New Jersey Architects Seek to Enhance School Safety

May 17, 2023

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New Jersey Architects Seek to Enhance School Safety

By Jeanne Perantoni, AIA and Edward N. Rothe, FAIA


As we recognize Building Safety Month this May, The American Institute of Architects New Jersey Chapter (AIA NJ) wants the public to understand that protecting the Health, Safety and Welfare (Wellness) of building occupants is fundamental to what architects do. Architects believe that innovative architectural design solutions can keep learners and learning central to the decision-making process in designing safe schools.

Architects SOLVE PROBLEMS. Our architectural designs are developed to meet client NEEDS and the INTENDED USES of buildings. Our designs also address social, psychological, economic, and environmental factors and respond to building codes and issues of PUBLIC SAFETY.

With 17 school shootings already this year across the United States, the issue of school safety and student wellness remains at the forefront of priorities being faced across our nation and state. Doing the minimum to address issues of security is no longer an option. For those of us in the architecture field, we must increasingly become involved in educating school leaders and public officials about the importance of using design elements to create safer school campuses and healthier children. As reported in a March 2023 Architecture Magazine article, Architectural designs will be very important in addressing the problem of gun violence in schools.”

Experienced school designers in New Jersey have come together to participate on the AIA New Jersey Safe School Design Task Force to help colleagues, clients, and the public incorporate best practices in school design with a targeted focus on enhancing safety, security, and wellness across all grade levels. New Jersey architects recognize the need to take on leadership roles and have  moved forward to conduct research, evaluate design features, and test products to assess which tools and systems are most effective at protecting the health, safety and wellness of students and staff.

It is important for NJ architects to design safe, secure, healthy, and productive schools and to employ best practices that are not only “tried and true” solutions, but also incorporate innovative features to creatively solve site-specific challenges. Architects are trained in making their designs flexible, sustainable, and adaptable to meet local, particularized needs. The goal of the AIA NJ Safe School Design Task Force is to expand the resources available for moving forward to better protect our schools, students, and educators.



Jeanne Perantoni, AIA, is a Co-chair of the AIA NJ Safe School Design Task Force. She serves as Principal and CEO at SSP Architects. Jeanne has over 35 years of professional experience as an architect, with expertise in the planning and design of K-12 schools.

Edward N. Rothe, FAIA, is Co-chair of the AIA NJ Safe School Design Task Force. He was Co-Founder and Managing Design Partner of NJ-based Rothe-Johnson Associates, Fletcher Thompson Architecture, and Past President of AIA New Jersey. Ed is credited with the AIANJ Design Award-winning Bleshman Regional Day School, Paramus, NJ, for the Bergen County Specialized School District. The school, designed to educate children with multiple handicaps, features classroom “clusters” to reduce travel distances, non-institutional interior colors, warm air floors, and skylights and clear story windows to provide natural light. He is also responsible for the community-based, Highbridge Green School and Environmental Education Campus, Bronx, NY, for the NYC SCA (Schools Construction Authority). Green features include a rooftop garden, wind turbines, solar panels, a greenhouse, and a rain collection system. Ed continues to serve AIA NJ as an active emeritus member, lending decades of leadership to advance the profession. 

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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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