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Criteria
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains the Physical Security Design Manual (PDSM) for VA Life-Safety or Mission Critical Protected Facilities. These manuals provide the physical security standards for improving the protection of all applicable VA facilities. Final versions of the manuals were released in January 2015, which supersede the first drafts released in July 2007. Compliance with the new manual is required of all new facilities and retroactively to facilities that have not reached the 35% design phase milestone as of January 2015.

The 2015 manuals have substantial changes that affect the design of structural systems and façade components and could significantly impact the final facility design and cost. Significant design items that should be discussed at the beginning of a new VA project are summarized below:

Blast Design:

Façade components must now consider rebound effects and are held to updated response criteria. In addition, aluminum mullions in glazing systems must satisfy the “balanced design” approach. Doors are no longer exempt from blast-resistant design and are now required to provide blast protection against the applicable loads.

Progressive Collapse Design:

Single story structures are now exempt from progressive collapse requirements. However, all structures with two stories or more must be designed for progressive collapse per the UFC 4-023-03 (DoD Design of Buildings to Resist Progressive Collapse).

In collaboration with several design teams, PEC has provided physical security design guidance under the draft criteria for nearly 20 VA facilities across the U.S. and has an in-depth understanding of and experience with the new approaches and requirements of the latest update. For more information on how to implement the new VA criteria in current or future VA opportunities contact Aldo McKay, PE, PMP.

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