NCEF Resource List: School Design
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Information on designing school buildings, including school design guidelines, trends, principles, and examples, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. See also NCEF Resource Lists on Campus Architecture, Case Studies, Selecting Design Professionals, and many more related topics.

References to Books and Other Media

10 Current School Facility Features that are Obsolete
Stack, Greg
(School Design Matters, Jun 20, 2012)
Looks at school facility features that are obsolete today and yet are still in wide use: departmental organizations; learning in prescribed spaces; school corridors; traditional school libraries; computer labs; gyms without natural daylight; teacher centered classrooms; isolate classrooms; institutional food service; and large gang restrooms.

Forum Guide to Facilities Information Management: A Resource for State and Local Education Agencies
National Forum on Education Statistics
(National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, D.C. , Mar 2012)
This guide provides a framework for collecting, evaluating, and maintaining education facilities data. It is written to help officials design a school facility information system that supports policy and decision making; management and operation; capital budgeting and project management; public participation in school facilities planning; and the integration of facilities data into other education and municipal data sets. Best practices are given for the design, development, implementation, and use of facilities management information systems, along with a list of standard data elements. These elements can be used to develop indicators for measuring and comparing the quality of education facilities; and, in turn, answering policy questions and informing new education policies. The facility data elements presented in this guide are described in greater detail in the NCES Handbooks Online at 80p

Learn for Life. New Architecture for New Learning.
S. Ehmann, S. Borges, R. Klanten
(Gestalten, Feb 2012)
Diverse collection of inspiring architecture and interiors that support progressive models of acquiring knowledge. New interpretations of kindergartens, schools, universities, and libraries are featured along with architecturally innovative offices and conference rooms. These examples are rounded out by more experimental projects that offer further perspectives on the rapidly evolving topic of how best to learn in the new millennium.

The groundbreaking spaces promote learning by inspiring us, providing us with helpful tools, and facilitating opportunities for productive cooperation and the exchange of ideas within groups. In short, the work makes clear that the creative use of architecture and interior design not only provides a new physical framework for acquiring knowledge, but also revitalizes and advances the process of learning as a whole. 288p

EPA: IAQ Design Tools for Schools
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012)
Website developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help school districts and facility planners find the information resources they need to design new school facilities, and repair existing facilities. Topics include: high performance schools, school siting, pre-design, materials selection, HVAC, controlling pollutants, moisture control, construction, commissioning, operations and maintenance, renovation and repair, portable classrooms, IAQ Tools for Schools.

A History of School Design and its Indoor Environmental Standards, 1900 to Today. Adobe PDF
Baker, Lindsay
(National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, Washington, D.C. , 2012)
Looks back at the designs of school buildings of the recent past, identifying trends in energy consumption, ventilation, heating, air quality, lighting, and acoustics. Sections include: Safety, Permanence and Endurance--School Building Prior to 1930; The Progressive Era (1930-1945); Post-war Boom (1945-1960); The Impulsive Period (1960-1980); Declines of the 1980s and the New Movements of the 1990s and 2000s; 21st Century School Environments: What does the future hold? 30p

Student Spaces.
Sims, Joel K.
(School Designer, Dec 2011)
Explores K-12 schools from all over the world that incorporate areas that students find both beneficial and enjoyable. Provides comments from students who have utilized the spaces and enjoyed the benefits first-hand. 118p

Building Energy- Efficient Schools in New Orleans Adobe PDF
(U. S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Dec 2011)
This case study presents the lessons learned from incorporating energy efficiency in the rebuilding and renovating of New Orleans K-12 schools after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The experiences of four new schools—Langston Hughes Elementary School, Andrew H. Wilson Elementary School (which was 50% new construction and 50% major renovation), L.B. Landry High School, and Lake Area High School—and one major renovation, Joseph A. Craig Elementary School—are described to help other school districts and design teams with their in-progress and future school building projects in hot-humid climates. 23p

Collective Intelligence. Facility's Response to the International Baccalaureate Curriculum.
Lee, Liz
(Perkins Eastman K-12 Group, Oct 2011)
Provides plans for accommodating the ideals of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program within an existing school facility, including Primary Learning Modalities, General Meeting & Collaboration, General Teaching Training, and Diploma College Preparation. Focuses on the library as a dynamic and active place for collaboration and exploration. Includes strategies to minimize costs while providing a first class 21st century educational experience. 16p

Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011
(OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments , Sep 2011)
Showcases over 60 exemplary recently built or refurbished schools and universities from 28 countries and includes examples of early childhood, primary, secondary, vocational and higher education facilities spanning countries in six continents, from India, Uruguay and Portugal, to Australia, United States and Burkina Faso. Collectively, these projects demonstrate state-of-the-art design in this field and each one is lavishly illustrated with colour photos, plans and descriptions.

