Characteristics of Safer Schools

Each year, school buildings collapse or incur significant damage due to natural disasters; resulting in deaths and injuries and long-term socio-economic consequences.

There is global recognition of the need to make existing schools safer, and to ensure that the schools planned or under construction, particularly in developing countries, are inherently safe. Arup researched and produced this report as part of our ongoing technical support to the Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS) – a technical assistance program launched by the Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR) that targets countries where there is an ongoing or proposed investment in education infrastructure.

The report is based on a review of best practice literature and Arup’s experience designing, delivering and evaluating schools. The findings can be used as a global framework for both the assessment and delivery of education infrastructure.

The ten characteristics of safer schools are:

    1. Hazard assessment: to identify the types of hazard that the school may experience.

    2. Site location: identify key features that may impact exposure to specific hazards including topography, soil conditions, proximity to water bodies/fault lines, vegetation.

    3. Physical planning: adequately mitigate against the risks identified as a result of the hazard and site assessments.

    4. Structural typology: appropriate typology used for the buildings which takes account of the most prevalent hazards.

    5. Building configuration: reasonably symmetric, allows safe egress, avoids irregular features.

    6. Building modifications: have not been constructed unless allowed for specifically in the building design.

    7. Structural capacity: key elements of the building (e.g. foundations, beams, columns, walls, roof, connections) have been assessed for their ability to transfer vertical and lateral loads.

    8. Non-structural capacity: non-structural elements take account of the prevalent hazards and are adequately fixed to the main structure.

    9. Materials and workmanship: assure the quality of materials and workmanship during construction and/or there are no signs of structural deterioration in key elements of the building.

    10. Maintenance/repairs: adequate funding and local skills available to carry out regular maintenance and repairs of the school buildings and site infrastructure.

Characteristics of Safer Schools