There are many perspectives that need to be considered in the development of an effective and inspired church design. In this post, we continue our series on the need to include church safety and security needs in your church building.

What is Building Hardening?

All architects complete continuing education, including Philip Tipton, Vice President of Architecture at The McKnight Group. One of the topics he has studied is how to integrate some aspects of governmental level security into church design.

Building hardening is a term used to describe ways that buildings can be designed to include security features like perimeter protection, forced-entry projection, bullet resistance, and blast resistance, among other threats. Early detection of threats is always the first line of defense, but when it comes to physical building design, perimeter controls are the first line of defense. This is usually accomplished using physical barriers that prevent a vehicle from getting close enough to a church building to do catastrophic damage—whether it’s targeting pedestrians, breaching a secure entry point, or transporting weapons or an explosive device of some type. With perimeter controls, any possible assailant would be forced to get out of their vehicle and walk up to the church building rather than drive close enough to do significant damage.

Incorporating Perimeter Controls into Your Church Design

The most common type of perimeter control is a bollard, a short, vertical post. A series of bollards can be installed in front of any building to prevent vehicles from driving closer. You’ve likely seen bollards, whether metal or concrete, round or square, in front of all sorts of buildings today – airports, office buildings, shopping malls, arenas, governmental buildings, etc. Between partial-height walls, which can enclose some terraced landscaping (it is also impossible to drive upon), and bollards in front of the entrance, you can easily create a hardened perimeter around your church building if needed.

Integrating Beauty, Functionality and Church Safety

The good news is that bollards and other church perimeter controls don’t have to be ugly. As you can see here, bollards can have lights, thereby serving multiple functions. In addition to preventing vehicles from getting too close to your church building, they provide helpful lighting for evening events and draw attention to your church building.

Bollards can also take many other forms, beyond simple posts. These concrete spheres are more than decorative. They are secured into the ground with deep foundations. They are designed to resist a direct impact from a car or a truck. Even though they appear to be decorative only, those spheres are not going anywhere—but they don’t leave the first impression of church safety, and they can be incorporated into an overall exterior design for your church.

Finally, architects have gotten creative about bollards in other ways. In the last example (the image on the lower right), these bollards make attractive, and still very strong, planters. Despite their beauty, these function as more than just planters. Like the concrete spheres, they are anchored to deep foundations in the ground and are designed to resist a direct impact by a vehicle.

As you can see, incorporating church safety into your church design doesn’t have to be conspicuous. Building hardening, and perimeter controls specifically, can also provide a reassuring welcome to any guests who recognize bollards as church safety elements. Those guests will know that you care about the security of all who visit your church building.

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