Creating Quality School-Age Child Care Space. Adobe PDF
Winter, Katie
(Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Community Investment Collaborative for Kids, Sep 2011)
Provides strategies for planning, designing, and equipping after-school physical environments for school-age children from kindergarten through eighth grade. After-school spaces offer an opportunity to create special crossover environments where children can learn in a low-stress setting, explore new interests, and develop meaningful relationships with friends and mentors. Covers the following topics: getting started, adjacencies; accessibility; greening your space; tips for maximizing shared space; entry/gathering area; program activities; indoor and outdoor active play; dramatic play, quiet games, and construction-based play; science; music and arts; academic support; computer/technology spaces; adult spaces; children's bathrooms; storage; maintenance; ambiance and aesthetics; equipment and furnishings; 40p

The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century
(Suomen Rakennustaiteen Museo, Jun 2011)
This catalog of a museum exhibition The Best School in the World features three expert essays and a detailed visual presentation of the schools. Architect Kaisa Nuikkinen discusses the various challenges of designing a school in her article Learning Spaces: How They Meet Evolving Educational Needs. Finland’s PISA performance is the main focus of Educational Progress in Finland and What We Can Learn from It, an expert article contributed by Pasi Sahlberg, Director General of the Finnish Centre for International Mobility (CIMO). Sirkka-Liisa Jetsonen, an architect at the National Board of Antiquities, provides an historical outline of the Finnish education system and its buildings in her article Setting the Scene for Learning. 80p

Database of Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investment
(OECD/CELE and the European Investment Bank , 2011)
The purpose of the database is to inform the planning, design, construction, management and evaluation of educational spaces by providing an international resource of exemplary school and university facilities, combined with a bibliographical reference tool for strategic investment in educational infrastructure. This database draws on two sources of information: Information collected in the framework of the joint CELE/European Investment Bank project on “Strategic Investment Planning for Educational Infrastructure”. The 60 exemplary schools and universities featured in CELE’s publication Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011. The database provides detailed information on each project, in addition to high-quality photos and plans and contact information for schools and architects. The database classifies each design project by category: flexible learning settings, school regeneration, access, new technologies, outdoor spaces, furniture, safety, comfort, community use and involvement, integrated services, special needs provision, multi-sensory environment, cultural and historical value; environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, cost efficiency, library/resource centre, music facilities, fine art facilities, science laboratories, vocational facilities, sporting facilities, etc). In due course, details of all the 166 submissions received during the publication’s preparatory phase will be uploaded on the database.

Optimal Learning Environments: Societal Expectations, Learning Goals and the Role of School Designers.
Akinsanmi, Bukky
(, Minneapolis, MN , 2011)
Explores the effects of societal expectations on schools and investigates the relationship among those expectations, learning goals, and the learning theories that undergird schools. Through historical descriptions and practical ideas, advice is offered that can help designers of learning environments create flexible and responsive physical contexts. 7p.

Modern Schools.
Hille, R. Thomas
(John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ , 2011)
Presents a survey of exceptional 20th- and early 21st-century K-12 school designs, by architects from Frank Lloyd Wright to Morphosis. This in-depth design study explores the fundamental relationship between architecture, education, and the design of contemporary learning environments. Its focus is on the underlying design themes and characteristic features that support and enhance basic aspects of learning and, in the process, create an architectural expression that is both meaningful and lasting. Its scope covers influences of contemporary educational ideas and practices, related design concepts and strategies, and the resulting impact of both on real environments for learning. More than 900 contemporary and historical photographs and 200 plans of schools by many of the outstanding design architects of the modern era are included. The book is divided into three parts: Part I is an overview of school design, Part II and III present key paradigms of school design and in-depth case studies of projects, with applicable lessons for today's architect. 528p.

References to Journal Articles

Education Design Showcase 12. Outstanding Design + Architecture in Education.
College Planning and Management; Jun 2012
Research and best practices lead to innovative yet practical solutions in planning, design and construction. Round up of schools, colleges, and universities projects submitted to the Education Design Showcase.

