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Buildings eliminating irrational fears

Photo: COWI

​Safety is a key issue when planning a building or structure​.

Sociological and psychological insight into people’s behaviour in public can prove vital in affecting how a structure will be used. Take, for instance, the underground parking facility 12 metres below sea level which COWI is currently designing.

​Focusing on creating safe spaces is especially important when providing consultancy on urban development projects. Residents should feel safe moving about the place, day and night. A great example is the underground parking facility at the Copenhagen Playhouse by the Kvæsthus pier. COWI has integrated safety in the design because the underground parking facility – the size of a football course times 1.5 – is located 12 metres below sea level. 

“One of the most important things is that people feel safe. People are taken with irrational fears in an underground parking, thinking that somebody might be lurking in the many dark corners. Consequently, we worked intensely on creating a sense of safety in the facility under the pier,” explain Rolf Kromand, a COWI sociologist and co-author of a survey of safe underground parking.

COWI provides consultancy on the Playhouse’s underground parking facility and has carried out the sociological user survey that reveals the secrets behind good underground parking. Because the Playhouse’s new underground parking facility is more than just a necessary element – it is to make parking a good and safe experience. 


Eliminating irrational fears

COWI’s project manager on the construction works below and around the Playhouse, Thomas Bischoff, elaborates on building safe spaces. 

”For instance, there should be sufficient lighting. We try to let people’s natural reaction to light guide the design. This means placing emergency exits near naturally lit areas that people, by instinct, are drawn to if the situation calls for it.”

To eliminate irrational fears, the underground parking facility has a higher ceiling height than similar structures, and surveillance cameras are installed so they are easy to spot. According to Bischoff, such means create safety and help secure social sustainability.

“Social sustainability means that, in the long term, an underground parking facility will be somewhere that people will want to be, without feeling uncomfortable or alone in a huge dark space.”

Accommodating some 500 cars in three storeys, the underground parking facility will be completed in 2015. Part of COWI’s assignment has been to secure inflow of daylight despite the underwater location.

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016