4 Principles for K-12 Facility Design

4 Design Principles for 21st Century Education FacilitiesPosted: Apr 2014 Posted by: Samantha Sweeney

Samantha Sweeney

I learn so much from the wide variety of building industry professionals that I interact with everyday. From flooring contractors and facilities directors to architects and interior designers, people everywhere have a great deal to offer in terms of perspective, insight and education. I consider myself a lifelong learner so I am quickly engaged in the conversations with clients that allow me to learn more about them, their experiences, ideas and opinions.

During the past few months, I have met with architects and interior designers who have tremendous experience in learning environments, K-12 schools in particular, with fascinating ideas about creating the educational facilities of tomorrow. The ideas they have collected and then shared with me extend far beyond what I have included here but the concepts align with four themes that have emerged to define key elements of K-12 facility design for this century.

Collaboration – architect and design teams are joining forces with builders, parents, teachers and other education professionals, and even students, from the beginning stages of planning, budgets and design. This allows everyone to provide input and ideas about creating innovative spaces. The focus of the collaboration is to facilitate personalized learning for students, support social and emotional development, improve connection between the school, families and communities, and include progressive media and information technology.


Engagement – their designs incorporate a variety of learning environments including quiet spaces for individual study, inspirational areas for team-oriented projects and social learning, and configurable rooms with portable furniture and presentation equipment to promote the commitment and interaction of education providers and recipients.

Beyond the foundation of physical comfort and safety, innovative designs use other techniques to stimulate engagement such as including natural, ambient and/or task lighting in appropriate areas, access to temperature control and comfortable seating. Integrating elements such as window seats, alcoves, lower ceiling heights, movable walls, and different types of lighting and floor textures can help to establish areas for individuals and small groups. I am lucky to live in a forward-thinking and planning community and have seen firsthand the advantages of cultivating a feeling of inclusion, community, and collaboration for students with classrooms designed for small-group interactions in my own children’s schools.


Sustainability – in the education environment, sustainability is not just about a green building. It is about integrating energy efficiency and sustainable design while being able to teach environmental responsibility. In addition to what I have learned from studying LEED requirements, like using paint and flooring products with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), re-purposing wood or bricks from other projects, or building with products made from rapidly renewable materials, our clients discussed ideas that can also teach the children about sustainability. They shared many ideas about creating opportunities for interaction like incorporating rainwater cisterns with gauges for students to observe water supply and usage; installing solar panels with digital displays that allow for students to observe how the system is used to produce and conserve electricity; and integrating recycling collection areas that are conducive to promoting the collection of office/classroom paper, cardboard, magazines, newspaper, aluminum, steel, plastic and glass, which are combined with an environmental education program.


Technology – design fundamentals for education require the latest advancements that make buildings work better, last longer, and cost less to renovate and maintain. Innovative schools are being built to include a technology infrastructure that is flexible and can accommodate changes and expansion. Classrooms are being designed to include interactive whiteboards, wireless internet access and laptops that come with software, technical support, and teacher training.



Photo by Mike Ridewood/CP Images

The skills that people need to succeed today are dramatically different than the skills required 10 years ago. Architects and interior designers can significantly influence how we support our teachers and students with standards that extend beyond the basic education facility. By collaborating and engaging with the community to create sustainable learning environments, we can take advantage of all of the technology and resources that are available to prepare children for success in the 21st century.




Categories: Architect & Designer News, Sustainability, Education Flooring, On the Road with Samantha

There are currently no comments on this blog entry.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Comment

Upcoming Events

Media Contact

E-mail: marketing@matsinc.com

Contact Us