Designing Bullet Resistant Protection Panel Systems: Capture More than the Imagination

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Advertorial course provided by Bullet Guard Corporation
Virginia A. Greene, AIA

Learning Objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of design criteria for specifying materials for bullet resistance in high security areas.
  2. Evaluate strategies for building security achieved during the early planning stages of building design for bullet resistance.
  3. Broaden knowledge of materials testing, standards and applications used in development of hardening measures for increased security.



Advances in building technology for new building security strategies, post 9/11, include ballistic resistant materials developed since the early part of the last century-design choices that have maintained their status at the front lines of the war on terror. This is due in part to strength and durability achieved by time-tested standards in the manufacturing of bullet resistant security panels. While a main part of the response to terror has been staggering funding commitment by the United States government; earmarking more than 12 billion for Homeland Security research and development, ballistics solutions remain at the core of this effort.

Susan Kenzi and Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post, in "Colleges Hottest New Major"; further state "Homeland Security is probably going to be the government's biggest employer in the next decade" said Steven R. David who directs the Homeland Security Certificate Program at Johns Hopkins University.

Experts agree, using tested materials can be one way to design for higher security levels especially in public places. According to Barbara A. Nadel, FAIA, security expert and author ofBuilding Security Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design, McGraw-Hill (2004), oftentimes building owners have not considered planning ahead to accommodate security strategies in building budgets. Owners must leave enough lead-time and designate budgetary commitments for designers to work with security consultants. Barbara A. Nadel, FAIA states, "Working with a team of experts in the schematic phase of a project, designers are able to streamline security strategies leading to better use of ballistic resistant options. An owner can include consultations with local law enforcement agencies, architects, landscape architects, engineers, technical security consultants, and interior designers."

Vertical Offset Design, Acrylic
Photo credit: Bullet Guard

Washington-based Security Design Coalition, advocates a team approach including government officials, the security industry, design professional, and the general public to "work together to insure that our security responses are effective without making our cities and communities look like fortresses."

In the fray of fast track security measures, ballistic resistance design has evolved to meet the challenges of transparent security with a variety of choices; (literally) transparent and opaque materials, composite assemblies, colors, textures and modular applications. There are a number of manufacturers to choose from in the industry, but only some provide bullet resistant rated panel systems as well as in-house testing, contact material suppliers, and fabricators who provide for and install the security design components. Designers follow this process from start to finish; from manufacturer's shop drawings to fabricators specifications review, and installation.

By obtaining the most updated materials testing information, the owner is educated about best choices and appreciates installation strategies. The following steps are also among the primary issues to consider when specifying:

First, the owner determines the security level by risk or threat factor always checking with government agencies to verify guidelines for the area or building type. Second, model your design strategy with several ballistic material configurations to create best sight lines and resistance. Third, review the testing standards and ratings of materials chosen, specifying those, which best fit material requirements for each security scenario.


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Originally published in Architectural Record.
Originally published in June 2006