Bullet Proof Glass and Bullet Resistant Barriers | TSS Bulletproof http://www.tssbulletproof.com Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:26:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 More Police Stations Offering Locations for Safe Internet Trades http://www.tssbulletproof.com/police-stations-offering-locations-safe-internet-trades/ Wed, 22 Jun 2016 23:37:09 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15207 [...]

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8489846881_7b74c705a9_bWhile summer garage sales are alive and well, many people prefer the convenience of selling their outgrown baby strollers and old gym equipment in online marketplaces. Every day, thousands buy, sell and trade via sites like Craig’sList, Facebook, eBay, EPage, and ClassifiedsGiant. Most of the time, it’s uneventful. However, there is a darker side of internet shopping that tells of the danger of doing business with strangers.

While is may seem obvious to those who’ve had a bad experience, you might be surprised to know that:

  • Hundreds of people are robbed, beaten or killed each year during exchanges
  • Even public places (like Walmart parking lots and gas stations) are not 100% safe

What is a Safe Trade Zone or Internet Exchange Location?

A safe trade zone or internet exchange location is a place where online buyers and sellers meet, usually located in a police station parking lot. Lately, more local police departments are providing this easy, low cost solution to a common problem.

The idea of meeting in the police parking lot for the added safety is not a new one. Many divorced couples having been meeting in police lots for years for child exchanges, or to review custody schedules and other documents.

Typically there are:

  • 24 hour surveillance cameras to monitor the parking lot
  • Set hours during which transactions should take place
  • No guns, illegal or legal drugs allowed
  • Police officers just steps away

Where Can I Find a Safe Trade Zone Near Me?

Do an online search for “Safe Trade Zones near me” or “Where can I find an Internet Exchange Location” and look for local police stations that provide these. You can also visit the Safe Trade program website and look up your home state.

The Safe Trade program began in 2015 and is open to all police departments and LEO organizations. It helps users of online classifieds trade safely, and there is no cost to the stations that choose to use it.

What if I can’t meet up at a Safe Trade Zone?

The Safe Trade program recognizes that selling large furniture or a play structure might not be practical in the police station parking lot. If you can’t meet there, Safe Trade recommends:

  • Meet at a police station where you can exchange and photocopy each other’s’ identification papers, such as a driver’s license. Do NOT carry cash to this location.
  • Photocopy the license or identification paper, or use your phone to photograph it.
  • Email the ID information to a friend, or to someone trusted (not to yourself).
  • If you’re selling at home, or going to someone’s home, never be outnumbered. If you’re at home, make sure you have two or three people there — and tell the person who is coming that you will have others with you. There’s some safety in numbers.
  • At home or an apartment, NEVER let someone go anywhere unaccompanied. Not even to the bathroom. Always make sure they are escorted.
  • Never let more than one group come to your home at one time to buy or sell

No matter where you make a trade or sale,  it is never a good idea to make it obvious that you are carrying a large sum of cash, and you should make certain that when you leave you are not being followed.

Next Steps:

Ballistic Door Checklist

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Bandit Barriers and Relationship Banking http://www.tssbulletproof.com/bandit-barriers-relationship-banking/ Wed, 15 Jun 2016 19:17:37 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15261 [...]

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According to Don S. Tokunaga, former vice chairman for security and risk management for the American Bankers Association, “There’s no doubt that banks that have bandit barriers have fewer robberies.” Nonetheless, Tokunaga notes, banks often shy away from installing bullet resistant security systems. Sometimes this is a matter of cost, but more often because the bank fears losing that “open look” and putting a damper on their relationships with customers.

“We understand this reluctance,” Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards says, “in retail banking, tellers are sellers. Building on their relationship with a customer is key. That’s why we’ve developed open, airy, bullet resistant systems that preserve clear communication. Security barriers should never create business barriers.”

Bullet Resistant Barriers that Don’t Create Barriers

Banks reasonably worry that adding a bandit barrier will inhibit the one-on-one contact between teller and customer, or otherwise stifle the customer experience. “This is a key concern during the planning stage, every time. But what we hear from banking clients, once the system is in place, is that it spruces up the appearance. Because the glass is clear, with large unobstructed panes, it really brightens up the space. Because we pay so much attention to maintaining crystal clear voice transmission, the barrier will not muffle voices or feel obtrusive. Clear eye contact, easy conversation: These are really key to forming those important relationships of trust.”

