The best time for users to communicate their needs to the design team is during programming; the phase in which the parameters of the project requirements are presented, discussed, and defined. Programming sets the stage for the design and construction. Users must come to the table with an understanding of what they want to achieve, an awareness of their budget, and what accreditation requirements need to be met. No matter how experienced the design team, users have the most amount of experience working in these spaces, and the detailed information they can provide regarding equipment, laboratory usage, and other requirements is invaluable. The higher the quality of information that is discussed during this stage, and the higher level of understanding reached between parties, the stronger the foundation will be on which to proceed. One of the best ways to do this is to follow a ìtrail of evidenceî (or circulation path). In this way, it is less likely for a vital piece of information to be omitted.
The following "trail of evidence" will highlight some specific steps related to security, contamination, and safety that should be clarified during the programming stage. These items are by no means all-inclusive, but they represent a good cross-section of issues that when programmed properly, will provide effective security, lowered risk of contamination, and a safer environment for personnel.
Access to the Site
The first thing to consider during programming is access to the site. Vehicular access to and around the site should be clearly identified and controlled. If possible, access from at least two directions should be provided. This may not be practical in some situations due to site or budget constraints, but it is encouraged because it allows better egress in emergency situations and serves as a backup if one access is blocked due to other contingencies.
For security reasons, the site should be divided into two zones: one for the public, and the other consisting of a secure zone for employee parking and other key building service functions such as HVAC, trash, and delivery areas. A secured gate or similar barrier should be used to separate employee from public parking. The gate should provide remote access for employees through a card swipe, camera, and/or intercom to the secure zone. Other delivery personnel who need occasional access to this area should be allowed through only after identifying themselves via the intercom or security camera.
Public parking should be accommodated close to the front entry but not too close as to pose a security concern. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep parking at a minimum of 20 feet from the building with some site barriers in between to prevent vehicular penetration of the front door. This can be accomplished by the introduction of low planters or bollards constructed of concrete or steel and secured to foundations below grade.
It is also important to make as clear as possible which entrance is for the public. This can be done through the use of different building material around the public entrance vs. the secure entrance. More glass can be used in this area or, if brick or concrete block is used on the majority of the building, a contrasting natural stone facade can be used to highlight the public entry.
Delivery of Evidence
If evidence is to be brought through the public or ìfrontî door (and this often is the case), windows should be oriented to allow clear observation of the approaching vehicle and personnel. If night deliveries are anticipated, lighting for the parking lot and building exterior must be adequate enough to identify facial features of approaching people and minimize the possibility of vandalism. Security cameras can also be used to observe and document the approach. Remote entry systems minimize security risks at front and remote doors of the building. Exterior building materials should be vandal-resistant and promote the idea of a secure and strong environment. Windows at entry areas are recommended to be bulletproof glass and glazing. Typically, no more than nine inches of space should exist between mullions at exterior windows.
Upon entering the building, the walls of the entry or waiting area should be composed of bulletproof material. This can be achieved by masonry construction with cores filled with grout and steel reinforcing or through the use of sheet materials such as KevlarÆ on a stud wall. Windows and doors within this space must also be composed of bulletproof material. A fixed, transfer window with a transaction drawer is recommended in lieu of a sliding window to minimize the far too common occurrence of the window staying open.