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July 7, 2009
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly formally presented the NYPD’s cogent book of design guidelines, Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings, at a well-attended conference at One Police Plaza on July 1. Calling the document “a major step forward to prevent an attack or mitigate the impact of an attack,” he delineated the principles of protective design and the specific recommendations necessary for “New York City’s high density environment.” The result of a process of intensive consultations and peer review, Commissioner Kelly said the final document was both informative and practical.

The details of the book’s organization and contents were outlined by Dr. Richard A. Falkenrath, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism. Falkenrath described the sessions that led to the development of tools to calculate risk, with particular attention to risk mitigation and avoidance through site layout, building orientation, façade design, window placement, material selection, interior partition composition, and the prevention of progressive collapse.

Several members of the AIA New York Chapter Board, including 2009 Chapter President Sherida Paulsen, FAIA, President-elect Tony Schirripa, AIA, IIDA, and Director of Industry Affairs Carl Galioto, FAIA, reviewed advance copies of the preliminary document. The Chapter’s remarks, sent to Falkenrath on June 12, stated that the book puts forth a rational and reasonable approach to understanding the particular challenges of building high-risk buildings and offers potential solutions to address specific conditions. We agreed with the fundamental premise of the book that only a small number of high-risk buildings merit significant security design attention, but that many buildings could benefit from its suggestions. That the document requires little or no expense for low-risk buildings is noteworthy given the current economic downturn and financial crunch.

The strategies presented for medium- and high-risk buildings are consistent with recommendations made on a project-by-project basis by security consultants including Robert Ducibella (Ducibella Venter & Santore), one of the peer review technical experts whose comments educated the development of the book. The accessibility of the document, available online, makes this strategic approach available to many more architects, engineers, builders, and building owners.

The only other post-9/11 publication available that addresses how building security analysis can determine the most appropriate methods of protecting people, buildings, assets, and ongoing operations, is the tome called Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning & Design (2004, McGraw-Hill Professional), by Barbara Nadel, FAIA, a collection of 31 essays by architects and engineers, including Galioto. Nadel acknowledges Commissioner Kelly and many others at the NYPD in her introduction.

But the books are very different. Reading the NYPD’s Engineering Security: Protective Design for High Risk Buildings is comparable to entering into a conversation with the counter-terrorism experts at the NYPD, learning what has worked and not worked, hearing what is logical and what is not logical, determining clear and concrete steps for design and construction of buildings made iconic by location, use, and prominence.

The publication announcement at NYPD Headquarters, a 1973 structure designed by Kelly & Gruzen (now Gruzen Samton Architects, Planners & Interior Designers), included a panel discussion by NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Robert Limandri, Ducibella, Marolyn Davenport of the Real Estate Board of New York, and yours truly representing AIANY. Other speakers included Rep. Peter King and Rep. Yvette Clarke, both members of Congress who serve on the Homeland Security Committee.

AIANY looks forward to assisting the NYPD in making the book’s contents and recommendations available to its members and to others in the design and construction communities.

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