TSS’s bullet resistant baffle and arch window systems are popular with banks. These rely on thick sheets of acrylic, which can be flush-mounted with minimal framing, creating broad, clear sight lines. Acrylic is rigid, and has excellent light transmission (greater than 90%). Flame polishing the edges preserves this transparency, so that seams and edges almost disappear. Because TSS fabricates to exceedingly tight tolerances, we can eliminate the thick framing pieces that older systems relied on, and which tended to draw attention to the sheets of bullet proof acrylic. The result is the sort of custom system you see below, which keeps the focus on the customer and the teller, not the counter and barrier.

Banking Bandit Barrier Arch Windows

Some smaller settings—like in-store bank branches located in grocery stores—might prefer something like the Natural Voice Transmission (NVR) transaction window shown below. This set-in-place solution uses a specialized framing system to allow for easy communication through a totally solid barrier, with no metal talk-thru plate or intercom system coming between the customer and bank staff:

A Small Investment in Peace-of-Mind

Financial service businesses are often relieved to discover that a bandit barrier need not be as large an investment as they suspected. In part, many banks initially overestimate what their barrier will cost because they spec out “too much barrier” for their needs. As we’ve mentioned in the past, it is almost certainly the case that you don’t need to worry about stopping an AK-47. For most banking customers, a Level 1 or 2 system (which stops many bullets fired from a wide range of common handguns) will be more than sufficient.

“Well designed bandit barriers are such powerful deterrents,” Total Security Solutions Sales Manager Bob George explains. “These criminals are not planning to stick around and shoot up the place. They don’t want to get caught, and so they don’t want to come into a space where there is some question about ‘who’s in charge.’ It’s the path of least resistance: They are going to go down the street, and scope out the place that doesn’t have a barrier system. They aren’t going to hawk a place that has a ballistic system in it.”

Bob George has worked with many banking and financial service locations throughout the United States, and often finds that worry about security is significant among branch employees. “I did a handful of credit unions in Alabama a couple years ago. They had these two branches that just kept getting hit, over and over again. And these poor women were just frightened to come to work. I remember when I was down there, measuring for the job, and I met one of them: she was so frazzled, and then so happy that a barrier was coming into their branch. The psychological toll that the threat of violence has on people, it’s really hard to overestimate how much that costs.”

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Balancing Bulletproof Security and Design http://www.tssbulletproof.com/balancing-bulletproof-security-design/ Wed, 08 Jun 2016 20:13:58 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15253 [...]

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U.S. Land Port of Entry in Van Buren, Maine There is a recurring theme in the design and integration of bulletproof barriers into banks, schools and municipal buildings – the art of striking a fine balance between form and function, creating both a warm, inviting environment that is physically secure. In some situations, it does make sense to install an over-the-top ballistic barrier that truly makes itself known. And for clients who want this approach, Total Security Solutions can certainly handle the job. But our specialty is focused more on custom installations, where beauty is as essential as security. We work with architects and designers to help realize their design vision while ensuring the security needs of the end user are met.

For most schools and government buildings, an over-the-top bulletproof barrier is not what is required. Individuals with a true need to enter the building should feel welcome to do so and children should not feel intimidated upon entering their school. A clean, minimalist approach to the integration of security features into a building’s design, however, does not insinuate a lack of security.

Bulletproof Security at U.S. Ports of Entry

There are more than 300 land, air, and sea ports of entry into the United States. Serving as a lawful means of entry into the US, these locations are used to check passports and search luggage to ensure that contraband is not imported. Passing through these checkpoints can often be stressful for individuals due to the high level of security and while properly securing a port of entry is imperative, the need to establish a warm, welcoming environment is equally as important.

Standing at the border between Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, the U.S. Land Port of Entry in Van Buren, Maine opened its doors in April 2013 and has since received many awards for striking the desired balance between form and function. While its design is not necessarily breakthrough and is even reminiscent of other federal buildings, it has been argued that subtle details make it feel transparent and even welcoming. Its design meets the requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Gold criteria and among other recognitions, it most recently received a 2016 AIA Honor Award.

