The old adage “better safe than sorry” applies today more than ever in the building and construction industry. Perilous incidents such as natural disasters, acts of violence, and extreme weather conditions across the nation have become increasingly frequent and tragic. One of the priorities in multi-family apartments is safety improvements for everyone.
Guns have now been trailed on planners, developers, and property owners to develop fully integrated and balanced building designs as a countermeasure against any foreseeable threats to safety improvements and security.
While building codes prescribe minimum safety requirements, designing and constructing safe and secure buildings is a complicated endeavor. At the very least, determining an appropriate safe design for any building depends on building-specific risk assessment and carefully analyzing all available information on safety considerations, constraints, and occupants’ needs.
More importantly, a multidisciplinary approach to the design process is required, with all the involved parties interacting closely throughout the entire design and construction process.
In this article, we have listed unique and thoughtful modern safety improvements in multi-family buildings as mitigation strategies against a variety of hazards encountered across the U.S.
1. Using Smart Locks
Safety is a primary concern for tenants with 74 percent of millennial renters saying they felt insecure at home. Moreover, most residents across different demographics are embracing a lifestyle that allows them to lock and leave at a moment’s notice without worrying about maintenance.
Whether it’s letting in the gardener to lawn the patio or granting access to the pet sitter, smart locks allow seamless, traceable, and secure access, which makes them a valuable security feature for multi-family units.
2. Installing Property Technology Systems
Tenants in multi-family buildings want to know that anyone who enters their building is authenticated and monitored. Modern security systems are vital in addressing residents’ concerns and quelling their fears.
Property developers can put their minds at ease by installing state-of-the-art property technology products such as:
- Ceiling-mounted surveillance cameras
- Doorbell cameras
- Video intercoms that provide an audit trail of everyone who uses the system
- Cloud-based access control systems
- Digital signage in high-traffic areas to keep residents up-to-date with building and security information
3. Food Proofing
Cities like Houston TX, have a moderate risk of flooding over the next three decades according to a report by Risk Factor. This means that flooding is likely to significantly impact day-to-day life within the community.
Developers are adopting floodproofing measures to protect multi-family properties from flood water, especially in areas that experience flooding, hurricanes, or extreme rainfall. Floodproofing, as described by FEMA, is any combination of improvements or additions to buildings that reduce or eliminate flood damage to real estate property.
Possible floodproofing strategies that developers are using include:
- Installing sump pumps at the lowest point of the facility
- Elevating mechanical and electrical equipment
- Installing backwater valves
- Erecting floodwalls and floodgates
- Repurpose floors below the DFE
- Elevated living space
- Surface stormwater management and many more
4. Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Intelligent smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are integral to home safety and security for multi-family buildings. Smart sensors are more expensive than traditional alternatives but have proved to be worth the investment.
Some smart detectors, such as Google Nest Protect, have internet connectivity features allowing residents to monitor sensors from the comfort of their smartphones. No poking the smoke detector with a broom when you accidentally burn something in the kitchen. With an intelligent detector, you can simply turn off the alarm from a mobile app.
5. Enhancing Physical Security Designs
Incidents of mass shootings, terrorist attacks, vehicle ramming, and homicides have caused much pain and suffering in America and beyond. Thankfully, property developers have begun incorporating, in their physical design, features to protect occupants from acts of violence by human aggressors.
Today, explosive blast concerns are increasingly driving the design of multi-family buildings and other structures. For instance, if you wanted to develop a multi-family building that addresses the threat of an explosion, the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) recommends (among other physical security measures) that you consider the following:
- Building designs that prevent progressive collapse
- Establishing a fortified protected perimeter
- Designing a debris-mitigating facade
Property developers are also using bulletproof glazing products and doors that offer at least UL 752 Level III ballistic protection.
In addition, savvy developers are adopting advanced access control technology at main entrances and constructing explosion-resistant barriers in multi-family buildings to mitigate against violent human aggressors and terrorists.
6. Designing for Pandemic and Disease Mitigation
Adopting measures to enhance public health in multi-family dwellings can draw tenants who have been reluctant to live in these units while keeping existing residents healthy and happy. Some of the modern improvements to remodel or build multi-family buildings for pandemic safety include:
- Installing automated technologies and touchless solutions in restrooms and other shared spaces
- Designing for and selecting efficient HVAC units that enhance the circulation of clean and filtered air
- Designing for social distancing
It is also essential to include screening areas near main entrances and isolation rooms for holding persons suspected of having a contagious disease.
7. Integrating Crowd Control Features
We live in a time where crowd control is a key consideration due to very real safety reasons. Property developers are now evaluating people’s lifestyles to determine how residents will utilize the facility and thus design spacious, secure spaces that will accommodate these lifestyles.
In addition, developers are installing digital access solutions to monitor the flow of people within the buildings and control room capacities in shared amenities such as fitness centers, elevators, clubhouses, swimming pools, libraries, etc. The latest access control technology allows shared amenity scheduling and notifies users when space is available to avoid overcrowding.
8. Improving Emergency Exits and Optimizing Wayfinding
In a multi-family building, it’s crucial that residents find exits quickly to escape swiftly and easily during emergencies. Property developers may need to ensure that — in tense situations where residents may panic—multi-family apartments have sufficient exits of appropriate widths to prevent injuries and funnel residents quickly to safety.
Also, wayfinding optimization, such as simple floor plan layouts and digital signage, is an effective strategy for helping residents of multi-family dwelling units reach safety in case of a dangerous situation.
Who We Are
At Ted Trout Architects, we are a leading, multi-discipline architecture consulting firm based in Houston, TX. We are master architects and specialize in designing private residences, commercial properties, multi-family dwellings, student housing, Tax Credit housing, HUD, and land planning.
Our mantra is simple and on point; designing buildings, and building relationships. Building relationships means we accurately interpret your goals, understand your budget, and deliver a fully-integrated, innovative, and cost-effective solution. For more information on modern safety improvements in multi-family apartments, or inquiries on how we can help, feel free to Contact Us, and we will be more than willing to assist with your safety improvements.