4 SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY: A CITIZEN’S GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND DESIGN
Six Design Principles
I n June 1998, a group of educators, facilities planners, architects, government leaders, and
interested citizens were invited by the U.S. Department of Education to discuss ways of
planning and designing schools to best meet the needs of students and their communities.
From that meeting came a set of six principles for designing better learning environments.
The six principles were affirmed at the Department of Education’s National Symposium on School
Design in October 1998 and endorsed by the American Institute of Architects; the American
Association of School Administrators; the Council of Educational Facility Planners, International;
and the Construction Managers Association of America.
The principles are predicated on three generally accepted conditions: learning is a lifelong
process, design is always evolving, and resources are limited.
The principles are simple and straightforward. To meet the nation’s needs for the twenty-first
century, school learning environments should (1) enhance teaching and learning and
accommodate the needs of all learners; (2) serve as a center of the community; (3) result from a
planning and design process that involves all community interests; (4) provide for health, safety,
and security; (5) make effective use of available resources; and (6) be flexible and adaptable.
The principles are predicated on three generally accepted conditions:
learning is a lifelong process, design is always evolving, and resources are limited.
PART TWO: SIX DESIGN PRINCIPLES 5
DESIGN PRINCIPLE 1 Educational research makes it clear that oriented instruction taking place in indiv-
the physical environment affects learning. idual classrooms. However, current research
The learning environment School design can enhance—or hinder— and practice emphasize new educational
should enhance teaching and academic achievement. models that are characterized by active
learning, and accommodate Most of the nation’s 94,000 public student participation rather than passive lis-
the needs of all learners. schools were designed for an educational tening and watching. New models include
model characterized by large-group, teacher- such strategies as cooperative, project-
6 SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY: A CITIZEN’S GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND DESIGN
based, and interdisciplinary learning. additional factors that affect learning. reading test scores (Heschong Mahone
They require that students move about, These include indoor air quality, occu- Group 2002). Multiple studies indicate
work in groups of various sizes, and be pant comfort, lighting, and classroom that physical comfort correlates positively
active. The models place increased emphasis acoustics (Schneider 2002). For example, to the ability to concentrate, student
on learning styles and the special needs of one well-known study indicates that attendance rates, and teacher retention
each student. students with high levels of classroom (Lackney 1999).
Recent research also recognizes daylighting show improved math and
Educational studies indicate that school
design can enhance—or hinder—learning.
New educational models require that
students move about, work in groups of
various sizes, and be active. The models
place increased emphasis on learning styles
and the special needs of each student.
Photos: (opposite page) Neil Alexander/
Neilphoto.com, courtesy of Concordia LLC;
(left) photo illustration based on photo pro-
vided courtesy of LCOR Incorporated;
PART TWO: SIX DESIGN PRINCIPLES 7
Tomorrow’s educational facilities must be designed to be more open and serve a variety of community needs. They need not be costly, but
they should add a sense of beauty, interest, and permanence to the community. Photo: Joe Wolford, courtesy of Concordia LLC.
DESIGN PRINCIPLE 2 designed to be more open and serve a variety and other learning opportunities based
of community needs. on work and service
The learning environment At their best, schools that serve as
• Contain shared public spaces that are
should serve as a center of centers of community should:
accessible year round
the community. • Help meet a community’s leisure,
• Be places where creative space con-
recreational, and wellness needs
Successful schools strengthen a community’s figurations expand school use, where
sense of identity and coherence. Like a new • Be accessible to people of all ages learning occurs after school, at night, and
version of the old town square, a school can on weekends, and where school-to-school
• Encourage more active parental involve-
serve as a community hub that teaches its partnerships, links with businesses, and
ment in school activities. Establishing a
occupants about collaboration and the collaborations with higher education are
school parent resource center, for
common good. encouraged and supported.
example, sends a powerful message that
In the past, most schools were built as
parents are welcome and encouraged to
stand-alone instructional facilities that In fulfilling these roles, schools should mani-
take part in their children’s learning.
restricted—rather than encouraged— fest the high standard of design appropriate
community access. Their auditoriums, sports • Support relationships with local busi- to public buildings. They need not be costly,
facilities, food service facilities, libraries, nesses that are productive to students but they should add a sense of beauty,
media centers, computer labs, and other and supportive of the local economy interest, and permanence to the community.
specialized spaces were typically available to By capturing the noble character of public
• Promote participation by members of
the community on only a limited basis. architecture, they should serve as a visible
the community in a variety of ways,
Tomorrow’s educational facilities must be symbol of community pride.
including mentorships, apprenticeships,
8 SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY: A CITIZEN’S GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND DESIGN
DESIGN PRINCIPLE 3 students, senior citizens, and members of willing to work together to set goals, solve
civic and business organizations. problems, and provide their schools with
The learning environment Widespread community participation the ongoing support and financing neces-
should result from a enables consideration of community diver- sary to make the schools succeed.