Designed by Julie Snow Architects, the U.S. Land Port of Entry is described as fusing “an abstraction of the cultural and landscape context with concepts essential to port operations: surveillance and camouflage.” Making up a Z-shaped form from above, the buildings feature aluminum panels that alternate with silk-screened bullet-resistant glazing in a pattern meant to emulate the surrounding tree-lined environment. The use of a bold orange color on the interior walls serves to brighten the space, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere. The Van Buren, MN Port of Entry demonstrates how careful thought and seamless integration can ensure a building is both secure and aesthetically pleasing.

Photo courtesy of www.coenpartners.com

NEXT STEPS:

Make or Break Project

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Securing the White House http://www.tssbulletproof.com/securing-white-house/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 13:15:38 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15235 [...]

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white house fence jumperSince construction completed on the White House in 1800, architectural renovations have been ongoing, from major construction projects such as the East and West Wings to less structural improvements such as the addition of a single-lane bowling alley or solar panels on the roof. While many of these renovations were undergone to expand the living and work spaces or personalize the décor, a growing need for security also warranted updates to the existing building and surrounding grounds. Even as recently as July 2015, a temporary solution of sharp metal spikes was added along the top of the fence encircling the White House to deter individuals from climbing. The fence itself was not original and while, since the time of Thomas Jefferson, some form of fence was utilized, public access to the White House grounds became much more restricted after World War II.

In the 1950s, during a massive reconstruction of the interior of the White House, a system of underground tunnels and bunkers was also built to enable the president and his staff a quick exit during an emergency situation. There is even a trap door underneath the desk in the Oval Office.

Retrofitting the White House with Bulletproof Glass

Though crews have never been seen replacing the exterior windows of the White House, a 2011 shooting incident confirmed the presence of bulletproof glass windows. Jim Richards, CEO of Total Security Solutions, has experience retrofitting ballistic glass in historic government buildings in and around Washington, DC and has found that backing existing windows with a second ballistic layer is almost the norm. “It’s probably the easiest thing to do when you’re going back through with a retro fit. A lot of times, with a historical building exterior, they want to keep that look, so instead of having to tear out glass, rebuild mullions, add structural members to support the added weight, it’s a lot easier to just lay in the transparency behind the existing windows.”

Access Control at the White House

Access control is another area in which the White House has cracked down on security. At one time, even as recent as the 1980s, it was not uncommon for 6,000+ visitors to make their way through the White House, creating a potential security threat. Tickets were in extremely high demand and were often sold by scalpers at a much higher price. After September 11, 2001, however, tours were suspended. While they have been reinstated for periods on and off since that time, to arrange a tour of the White House currently, you must work through a member of Congress and it can often take up to six months to gain access.

Photo courtesy of Fox6Now.com

NEXT STEPS:

Make or Break Project

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Designing the White House http://www.tssbulletproof.com/designing-white-house/ Thu, 26 May 2016 15:40:09 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15232 [...]

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Front view of The White House in springIn the early 1790s, an architectural design competition was held for what would become one of the most prestigious and widely recognized buildings in the United States: The White House. Although, it wouldn’t officially be known by this iconic name until 1901. A total of nine proposals were received, but President Washington selected the design of an Irish architect named James Hoban. Hoban’s original design was not deemed grand enough, however, so it was modified to be only two stories tall instead of three and widened from a 9-bay façade to 11 bays. Construction officially began in 1792 and lasted nearly eight years with John Adams listed as the first occupant. Total building cost in today’s terms was approximately $3.2 million.

Presidents Leave Their Mark on the White House

Over the years, the White House has undergone many architectural additions and modifications. Starting as early as 1801, plans were drawn up to add East and West Colonnades, which were intended to conceal the stables and domestic areas of the home, such as laundry. During the War of 1812, the White House was set on fire by British troops and what little remained when the fire was put out had to be torn down and rebuilt for structural integrity. Reconstruction lasted from 1815 to 1817 and Hoban continued to be involved in the design process. A south portico was added in 1824 followed by a north portico six years later. Renovations have continued as each president took office: a complete interior overhaul including gold leaf on the walls during Chester Arthur’s time in office, a fourth story attic during Coolidge’s administration, a second floor balcony for Truman and so on. The White House became the first wheelchair accessible government building when Franklin D Roosevelt took office.

