Protective Architecture: Designing Structures to Resist Threats

Architecture and design is a very fluid concept that moulds itself into every project’s requirements and specifics. Although rare, many typology-specific infrastructural projects require tailored protective features, especially against man-made and natural calamities. This can include natural calamities like tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, etc., and man-made calamities such as unintentional damage due to leakage of hazardous/ toxic substances in industries, intrusion, deliberate sabotage, terrorist activities etc. The impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis can cause heavy damage to key facilities by their sheer impact on structures or disruption of safety services leading to a chain reaction of other dangerous events such as fires, internal explosions in case of hazardous materials stored within industries and falling debris, which can affect the safety of the users. Damages, whether due to natural or man-made events, potentially mean huge financial losses for stakeholders considering the huge capital investments made by stakeholders of industrial, critical arterial and infrastructural facilities. Secure protective design creates practical, technologically advanced solutions for physical security and structural protection against these threats.

For such facilities, the requirements and considerations for design and construction are plenty and extremely crucial. One of the most important considerations is analysing the type of threat and the structure’s response level to it. Through innovative technologies and softwares today, it has become easier to analyse the impact on the structural components of the building and design accordingly. The type of threat and its overall impact needs to be studied for accurate planning, material selection and overall design. Apart from structural and loading considerations, human life, safety and evacuation must also be considered. 

Planning and zoning play an important role in protective architecture. Designing for predictable and unpredictable events can mean flexibility and adaptability in design. Zoning and layout need to be planned based on threat analysis, ease of evacuation and safety of users. Depending on the requirements, design interventions in elements such as glazing, cladding, and partitions may be required to resist external impact. Fenestration planning also includes smaller windows capable of resisting impacts, heavy metal doors, etc. Pre-fabricated structural elements assembled on-site is one of the best options for such structures. The design interventions generally depend on the building typology, function, location, threat level and required response level (low, medium, high). 

When it comes to protective architecture, structural integrity is crucial for user protection and preventing loss of life. It is a very specialised and unique typology of design which requires a plethora of considerations and interventions due to its impact on human life. The designs on all levels, from planning and layout to services and maintenance, need to be strategised meticulously, with an in-depth analysis of threats, material and strength, impact response, and evacuation through simulations on each and every component and stage of the design.