Five Building Design Considerations to Keep Your Customers Safer

We’ve all heard the stories about hordes of Black Friday shoppers descending upon a store with horrific consequences. And while every retailer wants a robust shopping season, no business owner wants their customers to be injured while in the process of shopping. So as Black Friday comes and goes, and the crowds build toward the holiday shopping crescendo, it’s vital for business owners to keep safety in mind.

The good news is safety considerations can be implemented on the front end, when a commercial construction project is still in the design phase. Here are some practical design ideas that can ensure the safety and security of your shoppers through Black Friday and far beyond, through situations and scenarios that every business owner wishes to avoid.

#1 Design for fire safety. Really, this should go without saying. But when your eyes are on the prize of drawing customers through your doors, fire safety may not be top of mind. Engage an experienced design-builder that can provide design solutions that enhance your customer shopping experience but also meet fire safety and exiting requirements. Of course, all design suggestions detailed here must be reviewed with consideration given to fire safety.

#2 Design for crowd control. Careful consideration must be given to visitor flow, how your customers will move within the space and how the space will accommodate that. During Black Friday, crowd flow and long lines can be managed with temporary barriers, such as velvet ropes or bike rack barriers.

But sadly, we also live in a time when crowd control must be a consideration for very real safety reasons. In the event of an emergency, you will want to make certain your customers can find exits quickly and escape danger swiftly and easily, making wayfinding a primary concern.

In tense or dangerous situations where crowds panic, having sufficient exits of appropriate widths can prevent injuries to your customers and funnel them quickly to safety. Wayfinding optimization, managing customer flow and managing queues properly are all effective techniques for crowd control, which you can take into consideration during the design phase of your project.

#3 Design for natural surveillance. Research demonstrates that natural surveillance can deter would-be criminals, an important consideration especially in the retail world. If an individual is planning to shoplift or harm another customer, knowing they may be seen committing the crime can keep it from ever happening.

When designing your retail space, consider how easily customers and staff will be able to see and hear one another. Even the suggestion they might be caught can prevent a shoplifter or other criminal from carrying out their intentions. Even installing solid fitting room doors with a louver for audio monitoring can add a level of increased safety to your business.

#4 Design for physical security. It’s difficult to think about, yet mass shootings, terrorist attacks and even lone, disgruntled employees have caused much suffering in our country. In “Security for Building Occupants and Assets,” The National Institute of Building Sciences suggests there are several physical security measures that can be taken to protect a building’s occupants, including your staff and customers. “The basic components of the physical security measures to address an explosive threat considers the establishment of a protected perimeter, the prevention of progressive collapse, the design of a debris mitigating façade” and much more. A comprehensive building security design can take into consideration both operational security and life safety measures.

#5 Design for safety technology. Chances are you plan to use a number of safety and security technologies in your retail business, perhaps including access control systems, security cameras, alarms, sprinklers and smoke detectors, all of which need to be positioned carefully. You will likely be able to maximize their effectiveness by carefully planning their placement during your building design phase. Envisioning how these technologies will be leveraged can lead to the development of purposeful design.

No matter what the season, keeping your customers safe is always good business. Addressing these issues even before the footings are poured can keep your customers secure throughout the life of your business.