Regardless of building type and function, lobbies provide visitors with their first impressions of an organization and facility. Federal building lobbies are the initial line of defense against terrorism and violence directed at the government, federal employees, and the public. Security screening and metal detectors installed within federal facilities after the 1995 bombing were enhanced after 9/11.
Important design elements reviewed included entrances, separation of entrance and exit paths, adequate queuing space, the “free” zone (space between an exterior plaza and secure interior areas), screening station locations, arrangement, and operations; metal detectors and x-ray machines, and the secure area, which starts immediately after visitors pass through the security station.
Safety in public assembly venues
Large venues built to accommodate people by the thousands pose a nice target for terrorists. When the 1972 Munich Olympics was threatened by Palestinian terrorists, it prompted the development of security guidelines for venue operational policies and design requirements, outlining how assembly managers and design teams can perform risk assessments and vulnerability analysis for their facilities. Commercial high rises also received stringent security improvements since 9/11.
The selected New York City Task Force building code recommendations for high-rise construction included, among others, the following guidelines:
• Enhancing robustness and resistance to progressive collapse, encouraging the use of impact-resistant materials in the construction of stair and elevator shaft enclosures.
• Encouraging the inclusion of more stairwells or wider stairwells in buildings as wide as 66 inches to allow better building occupant exit flow.
• Improving the markings for the egress paths, doors, and stairs with photo luminescent materials and
• Retrofitting existing exit signs with either battery or generator backup power.
Buildings also required controlled inspection to ensure that fireproofing was fully intact on all structural building members exposed by subsequent renovations to ensure continued compliance with applicable code requirements. All high-rise commercial buildings over 100 feet without automatic sprinkler protection are required to install a sprinkler system throughout the building within 15 years. Other recommendations also included enhancing fire department emergency response communications in high-rise commercial buildings, requiring air intakes in all new construction to be located at least 20 feet above grade and away from exhaust discharges or off-street loading bays.
Even historic preservation guidelines were considered to maintain the unique character and features of historic structures. Security retrofits require careful planning and attention to historic details, materials, spaces, and context. As such, preservation standards and guidelines along with methods for preventing and managing natural disasters at heritage sites were also included.
The Pentagon, a US National Historic Landmark, which was partly destroyed by 9/11, heightened awareness about the vulnerability of America’s cultural icons and heritage properties, adding design features like fire shutters that maintained indoor air quality during evacuation, using blast-resistant windows, shades, and fabric wall liners, like what they did on the renovated areas of Pentagon.
When it comes to home and business security, disaster planning, response, and recovery, I share the same sentiments Nadel has in her book. According to her, we can only avoid personal and economic losses when disaster planning begins before a crisis occurs because it enables individuals and business owners to recover and rebound quickly.
Many international and national security threats have happened since, and some of the buildings have been successful in integrating the lessons learned from the unprecedented 9/11 into the building design. The main lesson is that architects, engineers, building owners and officials, security officers, and government officials should be professionally knowledgeable and personally prepared to deal with emergencies of any kind.
In John F. Kennedy’s undelivered last speech on the day of his assassination in 1963, he said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial and political support and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership’s hopes for continued progress and prosperity. This link between leadership and learning . . . is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security.”