTC Campus.


Joshua Zinder, AIA, a specialist in synagogue design, notes that security for staff and congregants of places of worship is becoming an ever-higher priority. But these buildings must be more than secure: they must inspire the occupant, foster connections to the divine, and offer each community they serve a welcoming environment to meet in joy and in reverence. Striking this balance is critical for congregation leaders and trustees, who must learn how their churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues can become true sanctuaries. At the heart of any working solution is a strategy that integrates three layers of protection: technology, architecture, and the congregants themselves.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides security guidelines for all places of worship. These can be used to help religious facilities obtain Homeland Security grants to pay for safety improvements.

Courtesy of Landau Zinder


Through cost-effective design solutions, reorganization, and engagement, worship communities can amplify existing security methods by directing attention to key areas. Technological components of this approach include such elements as cameras and alarms, while architectural strategies include installation of entryway vestibules and reconfiguring the use of spaces to locate staff offices near entrances. The most important layer of protection is an informed and engaged congregation, aware of the facility’s security features and ready to react thoughtfully to safeguard the most vulnerable members of the community. Familiarizing the community with building safety features and how they work, combined with the powerful advantage of togetherness, provides the most effective security layer of all.


Watch for our 2022 1Q release of MAKING BUILDINGS SAFE. Part Two, which will discuss STRUCTURAL Design and FIRE PROTECTION Ratings, Systems, Exiting Locations, Distances of Travel and Building Codes.

To learn more about DESIGNING VALUE or finding an Architect that is right for your project, contact AIANJ, the American Institute of Architects, New Jersey Region and Chapter, at


About the series founder:

Edward N. Rothe, FAIA, is Co-Founder and Managing Design Partner of Rothe-Johnson Associates, Architecture/Planning/Interior Design; 

Rothe-Johnson Project Services, Design-Build/Project Management/Development Services; and

Founder and Managing Principal of B4Development LLC, Owner Representation/Criteria Architecture.


DESIGNING VALUE is a periodic article, created by the AIANJ Public Awareness Committee, to promote the Value and Vital Importance that architectural design and services contribute to the success of our clients and the improvement of our communities and society.

It is issued by AIANJ through our Blog, Social Media, our Newsletter and sent to a targeted audience that regularly deals with architects, including planning boards, building departments, government agencies, and to those that provide public information on architecture and design.

Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment. Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through a dynamic network of more than 250 chapters and more than 95,000 member architects and design professionals, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation, and world. The organization’s local chapter, AIA New Jersey, has served as the voice of the architectural profession in the Garden State since 1900. Based in Trenton, AIA New Jersey has over 2,000 members across six sections. For more information, please visit


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Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment.

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