Safe and Beautiful, Addressing Risk Without Sacrificing Vision
By Jon Isaacson
Does your organization have a building? If the answer is yes, please keep reading. Does your organization offer parking? If the answer is yes, there is great value in continuing to read this article. As an organization we want people to drive their cars into our designated parking spaces and enter by foot into our building to interact in commerce with our companies. We do not want for those persons to enter our buildings with their vehicles, whether purposefully or accidentally, as this creates a negative dynamic that can have extensive consequence in the health and safety of all parties associated with such an incident. What are our options as organizations when identifying, designing and implementing plans to address our risk exposure related to vehicle-into-building damages?
During a recent internal risk assessment of their exterior structure, Michael Hoagland, Director of Security, and the security team at Northwest Community Credit Union (NWCU) identified the lower level windows facing the NWCU parking lot as a potential source for compromised safety. . If an event were to happen where an automobile encroached beyond the parking space, over the curb and towards the building, the employees in this space would be unaware to the threat as their backs are typically facing the parking areas. Glass facades are a modern design feature that meets many of the design, structure, energy, light and aesthetic goals for most organizations but it can also be a source for potential danger.
The Director of Facilities, Rex Fox, and his team set out to research available options to address this identified risk exposure but many of the options were cumbersome and contrary to the modern design that the team had envisioned with the construction of the building which was completed in 2014. With the assistance of a trusted local contractor that has carved out a niche in working with financial institutions and has been working with NWCU since the 1987 construction of their West 11th branch, McKenzie Commercial, a suggestion was made to look into utilizing landscaping boulders. The team reached out to local landscaping leader Rexius to select 18 boulders locally sourced from a mining operation in nearby Coburg, Oregon. Embedding the landscape boulders about a foot beneath the surface of the soil, spacing them about four feet apart, dressing the area with ground cover and adding some greenery, the design implementation was able to create a safer building while maintaining complimentary aesthetic (see photo).
Northwest Community Credit Union headquarters in downtown Eugene is immediate neighbors with the Wayne Lyman Morse United States Courthouse which has rather extensive measures for the prevention of automobile related risks. The structure managed by General Services Administration (GSA), which, among its many responsibilities, manages facilities and maintenance for all federal buildings nationwide, worked with architects on the construction of the building to minimize risk exposures while maintaining a modern aesthetic. While federal buildings have a history of being potential targets for purposeful approach or attempted breach by automobiles, all organizations need to be aware of the risk potential associated with accidental damage related to a vehicle impacting their buildings.
Risk Management Magazine noted in a 2014 article that vehicles collide with commercial structures as many as 60 times a day with rough annual cost impact estimates that could exceed $200 million (Reiter 2014). During the planning and implementation of the Northwest Community Credit Union landscape security project, no less than two other local financial institutions experienced damage incidents with vehicles striking the exterior envelope of their buildings. The combination of studious facility management, commitment to safety and the identification of exposure through regular risk assessments is vital to the success of any organization. The skill and creativity of Rex Fox and the NWCU facilities team demonstrates that the functional necessities of safety do not always have to be addressed while sacrificing beauty and aesthetics.
Reiter, Rob (2014, September 01) The Overlooked Threat of Vehicle-Into-Building Accidents. Risk Management Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.rmmagazine.com/2014/09/01/crash-course-the-overlooked-threat-of-vehicle-into-building-accidents/
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