The protests over the past year have been successful in inspiring at least one change: The commercial construction industry will be forced to enter a new era of building security. I say this because watching the events of Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., made me reflect upon the numerous calls my company received to repair windows damaged during protests last summer at various state capitol buildings we have restored. The events of the past year have made public building security a vital element in the design of new and conversion of existing civic buildings in the United States. The construction industry has always been driven by meeting customer’s functional needs, and the events of this past year are abruptly thrusting the industry to reevaluate building security.
I don’t think we can view the violent protests of the past year as a mere aberration or one-time response to political and social unrest fueled by an affliction of COVID frustration. Our country’s transgression into property damage isn’t going to be saved or medicated by a new political administration or a vaccine. We are now in an era where fringe groups on both poles of the political spectrum are being fueled by the power of social media. The social media framework provides a structure and voice to promulgate ideologies that inspire violent actions against community structures everywhere. I predict that the occurrence of property damage and security breaches will become increasingly more commonplace over the next five years.
The issue of security is not new to the construction industry. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the 9/11 terrorist attacks had a profound effect on the architectural design community. After those events, the industry responded with blast-resistant windows and doors to be installed at military and other high-risk facilities across the country. My company, Re-View Windows, was asked to design and manufacture historic ballistic-rated windows for historic structures, and an entire niche industry blossomed. Unfortunately, I believe we are now at another turning point in the construction industry where the security of public buildings will become a top priority.
The breach of security at the nation’s Capitol inspires the notion of a whole new level of security in the design of new public buildings and the renovation of existing historic structures. Architects and engineers will be looking at windows and doors with a new set of priorities. Existing security products, such as security films, shutters, specialty glazing and security screens, will become more commonplace. Designers might also work with manufacturers to solve custom challenges, such as how to secure a historic structure without compromising the architectural detailing. Re-View Windows works closely with the design community to provide security windows for historic applications, maintaining the original architectural integrity and design of the structure while upgrading the building to meet today’s increased security needs.
I predict that window and door manufacturers will step up to the plate to design new products that meet various security standards. The Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance and Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) use testing protocols devised by ASTM International as a guide to manufacturing windows and doors that meet desired security performance metrics. Progressive manufacturers will be coming out with new designs that upgrade the forced-entry resistance to their window and door products to meet the new demands of security threats. These changes will be manifested in entirely new product lines, as well as enhancements to existing systems that improve security performance. The future will also bring changes in window frame, sash and hardware design in addition to the use of increased levels of security glazing.
General contractors will also have to adapt to learn how these systems are integrated into the construction or renovation of the structure. Many of these products will involve other changes to the building envelope, structural changes to the walls and installation challenges. Specialty subcontractors who understand the design and installation of these new systems will become increasingly more influential in the building process.
The past year has certainly been challenging for the entire world. Unfortunately, the challenges of building security that have availed themselves through protests in the United States will be with us for the long haul.