The Four Energy Zones of Schools
Monberg, Greg; Kacan, George
Educational Facility Planner; v46 n1 , p49-53 ; Jun 2012
Discusses how schools can provide each child with an environment where they can grow and thrive by creating facilities that support quality educational delivery and promote a high level of engagement. The authors describe the regression, stagnation, corruption, and actualization zones.

Fusing Technology Into the School Design Process For Today and Tomorrow
Strube, Marilyn; Thompson, Ann L.
Educational Facility Planner; v46 n1 , p39-42 ; Jun 2012
Discusses the many ways that students are bringing technologies into the classroom and the design implications for school design.

An Emerging Framework for School Design Based on Children’s Voices
Rokhshid Ghaziani
Children, Youth, and Environments; v22 n1 , p125-144 ; Spring 2012
This paper explores the views and expectations of children regarding their school environments and has constructed a framework for the school design process based on children’s information and reflections. The research objectives required analyzing secondary data, as well as qualitative and quantitative empirical studies— each one leading to the next. The issues raised by children about school design emerged through an analysis of three previous studies in the UK. The empirical study involved 260 children (11-12 years old) in two secondary schools in England. The findings highlight the importance children attribute to various issues. The overall findings have been developed as a school design framework to guide the design and decision-making processes of architects and designers. [Author's abstract]

Forming Playscapes: What Schools Can Learn from Playgrounds
Quirk, Vanessa
Arch Daily; Mar 07, 2012
When designing classrooms, designers should look at spaces that welcome interaction with the environment and encourage the free reign of energy and imagination--the playground. Describes numerous schools around the world that can inspire the classrooms of the future.

Community-Oriented Architecture in Schools: How Extroverted Design Can Impact Learning and Change the World
Quirk, Vanessa
Arch Daily; Mar 05, 2012
According to this article, the design of a school cannot just incorporate the necessary physical conditions for students; it must be designed with its cultural value to the community in mind, cognizant of the fact that a young mind’s commitment to learning is affected greatly by his/her family, society and culture’s value of education.

Citizens Fit for the 21st Century? The Role of School Design in Facilitating Citizenship and Self-Governance in Young People
Brown, Jane
Education, Citizenship and Social Justice; n1 , p19-31 ; Mar 2012
This article explores the relevance of school design in providing an important social-spatial context for promoting citizenship in young people. Drawing on a small-scale study that investigated the perspectives of pupils and teachers, it contrasts the ways in which the social control and monitoring of pupils differed in two secondary schools. Comparing features of everyday life in one new and one old-build school, this study found that school design could either heighten or lessen the need for teacher control of pupils. As a consequence the layout of the schools could enable or restrict young people's opportunities for self-determination, as well as encourage the normalization of the acceptance of control by others. The implications of this for the production of autonomous and self-governing citizens will be addressed. [Author's abstract]

Creating an Ultra-Flexible Learning Space
McCrea, Bridget
THEJournal; Feb 08, 2012
Designers of the Minnesota School of Environmental Studies (SES) were years ahead of the curve when it came to creating collaborative classrooms that would one day accommodate learning technologies that in 1995 had yet to be conceived--let alone developed and marketed to the educational sector. Cumulatively the various features that went into SES' design have withstood both the test of time and the onslaught of technology in the high school classroom.

Building Types Study: K-12 Schools
Architectural Record; Jan 2012
In-depth analyses of fifteen K-12 school buildings, with photos, drawings, specifications, descriptions and design solutions. Includes Evelyn Grace Academy, Zaha Hadid Architects London, United Kingdom; Gloria Marshall Elementary School, SHW Group, Spring, Texas; Leutschenbach School, Christian Kerez, Zurich, German; Machias Elementary School NAC Architecture, Snohomish, Washington; Marysville Getchell High School Campus, DLR Group,Marysville, Washington; Nathan Hale High School, Mahlum, Seattle, Washington; Pritzker Science Center, William Rawn Associates, Architects, Milton, Massachusetts; Samuel Brighouse Elementary School, Perkins+Will, British Columbia, Richmond, Canada; South Shore International College Prep High School, John Ronan Architects, Chicago, Illinois; Stoddert Elementary School & Community Center, EE&K a Perkins Eastman company, Washington D.C.; Summit Elementary School, Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, Casper, Wyoming; W. F. Kaynor Technical High School, The S/L/A/M Collaborative, Waterbury, Connecticut; Cedar Ridge High School, Perkins+Will, Round Rock, Texas; Charles W. Morey Elementary School, Flansburgh Architects, Lowell, Massachusetts; Gary Comer College Prep, John Ronan Architects, Chicago, Illinois.

