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Designing welcoming, inviting spaces with occupant safety in mind

Park Central Square

As designers, a big part of our job is to solve problems. The design process is essentially a series of problem solving, negotiation and setting priorities. One of those steps in the process is to reconcile the need to design a welcoming, inviting space that also promotes the safety of its occupants.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED, is an approach to deter potential criminal behavior through a better built environment. Practices such as these can be utilized:

“Eyes on the street.”

This concept was introduced in Jane Jacobs’ book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” She advocated active storefronts, stoops, front porches, and large windows to create safer, more liveable environments by people watching and monitoring public spaces as part of their daily routine.

College Station Loft Building

Landscape management.

It is advisable to adhere to the 2/6 rule: bushes and shrubs no taller than two feet, and tree canopies hanging down no less than six feet.

Night lighting.

It is better to have lower light levels, evenly distributed, instead of one bright spotlight which can create glare and become a nuisance.

Supervisable spaces.

Removing outdoor hiding places such as blind corners and windowless, “U” shaped courtyards, and instead making all areas able to be supervised.

In hospitality spaces where large numbers of people enter and exit the facility while meeting, parking and staying overnight, the following should be taken into account in the design:

Relationship of Entrance

The relationship of entrances to the front desk, and an open lobby design with as few walls and columns as possible for full visual observance of visitors and hotel guests.

Separate circulation

For public spaces adjacent or connected to the hotel. For example, a garage that is used by both the public and hotel guests and is located adjacent to or within the hotel structure should have stairs and elevators separate from the hotel proper.

Exterior light levels

Of parking lot and walkways to the hotel entrances.

Key access

At secondary entrances.

Limited Alcoves or Niches

Elevator lobbies and corridors with limited alcoves or niches to avoid potential hiding places.

Embassy Suites Dallas/ Frisco Hotel elevator hallway

Ultimately, we seek a feeling of personal security. Ask yourself if you would feel safe or at east in these situations:

  • In a winding, poorly lit corridor without windows.

  • Walking into a building through overgrown landscaping.

  • Entering a space without a nearby window or glass door to see inside.

While design awareness can go a long way in reducing crime, it cannot prevent all crime. Personnel and building occupant training in emergency procedures must also be in place to complement the design effort.

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