planning and design process sity. Communities by their very nature are It is essential to set aside adequate time
that involves all community diverse, reflecting such differences as age, and resources to ensure widespread and
interests. culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic fully informed participation in the plan-
class, aspirations, and abilities.Varying ning process. It should take place either
Faith in the effectiveness of collective viewpoints enrich the design process before or concurrently with the develop-
problem solving lies at the very heart of because they broaden the range of ideas ment of a facilities master plan, educational
this nation’s democratic system, which and solutions considered. specifications, technology plan, and archi-
holds not only that people have a right to Community participation creates a tectural plans.
participate in making decisions that affect shared sense of purpose. When community Authenticity of involvement is perhaps
them, but that such participation actually members are given opportunities to take the most important ingredient in the plan-
improves the outcome of the decision- part in meaningful planning activities, ning process. Too often the community
making process. Thus schools should be their sense of commitment is strength- perceives that it can only rubber stamp
planned by the many people who will use ened. When they see themselves as vision- decisions already made by administrators,
them—including educators, parents, aries, creators, and owners, they are more board members, or planners and archi-
tects. The old-style public hearing
process—one or two public presentations
of already-developed plans—can lead to
frustration and apathy on the part of citi-
zens who want to be involved. But authentic
community engagement can result in a
more extensive and creative set of ideas,
more trust in public officials and govern-
ment, a broader base of support and funding
as the project moves forward, and a
stronger sense of community for everyone
When community members see themselves
as visionaries, creators, and owners, they are
more willing to work together to set goals,
solve problems, and provide their schools
with the ongoing support and financing
necessary to make the schools succeed.
Photo: Courtesy of Concordia LLC.
PART TWO: SIX DESIGN PRINCIPLES 9
DESIGN PRINCIPLE 4 and meet applicable health and safety CPTED: natural surveillance, natural
codes. Children—because of their smaller, access control, and territoriality.
The learning environment developing bodies—are more The origins of CPTED are found in Jane
should provide for health, sensitive to pollutants than are adults. For Jacobs’ landmark work, The Death and Life
safety, and security. this reason, schools must pay special atten- of Great American Cities (Jacobs 1961), a
tion to air quality and the potential for book that enabled a whole generation of
Health and safety have always been top children’s exposure to harmful substances planners to understand the importance of
school priorities. During the past decade con- that may occur in building materials, porch-sitters, shopkeepers, walkers, and
cern has intensified about a number of health finishes, furnishings, and equipment. others who “look out” for one another in
and safety issues, including indoor air quality, To help ensure the highest reasonable the community setting.
campus crime, youth violence, substance standards of safety, school planning and CPTED concepts for educational facili-
abuse, and—more recently—terrorism. design should incorporate the three con- ties are fully described in Safe School
At the most basic level, school designers cepts embodied in Crime Prevention Design, A Handbook for Educational
must address environmental safeguards Through Environmental Design, or Leaders: Applying the Principles of Crime
Children—because of their smaller, developing bodies—are more sensitive to pollutants than are adults. For this reason, schools must pay
special attention to air quality and the potential for children’s exposure to harmful substances that may occur in finishes, furnishings, and
equipment. Photo: Digital Vision.
10 SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY: A CITIZEN’S GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND DESIGN
To help ensure the highest reasonable standards of safety, school design should incorporate the three concepts embodied in Crime Prevention
Through Environmental Design, or CPTED: natural surveillance, natural access control, and territoriality. CPTED works particularly well for
neighborhood schools, where people know each other by name, or where school use by outside organizations expands adult participation—
and therefore supervision—at many levels. By strategically locating windows, entry access, and gathering places, school designers can foster
safety and security by facilitating natural rather than electronic surveillance. Photo: Joe Wolford, courtesy of Concordia LLC.
Prevention Through Environmental Design Of course, school safety and security environment. By limiting the population of
(Schneider et al. 2000). 1 require a change in behavioral norms and an individual school—or by providing
CPTED works particularly well for attitudes as well. A growing body of evi- spaces for smaller schools within larger
neighborhood schools, where people know dence suggests that behavior can be signif- ones—school designers can help maxi-
each other by name, or where school use icantly influenced by the quality of the mize supervision and encourage healthy
by outside organizations expands adult learning environment. Attractive, well- social interactions among students, teach-
participation—and therefore supervi- designed, and well-maintained facilities ers, administrators, and community users.
sion—at many levels. By strategically communicate respect for the people and Schools that provide space for after-
locating windows, entry access, and gath- activities housed within them and con- school programs can be safer schools, too.
ering places, school designers can foster tribute to a positive school climate, good Since most student violence occurs
safety and security by facilitating natural discipline, and productive learning between the hours of three and six p.m.,
rather than electronic surveillance. (Schneider 2002). after-school programs have become key
The size of the student population and components of violence prevention plans.