Restoring the Historical Character of the White House

By 1948, the White House was in serious distress and there were fears of a potential collapse due to its original timber framework. A whopping $52 million in today’s currency (17 times the original construction cost) was invested at that time to essentially dismantle the entire interior, build a new load-bearing steel frame and then reconstruct the original rooms. Unfortunately, as a result of these extensive renovations, much of the original plasterwork was damaged and replaced with more generic furnishings. The original timber framework, however, was repurposed to panel the ground floor walls of many of the rooms in the main residence. In an effort to restore some of the original character that had been lost, Jacqueline Kennedy oversaw efforts to collect artifacts to decorate with, assigning each room a period theme.

Although some modifications continue to occur to the private residence area of the White House with each presidential turnover, proposed renovations to the State rooms must be approved by the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. Post-Kennedy renovations have included a bowling alley in the basement, solar water heating panels on the roof, additional wheelchair accessible ramps, as well as periodic décor updates/refurbishments throughout the various rooms.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

NEXT STEPS:

Make or Break Project

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Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards Chosen As EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Finalist http://www.tssbulletproof.com/total-security-solutions-ceo-jim-richards-chosen-ey-entrepreneur-year-2016-finalist/ Wed, 18 May 2016 15:38:35 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15241 [...]

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EY Entrepreneur of the yearWe are excited to announce that our CEO, Jim Richards, was named as a EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2016 Finalist.

Now celebrating its 30th year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards program recognizes entrepreneurs in over 145 cities in 60 countries who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.

Winners for the Michigan Northwest Ohio Region will be announced at a black tie awards Gala on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

We congratulate Jim and wish him the very best of luck!

Click here to see the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 finalists

Next Steps:

Make or Break Project

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Bullet Resistant Systems that Satisfy Government Clients http://www.tssbulletproof.com/bullet-resistant-systems-satisfy-government-clients/ Wed, 11 May 2016 13:49:51 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15153 [...]

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Tuscaloos County Sheriff's OfficeTotal Security Solutions has worked at every level of government, from the Pentagon down to local utility offices. These jobs have ranged from large passport offices to tiny Social Security Administration payment windows, border checkpoints to courthouses and police stations, with systems custom designed to protect facilities against everything from a random enraged person waiving a pistol to premeditated terror attacks with high-powered assault rifles.

Meeting Government Security Needs

Although most of TSS’s government work has been through contractors, they’ve tended to work closely—if not directly—with the government agencies themselves (especially the General Services Administration, Social Services Administration, and Veterans’ Administration). It’s not unusual for TSS’s early specs and layout to become the basis of design for a whole series of projects within a given agency.

As Bob George, Total Security Solutions sales manager, notes, “Our best opportunities are the ones where we’re able to deal directly with the end-user. It goes much smoother and they end up with a better system, one that keeps everyone safe, doesn’t get in the way of getting their work done, and looks good. From the contractor’s end, it’s just a lot easier: The agency wants to go off the basis of design. If we’re specified, even when we’re not deemed the sole source for a given project, the contractor still needs to get an approved equal. At the end of the day, our work is the basis of design because the quality speaks for itself, and because these agencies know they can rely on TSS to get it done on time at a level that exceeds their expectations.”

Navigating the Complexities of Working with Government Clients

Working so closely with government agencies has given the TSS design team a rare opportunity to hone their skills guiding government clients to the right system for their facility. As Bob George explains, “Many government clients come in saying hey, we want Level 8, we want the highest. We get that all the time, and then you have to talk them down. The fact is, we very rarely do anything above Level 5. Level 3 is realistic for most government barrier systems. Yes, Level 8 is going to protect your from some pretty heavy-duty stuff, but the windows will be 2.5” thick—double the thickness of Level 3, and almost triple the weight, at nearly 30 pounds per square foot. It’s a very difficult material to work with. Not to get too technical, but anything higher than Level 3, you get into all glass-clad polycarbonate—that’s a layered material. It has great features—for example, it’s blast- and forced-entry rated—but the material itself is more expensive, and much more difficult to fabricate. The added weight means you need to beef up walls and counters, and make special arrangements to bring the material in and position it. Two guys aren’t going to put a thousand pound window in place on their own. Going up to Level 8 drives up labor costs significantly.”

