From Weitz Thought Leaders: Building Safety Into Government Construction


Greg Sikora, The Weitz Company

Greg Sikora,                         The Weitz Company

Safety has changed the way many government buildings are designed and constructed. With concerns about intruders as well as natural disasters, there are many precautions that must be taken to ensure the safety of the building, and those inside of it. From the building structure, to interior systems, to exterior displays, safety and security are a huge part of government buildings.

The Weitz Company has provided construction services on more than 700 federal projects that have required advanced security features. Based on our extensive experience, here are several examples of how to enhance the security of government buildings.


Parking lots and parking garages can be vulnerable places susceptible to violence. Controlling access to these areas can help with these safety issues. Some ways to protect these areas are to make parking garages only accessible to those with a badge, limit visitor parking, and restrict large vehicles to controlled areas. Another threat posed by vehicles, is that of a car bomb. Weitz often creates barricades to prevent vehicle access from being too close to a building.

Access control

Controlling access to a building is a huge security issue in building design. There must be steps taken to control both interior and exterior elements. Interior controls include limiting the amount of entrances to a building, having locked doors that you must have permission to enter, and expanding the size of the lobby to accommodate advanced security features. Weitz includes controlled entry points in their federal projects that limit how far a person can enter into a building before they are stopped by security. When thinking about exterior access controls, the size of the building, amount of pedestrian traffic near the building, and perimeter security elements, such as fencing or gates, are taken into consideration.

Blast standards

A big concern with government buildings is the threat of a potential bombing. A way to protect the buildings is to design them to be able to handle the possibility of an attack. “The structural and exterior skin have upgrades to enhance the resistance to blast and penetrations,” explained Greg Sikora, vice president, The Weitz Company. Weitz uses more steel, masonry, and blast resistant glass, among other materials to achieve this and protect the building.

Space planning and adjacencies

The location of different elements inside a building has an impact on the level of security protection it receives. When building a new structure, it needs to be determined what is of highest importance to the building. These crucial features should be placed in the most highly protected spaces. For example, creating one area that houses all the critical functions of the buildings is more cost effective, allowing for better protection for all.

Landscape architecture

The environment surrounding a building can improve the security of the building. This can be achieved by creating natural barriers to the building, as well as creating a path that directs visitors to the correct entrances and simultaneously makes them visible to those inside the building. Weitz uses this strategy on their federal projects. “This is accomplished by use of bollards, landscape features, creative ways to move the access to the most secure point of entry,” said Sikora.

Planning for natural disaster

Another safety precaution that needs to be taken is protection against natural disasters including fire, tornados, and earthquakes. There are structural and non-structural strategies used to help reduce the damage of natural disasters. Structural approaches include strengthening the weight-bearing components of the buildings, such as columns, beams, and foundations. Non-structural approaches improve the non-weight-bearing parts of the building, such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and utility systems, to prevent harmful damage.