scale of school buildings also have a sub- Youth activities such as academic enrich-
1 In the early 1970s, C. Ray Jeffery coined the term “crime
stantial effect on school safety. When ment, sports programs, and arts and crafts
prevention through environmental design” in his book of the
same name (Jeffery 1971). Oscar Newman elaborated on the schools and classrooms are small enough provide healthy options for filling time and
concept in his widely acclaimed Defensible Space (Newman
1972). CPTED received renewed attention in Timothy Crowe’s to allow teachers and students to form increasing the connection between students
1991 book, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design:
Applications of Architectural Design and Space Management personal relationships, a sense of commu- and their school.
Concepts (Crowe 2000), which led to creation of the
International CPTED Association in 1996.
nity is established that promotes a safe
PART TWO: DESIGN PRINCIPLES 11
DESIGN PRINCIPLE 5 curriculums to be individualized. Schools are among the largest public con-
Where possible, schools should allow sumers of energy in both their construc-
The learning environment specialized spaces—such as kitchens, tion and operation and should be designed
should make effective use mechanical rooms, and maintenance to make the most of existing natural
of available resources. areas—to become three dimensional text- resources. The U.S. Department of Energy
books, showcasing educational content and estimates that at least $1.5 billion per year
Schools should be designed to take advan- offering lessons in physics, mathematics, can be saved through modest energy con-
tage of the fact that the physical environ- geometry, art, history, and science. servation modifications in new and existing
ment can have a positive effect on the To help students understand the con- schools (EnergySmart Schools 2003).
learning experience. One effective way to nection between the classroom and the “High performance schools”— those built
do this is to make the most of available workplace, resources outside the school with durable, environment-friendly mate-
resources. can be used for extended learning. By part- rials and designed on the basis of life-cycle
For instance, schools that make optimal nering with community organizations, costs, rather than first cost—help reduce
use of computers and current communica- school boards can enlist such community the use of nonrenewable resources. In
tions technology can most readily facilitate resources as libraries, museums, zoos, addition, they are more productive places
new methods of instruction—letting parks, hospitals, and government buildings for teaching and learning, and save sub-
teachers become guides and coaches; for extended learning. stantial amounts of money over the long
allowing students to analyze, evaluate, and “Effective use of available resources” run (Sustainable Buildings Industry
manipulate information; and permitting also means efficient energy consumption. Council 2001).
Schools that make optimal use of computers and current communications technology can most readily facilitate new methods of instruction.
Photo: Joe Wolford, courtesy of Concordia LLC.
12 SCHOOLS AS CENTERS OF COMMUNITY: A CITIZEN’S GUIDE FOR PLANNING AND DESIGN
Schools can actively teach stewardship DESIGN PRINCIPLE 6 The best school designs allow for
of environmental resources. A school that spatial flexibility. Designers and decision
embodies stewardship through careful and The learning environment makers cannot lock too firmly onto any
conscious management of land, air, water, should be flexible and single notion of “school” or to become wed
energy, and building materials teaches adaptable. to a fixed idea of what classrooms should
children that taking care of their commu- be. Flexible, open structural systems that
nity is important and that their actions Change is a constant, and school facilities allow spaces to be reconfigured over time
have an impact on the world in which must be flexible enough to adapt. As com- will best accommodate change (Brubaker
they live. munity needs evolve, as new educational et al. 1998). By evaluating and updating
In addition, schools should be designed programs and strategies are developed, master plans and educational specifica-
using the latest concepts of city planning and as new technologies are incorporated tions at least once every five years, school
and community design. The principles of into the teaching and learning process, the districts can help ensure that their facili-
smart growth call for neighborhood demands on schools are changing at an ties will meet the needs of a changing
schools rather than large facilities on the unprecedented rate. world.
edge of town that exacerbate sprawl and
require extensive busing. More concentrated,
pedestrian communities lead to more
livable towns and cities.
Proper planning can magnify the potency
and impact of a host of community
resources. For example, co-locating health-
care programs in schools can significantly
increase the quantity and frequency of
medical care for children and adults alike.
School facilities can be used for cultural
enrichment at a fraction of what it would
cost to duplicate the same types of spaces
elsewhere. Such cultural events might
include ethnic and community festivals,
theater performances, art shows, and other
activities that support, celebrate, and
enhance a community’s cultural assets.
Existing schools should be renovated
and preserved whenever possible, especially
in cases where reuse preserves natural
resources or valuable historic and cultural
assets. Building reuse helps children and
adults alike to embrace the social and
cultural heritage of their community.
Change is a constant, and school facilities
must be flexible enough to adapt. Photo:
Robert E. Daemmrich/Getty Images.
PART TWO: SIX DESIGN PRINCIPLES 13