When it comes to student success, a school’s design matters.
There was a time when school design meant designing a space-efficient box. That time is past.
Over the previous three decades, energy efficiency has become a primary goal in school architecture. But today’s best designs go much further.
Research has shown us that the design of learning space can also have a profound effect on student performance.
Quality of lighting, noise control, teaching tools integrated into the design, even air quality have all been shown to significantly impact learning.
At SRJ Architects, we think of ourselves as a part of our client’s educational team.
The best educational architecture now encompasses a long list of educational, architectural, ergonomic and aesthetic considerations. How these considerations are woven into the overall design and execution will make the difference between “just a school building” and a vibrant learning center that helps students learn better and furthers the educational goals of the community it serves.
Going beyond the box. High-performance design factors:
At SRJ Architects, we incorporate a long list of extra considerations and design factors into our schools.
Daylighting: It’s a fact: students learn better in natural light. Numerous studies in recent years have shown a significant difference in test scores of students who learned in classrooms lit with indirect sunlight. Daylighting also carries the added benefit of lower utility bills.
The indoor environment: Acoustics, air quality, ventilation and thermal comfort. The same things that can be said about daylighting are also true of the other factors that shape the indoor environment. A comfortable learning environment facilitates better teaching and learning. School designs by SRJ routinely incorporate extra features to both create interior comfort and provide flexibility to individual classrooms to tailor their environment.
Connecting technology to classroom design: Traditional classroom designs and space considerations were never meant to accommodate computers and today’s learning technology. At SRJ, we work to find ways within existing budgets to expand classroom space to provide for computers and accommodate features such as interactive white boards. When initial budget can’t support full implementation of projector and interactive board technology in every room, we design in the infrastructure to support easy, cost-efficient installation at a future date.
Size: Preserving the human scale. When it comes to teaching and learning, small is better. Studies by the Council of Educational Facility Planners have shown that a small, personal environment is more conducive to effective learning. But what if it isn’t always possible to build a small school? At SRJ, we often utilize the “school within a school” concept, that divides up a large structure or complex into units that combine many of the benefits of small size with the cost efficiencies of a larger school.
Designing to fit the needs of the entire community. A school doesn't exist in a vacuum; it should be designed to further the goals, needs and aspirations to all the stakeholders of the community it serves, both within and without the educational system.
While planning a new school, the SRJ design team meets with those who will utilize the facility for educational and non-educational uses.
Our design team takes extra time to meet with teachers and curriculum stakeholders – particularly in specialty areas – to create a design that fulfills their needs. We often take tours with these team members of other educational facilities to gather ideas and input. Local curriculum goals and priorities such as team teaching are factored in to provide space and features to further these goals.
Community and parental involvement is sought to determine if and how the facilities may be used after hours and how it may be desirable to be able to isolate certain facilities from the rest of the campus or encourage easy access for these after hours uses.
Aesthetics: Make the school a place people want to be. Everyone can get excited about a new school. And when students and teachers are proud of their school, it makes a difference. But what about ten years down the road? Twenty? Or forty?
Aesthetics matters. By incorporating contemporary but timeless architecture with an eye to sustainability, SRJ schools are designed to endure and maintain their currency to promote a great learning environment the day they open and long into the future.
Sustainability: Using a little and giving back a lot. Sustainable structures are designed to meet the needs of those in the present without compromising the ability of those in the future to meet their needs.
High-performance sustainable schools bring the entire package together: Energy-efficient design and function, environmentally friendly construction, lighting and mechanical systems that provide the best learning environment, and even teaching concepts of sustainability by example. In short, in addition to being a model of sustainable development, the building itself becomes a teacher.
The bottom line: Teaming up to provide a better future for communities.
When SRJ Architects partners with a community to design a school, what we’re doing is becoming a part of the community’s education team, working to further that community’s goal of passing our society’s knowledge and values down to succeeding generations, and to do it in the most successful and cost-efficient way possible.
It’s a charge we don’t take lightly.