Innovations for Educational Facility Design
Architectural Record; , 7p ; Jan 2012
Describes the main issues affecting high-performance school design. Discusses strategies for enhancing learning environments using retrofit or renovation strategies to improve daylighting, flexibility of use, or energy efficiency. Provides examples of building techniques and technologies specifically designed to improve student health or the life cycle and durability of educational buildings.

School Architecture: Numerous Factors at Play
Kopochinski, Lisa
School Construction News; Dec 27, 2011
When it comes to school architecture, there is no one size fits all approach. A variety of design elements are at play — no matter if the facility is an elementary or middle school, high school or college — largely due to the various socioeconomic backgrounds, physical characteristics, learning styles and emotional intelligences that exist within the educational sphere. Discusses interactive design, building as a teaching tool, and how cluster design encourages learning. Includes several case studies.

Smart Building Spaces Redefine Traditional School Environments
School Construction News; Dec 13, 2011
Discusses serendipity spaces that manifest themselves in a variety of forms — from quiet study alcoves in a library, to a main traffic lounge complete with computer terminals and a nearby café; or a comfortable niche seating area adjacent to a window with a scenic view. These areas often reduce the sterility of classroom-oriented settings by featuring useful amenities such as private workstations, power outlets, wi-fi, convenient access to refreshments, televisions and reading material. Typically, these incorporate comfortable seating, such as couches and loungers with appropriately sized work tables. Such serendipity spaces are truly essential to allow the most efficient use of space and to offer reasons for students and faculty to interact outside the classroom walls.

Genius Loci: MacConnell Award Projects + Ewan Mclntosh's Seven Spaces Adobe PDF
Baibak, Rebecca; Ruiz, Karina; Parker, Ross and Peters. Edward J
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n4 , p9-11 ; Dec 2011
Given the surge of technology use in the 21st century, explores the defining characteristics of schools of the future: group spaces, secret spaces, publishing spaces, performing spaces, participation spaces, and watching spaces.

STEM for All Adobe PDF
Hutton, Paul and VandenBurg, Todd
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n4 , p19-23 ; Dec 2011
The authors share their insights into the proper role of and implementation for STEM within the K-12 sector. Discusses the following: lab function and layout; sustainable STEM buildings; buildings as sustainable teaching tools; buildings teaching math and science; thoughtful planning of technology.

21st-Century Learning Q&A
American School and University; Nov 2011
Twenty-five architects comment on the latest innovations in designing for future learning, as well as how design can support these trends. Questions answered include: What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?; How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?' What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods? and How is technology for today’s learning affecting school design?

Cost-Effective Design for Green Schools.
Hoyle, Terry and Corona, Rich
American School and University; Oct 2011
An integrated approach to green school design is the best bet for education institutions. When budget and sustainability are a priority, architects should design a project with a comprehensive understanding of how the final building systems will operate and make thoughtful design decisions that will enable these systems to work together to serve multiple purposes.

10 Ways to Create Schools Where Students Thrive
Weekes, John
Learning by Design; , p14-17 ; Fall 2011
Describes 10 innovative strategies for creating 21st century schools: engage all stakeholders in the design process; seek education partnerships and joint use; maximize sites well connected to the community; adapt and reuse existing facilities; utilize the neighborhood and the world as a campus; use sustainable design for a high-performance learning environment; integrate technology throughout; facilitate learning everywhere; break down the scale of the school; and design in support of learning.

A Model School Facility for Energy
Spangler, Seth and Crutchfield, Dave
American School and University; Sep 2011
Building energy modeling predicts a facility's energy use and it can be a powerful tool for managing energy-reduction concepts for an institution. This describes energy modeling that can be carried out during the design, pre-construction and post-construction phases.

What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar.
Turckes, Steven; Kahl, Melanie
Fast Company Co Design; Aug 26, 2011
The process of planning and designing a new school requires both looking outward (to the future, to the community, to innovative corporate powerhouses) as well as inward (to the playfulness and creativity that are at the core of learning. This articles suggests learning from the country's strongest innovators that embrace creativity, play, and collaboration -- values that also inform their physical spaces.

