ARCHITECTS and ENGINEERS

Designing a Safe Campus

Campus safety is a perennial concern for colleges and universities, yet addressing campus safety is unique to each institution. Creating a safe college experience is often a multifaceted process that begins with campus planning. The following are three planning strategies to increase students' sense of security:

NEIGHBORHOOD CONTEXT

Understanding safety begins by considering the surrounding neighborhood and the physical attributes of the neighborhood. Too often, colleges can be perceived as places of privilege, causing a rift between the institution and the neighborhood. To avoid this rift, think of the campus edges as transition zones that establish the benefits of the college or university to the community. By providing buildings/opportunities/programs that are open to the public, the community will have a sense of belonging and will be vested in keeping the campus safe.

HUBS OF ACTIVITY

A busy campus is a safe campus, and strategic planning creates active pedestrian areas for student life. Multiuse public spaces reinforce a sense of community, which promotes safety by attracting a steady pedestrian presence. Within the heart of a campus, successful planning surrounds open spaces with activities, promoting engaged watching. By programming food service, common areas and classrooms at frequent intervals along public paths or plazas, schools can reinforce safety through social networks and activity.

VISIBILITY

Visibility--in combination with sightlines, landscaping, and lighting--plays a key role in reducing campus crime. To improve sightlines, make sure views to the public pathways are unobstructed and design lighting so it is easy to view the outside from interior spaces at night. Landscaping can create a sense of peace and security while inadvertently concealing risks, so ground plantings must be trimmed low and tree canopies should be kept above sightlines. In addition, bright lighting is not necessarily safer. Bright lights can cast long shadows and reduce night acuity, making it more difficult to identify someone moving toward you. Consider intensity, uniformity and glare when plannng effective lighting. 

SUMMARY

Although each college campus has its unique design circumstances, strategic campus planning that considers the neighborhood context, hubs of activity and visibility can significantly contribute to a safer environment.

Read the full article in American School & University.

Topics: Education

DESIGN FOR EDUCATION

From science buildings to classrooms, residence halls and other campus landmarks, higher education architecture offers opportunities to explore new models of learning.

Featured projects >