Ballistic Barriers for Recruiting Offices

Recruiting offices pose a special challenge, and are an excellent example of how TSS excels at both ballistic design and the art of the deal. According to Bob George, “The problem is that a lot of recruiting offices aren’t owned by the armed services.” In some cases TSS has been able to work with the landlords, and switched out the storefronts, replacing the existing display windows with bullet resistant glass-clad polycarbonate and appropriate bullet resistant frames. In other cases, either the landlord has proven uncooperative, or an impending move has ruled out retrofitting the building itself. “For those cases, we’ve developed a mobile barrier solution. We’ve done a number of these for the Navy, who’ve really liked the design.”

Pic-11192015-004

TSS’s custom mobile barriers offer a great deal of flexibility: They significantly heighten security, can be fabricated from a mix of transparent and opaque materials, can be quickly broken down and moved to a new location, and then secured in place with minimal impact to the structure itself.

This is a great solution because it solves all of the problems: Security is increased, staff can do their job without added hassles, and all of the stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome.

NEXT STEPS:

Police Checklist

 

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Intro to Bullet Resistant Barriers for Government Projects http://www.tssbulletproof.com/intro-bullet-resistant-barriers-government-projects/ Wed, 04 May 2016 19:59:45 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15150 [...]

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exterior police stationGovernment facilities at every level—from State Department outposts to local municipal utility offices—need to increase security. This is especially the case for agencies whose mission includes public outreach or demands frequent interactions with the public at large. As one Total Security Solutions municipal client noted, “You just don’t know what’s going to happen… Once you get them [the staff] behind a bullet resistant barrier, you feel a lot better about their safety.”

UL Levels for Government Offices and Facilities

Bullet proof materials are rated according to a set of standards set by Underwriters Laboratory (i.e., UL-752). These generally designate the minimum number of bullets of a given caliber the material will stop when fired on from a given distance and angle, with a specific grouping and placement of shots (for example, assuring that the edges of a material perform as well as the center, and so on). Both individual materials and complete components and sub-systems are tested by OSHA-designated nationally recognized testing laboratories (NRTLs) to make sure they perform according to the appropriate UL standard.

Learning that a Level 3 door is rated to stop three shots from a .44 Magnum, the next logical question is usually along the lines of: “So the forth bullet just pops right through?”

Fortunately, the answer is “Not a chance.” Competent bullet proof companies drastically over-engineer their systems and components. For example, you’ll note in the following video that this Level 2 door (rated to stop three rounds from a .357 Magnum pistol) actually catches more than 100 shots from a variety of handguns and assault rifles, without a single bulge on the protected side.

Bullet Resistant “Glass” Isn’t Glass

At one time “bullet proof glass” was indeed made from thick panes of layered, laminated glass. Many government agencies still request glass windows, because of the perception that glass shows less wear and tear.

Today, almost all “bullet proof glass” is made from solid or layered plastics (usually acrylic for lower-level installation, and layers of laminated polycarbonate and glass for situations requiring protection from blasts or higher calibers). Although some care has to be shown in cleaning these plastics, the advantages offered by modern thermoplastics—which transmit light better than comparable bullet-resistant glass products, are highly durable, and cost much less to fabricate and install—make it a clear winner for almost all government installation.

Government Bullet Resistant Barriers and Clear Communication

Government agencies dealing with the public have both a greater need for ballistic security, and a profound sensitivity to the impact their offices have on citizen perception of government. TSS keeps the balance of security and accessibility top-of-mind with every ballistic barrier they design for a government facility.

Although small local government offices can occasionally get by with a single-piece transaction window or transaction door (like the one shown below), most will need a custom fabricated barrier.