What I’ve Learned After 15 Years of Designing Schools
Southerland, Steve
Daily Journal of Commerce; Aug 25, 2011
Architect Steve Southerland picks nine favorite lessons to help lift school projects from merely functional to inspirational: know your client; classroom shape; rooms as backdrop; harden the finishes; refuge and prospect; teachable moments; social spaces; program the site; and access to the natural world.

Designing Schools for a Changing Future. Adobe PDF
Glenn, Patrick
Ascent Magazine; , p26-31 ; Summer 2011
Discusses how new teaching techniques and sustainable-design requirements are reflected in design concepts that impact K-12 schools. Recommends learning spaces that offer a variety of group settings and focusing on green design. Designing on a budget leads to a growth in precast concrete use.

Education on Display.
Kamal, Sameea
School Construction News; v17 n5 , p17,18 ; Jul-Aug 2011
Relates principles of museum design, especially hands-on immersion, with best practices in new school design.

Choosing Metal.
Kollie, Ellen
College Planning and Management; v14 n6 , p38,40,42 ; Jun 2011
Documents the following benefits of using metal for school construction and renovation projects: sustainability, durability, long-term cost savings, aesthetics, design flexibility, facility retrofits, and price.

Designed to Curb Obesity.
Pratapchandran, Sarat
School Planning and Management; v50 n6 , p41-47 ; Jun 2011
Argues that convenience-based school design must be reconsidered and advocates design that encourages greater activity and physical movement in the drive to curb obesity.

Alternative Construction Methods.
Dolan, Thomas
School Planning and Management; v50 n5 , p38-41 ; May 2011
Describes insulated concrete forms, precast, tilt-up, cast-in-place, and autoclaved aerated concrete methods of construction.

New Rules for Educational Interiors.
Remenschneider, Carla
School Planning and Management; v50 n5 , p20,22,24,26 ; May 2011
Proposes criteria for educational interiors that emphasize flexibility; enticing colors; and blurring the distinction between the corridor, the classroom, and the outdoors.

Learning Curve. How Museum Design Taught a New Elementary School. Adobe PDF
Skolnick, Lee H. and Secor, Jo Ann
Museum; , p35-36 ; May-Jun 2011
Describes the design of Summit Elementary School in Casper, Wyoming that was influenced by approaches that are central to the best museum design practices: immersive environments, an array of multisensory experiences, entry point activities, and an interpretive look-and-feel approach.

Appropriate in Any Climate.
Wiens, Janet
College Planning and Management; v14 n5 , p55-57 ; May 2011
Advocates the use of modular, insulated concrete form, and precast concrete construction for exterior walls in school. Construction ease, affordability, durability, and high insulating value are the main benefits.

When a Zero on the Report Card Is Good.
Hodgson, James
School Planning and Management; v50 n4 , p30,32-34 ; Apr 2011
Discusses the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) in school construction. The modular insulation panels create super-insulated and extremely airtight building envelopes, enabling the specification of smaller HVAC equipment and extending its life.

Impact on Learning.
School Planning and Management; v50 n3 , p21,23,25,27,29,31,32 ; Mar 2011
Provides evidence and quantifiable results that the learning environment has an effect on students and staff. Innovative solutions are demonstrated at Christ Church Episcopal School, Greenville SC; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, Keller TX; Roy Martin Middle School, Las Vegas NV; Pleasant Grove High School, Pleasant Grove AL; and Cedar Creek High School, Cedar Creek TX. Topics include visual environment, use of color, room temperature, safe and supportive learning environments, and flexible furniture.

Clicks and Bricks: How School Buildings Influence Future Practice and Technology Adoption. Adobe PDF
McIntosh, Ewan
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n1/2 , p33-37 ; 2011
Describes six specialized school spaces that encourage digital learning and customized learning. These are secret, group, publishing, performing, participation and watching spaces.

School as a Place: A Phenomenological Method for Contemplating School Environments
Zur, Ayala; Eisikovits, Rivka A.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education; v24 n4 , p451-470 ; 2011
The study presents a phenomenologically based research procedure, whose intent is to examine people's school experience and the meaning they ascribe to "school." Participants in this investigative endeavor are instructed to sketch an "ideal school," present their plan in a visual-schematic manner, and provide an oral and written description of their design. Proposals are presented through a Location Task--a tool originally intended for use by architects in their routine work with clients. We discuss the rationale behind this procedure and describe the research tool and its application potential. Finally, we illustrate the data processing via the analysis of one proposal designed by a 17-year-old male student.[Authors' abstract]



Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community.

If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green (, 202-289-7800).