Transaction Door 1

A fabricated barrier can take any number of forms, from a guard booth or security checkpoint to a building-wide security and access control system. TSS finds that most publicly facing government offices need a transaction line (like what you find in a bank), and tend to favor baffle or arched windows, which assure very clear communication.

This renovation of the San Francisco Passport Office is a perfect example of semi-private stations with arch windows.image11 image7 (1)

Despite the size of the facility—almost two dozen stations, and waiting-room seating to accommodate dozens of families—such a design creates a sense of privacy for clients handling sensitive documents or situations. It also permits exceptionally clear voice transmission and an unobstructed view of the face, all of which contribute to clearer communication and a better customer experience.

The Paramount Sheriff’s Station (shown below) is a good example of a smaller fabricated barrier system relying on baffle windows:

image4

Note that the baffle design allows for excellent communication while maintaining long, totally undistorted sightliness.

Guideline for Government Ballistic Barriers

In general, most government facilities—regardless of their locale or business—need Level 3 ballistic barriers. These are a good investment, and offer the right balance of security and convenience. Some highly sensitive military or Defense Department sites might call for systems as high as Level 5, but even that is extremely rare. Going higher is virtually unheard of with domestic bullet resistant barriers.

NEXT STEPS:

Make or Break Project

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Architecture Facilitates Learning http://www.tssbulletproof.com/architecture-facilitates-learning/ Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:14:49 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15156 [...]

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Changes are happening in schools across America, with the biggest focus on security. Schools are working to be more proactive in preventing violence. Many schools have installed entryway vestibules outfitted with bulletproof glass to control access to the building. They are also implementing new training programs, such as ALICE, to better prepare teachers and staff in the event of an active shooter. And while security will remain—and should remain—a priority in the design and construction of K-12 schools, there is a lot of innovation to highlight in other areas of the design of primary and secondary education buildings.

Design to Promote Collaboration

There has been a trend in office environments toward open work spaces and impromptu meeting zones, providing a more relaxed environment for small groups to collaborate. A variety of furniture styles, from standing height tables to couches, offers flexibility for a quick pow-wow or a “get comfortable, this could take a while” brainstorm session. More recently, this shift in thinking has been applied to the design of primary and secondary education school buildings as well.

millbrookj2ndflprojectareaIn 2012, HMFH Architects unveiled three new elementary schools in Concord, New Hampshire, focused on providing adaptive, accessible, collaborative spaces. Featuring bold colors and ample natural light, the design includes a two-story learning corridor that houses an amphitheater, as well as spaces for art projects, group discussions, story-telling and individual reading. Where physical boundaries were necessary, glazing was utilized as much as possible to maintain a sense of openness and community.

Situated among a grove of big-leaf maples, Carl Sandburg Elementary in Kirkland, Washington took advantage of its surrounding environment and created collaboration spaces and areas of learning, including raised plant beds, outside. Expansive windows flank all sides of the school connecting the interior building space with the outside landscape, creating a park-like environment. Small groups of three or four classrooms are clustered around a central open space which provides flexibility for students and teachers to work individually or in small groups.

The notion of collaborative learning is becoming increasingly popular in primary and secondary education. Schools are moving away from teacher-centric learning highlighted by long lectures and moving toward more active learning, where students work in small groups to learn hands-on and serve both as the student and teacher. This trend is further facilitated by the architecture of the school buildings. A move toward more open spaces encourages this type of learning.

Photo courtesy of www.archdaily.com

NEXT STEPS:

Make or Break Project

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School Security and Access Control for Architects http://www.tssbulletproof.com/school-security-access-control-architects/ Wed, 20 Apr 2016 20:20:06 +0000 http://www.tssbulletproof.com/?p=15101 [...]

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two story school building with many windowsWhile most school architects are fairly well versed in CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design), many are fairly new to bullet resistant materials and design.  With active shooter scenarios increasingly top-of-mind for education clients considering new construction and renovations, now is a good time to spend a few minutes coming up to speed.

A School Architect’s Introduction to Bullet Resistant Materials and Barrier Systems

At one time “bullet proof glass” was indeed made from thick panes of layered, laminated glass.  Today, almost all “bullet proof glass” is made from solid or layered plastics (usually acrylic for solid windows, and layers of polycarbonate and glass for laminated glazing).

More importantly, the “bullet proof windows” that most clients fixate on are a relatively small part of the barrier, which is an integrated system consisting of:

  1. bullet resistant windows and framing
  2. bullet resistant doors
  3. bullet resistant fiberglass to reinforce surrounding counters and walls
  4. some form of communications system

The communications system can be as simple as the voice portal and backer in a bus-station ticket window, or may include multiple sub-systems: an intercom, a deal tray for passing papers, a bullet resistant drawer or passers for larger items, etc.

For best results–in terms of aesthetics, usability, and security–every bullet resistant barrier should be treated as a custom job.  Every piece of the system needs to seamlessly integrate with both the other elements of the barrier system and with the existing structure, mechanicals, building use patterns, and so on.

Bullet proof materials are rated according to a set of standards set by Underwriters Laboratory (i.e., UL-752).  Both individual materials and complete components and sub-systems are tested by OSHA-designated nationally recognized testing laboratories (NRTL) in order to confirm they perform according to the appropriate UL standard.

Best Practices in School Bulletproof Barrier Systems

For most schools, the best security solution is a bullet resistant vestibule entryway system with integrated access control.  These systems are a fairly straightforward example of CPTED, and can almost always be easily retrofit into existing buildings, or worked into new construction with few alterations.

As Bob George, Total Security Solutions sales manager, explains: “We do our best work when we connect with architects early on in the design process.  The best case scenario is when we can get in there early to help with design recommendations, and guide the school officials toward a good solution.”

Schools often come in initially asking about very extensive Level 5 to 8 systems (which explicitly address the threat of high-powered ammunition and assault weapons).  A level 5 to 8 system would likely include blast-rated and bullet resistant exterior windows capable of stopping very powerful ammunition and blasts, bullet proof doors throughout the facility, and so on.

Such high-level systems are prohibitively expensive, and also entirely unnecessary: Most schools are very well served with a Level 1 hardened entryway with access control.  There are two reasons for this.  First and foremost, the primary goals of a barrier system in a school are deterrence and delay. Anything that gives an active shooter pause or makes him think twice about his actions is often sufficient to prevent an attack.  If that deterrence fails, then simply slowing an attack can buy enough time for first responders to successfully intercede before anyone is injured.

Second, top-tier bullet proof companies like TSS over-engineer their systems and materials as a mater of course.  For example, you’ll note in the following video that the Level 2 door at 1:35 is rated to stop three shots from a .357 Magnum, yet stops five with no problem.  Likewise, the Level 3 window at 2:59 is rated for three shots from .44 Mag, but stops 13, while the Level 3 door shown at 4:17–likewise rated to stop three shots from a .44 Magnum–actually catches 115 shots from a variety of handguns and assault rifles without a single bulge on the protected side.

Access Control and School Security

Access control is an especially important–and often tricky–aspect of a school’s bullet resistant barrier.  Over the last several years a large portion of schools have adopted security procedures that include locking doors during schools hours.  Unfortunately, locked doors slow first responders during an emergency.  While active shooter events are top-of-mind, it’s much more likely that an in-school emergency will be related to a fire, extreme weather, or something as mundane as a child having a bad allergic reaction or being injured in gym class.  All of these require quick access to the building.  Modern access control systems–including centrally controlled electric strikes–are a great improvement over older key-and-lock systems.  They offer many administrative advantages, in addition to speeding entry for emergency responders.

TSS is sensitive to how a design must balance access control and accessibility, especially in schools, where National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) egress codes, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and International Fire Code can all come into play.

“We can work with any mix of access control and accessibility requirements,” Bob George notes.  “We always build to suit, and have lots of experience prepping doors for specialized hardware, as well as installing basic electric strikes, magnetic locks, panic bars–all the standard pieces for access control.  More importantly, as Eric [Malzahn] said, TSS works with other security vendors as equals to get the job done right.  That includes working with access control specialists to get all the details right for a complex access control system.”

NEXT STEPS:

Bulletproof Glass History

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