Current Trends in K-12 Facility Design

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K-12 Trends

It is a priority and goal of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini to keep up-to-date with national and global trends in teaching environments, funding, and curriculum design.  We strive to better understand what educators need to do their job teaching our kids.  We understand that the methods and materials for educating children are constantly changing to keep up with best practice for improving the success and knowledge of our school graduates, and we feel the school environment has a direct effect on that success.  The following are documents and links that we have found that may help you connect with some of the state-of-the-art ideas and concepts in facility planning, funding, and curriculum design.


The Relationship Between Student Performance and School Building Condition - 21st Century School Fund with funding from the Charitable Trust of the Council on Educational Facility Planners International has published this updated list of studies on the Impact of School Facilities on Students and Teachers.  It’s a great guide to research that can inform designers and educators who are planning educational facilities.  Download Report


Educators look for new ways to connect with their students....and find an answer right in front of them. Recent trends, such as the one mentioned in the below article, are utilizing students to play key roles in professional development. Several other school districts are also finding ways to reach out to students to improve their methods, raise grades and streamline operations through student advisory boards, councils and student led workshops:  Teacher Training, Taught by Students


Schools using geothermal heat pumps to save energy costs
The following is a link to a recently published article on the use of geothermal technology in K-12 facilities. It speaks to current projects, cost savings and life cycle costs.
Plugging into the Earth


Online learning: the Khan Academy as a successful example of disruptive innovation in education.

At the 2009 CEFPI conference in Austin, TX, Michael Horn gave a great lecture on disruptive innovation, likening the changes in educational delivery methods with the shift from the vacuum tube to the transistor and how that flipped the television industry on its head.  Click here to read the article.


Designing Schools to Fit Your Needs
In school design one size doesn't fit all. Curriculums are developed to fit distinct populations of students and their needs, teachers adapt their spaces in effort to engage students, districts strive to find the right delivery model for procuring facilities. Wonder what the right answer is? We can help you find the answer that fits your needs. 

Curriculum Delivery through On-line learning
Administrators and teachers are constantly challenged to meet the needs of disadvantaged students and non-traditional learners. On-line K-12 curriculum and learning is a growing trend that helps them with this challenge. Though it is a growing venue for many, on-line learning issues abound. Funding strategies, meeting educational compliance standards and training teachers to use this tool are all being explored as this medium evolves.
The following article discusses national trends in the development of a more robust system of online learning and the challenges it poses:  Online Learning: The National Landscape


Restore, Renovate or Rebuild?
D/P/S Architect Christian Helgesen's recent article: A Phoenix Rising - Miyamura High School, was published in the May issue of School Planning and Management.

read a copy of the article


School Facility Design and Renovation
School facilities have a design life-span of fifty years or more.  D/P/S feels it is a huge opportunity for students, staff, and administrators to participate in the design of new or renovated facilities within their district.  Many staff and administrators have been in the educational system for years or decades and may have never had the opportunity to work with a design team for a new or renovated facility.

 The following is a link to an article written specifically to help administrators and staff understand some of the many principles of design for schools and learning centers:


Curriculum Delivery and Corporate Partnering
In order for the children in this country to maintain a competitive edge in growing global markets, corporate partnering is becoming a favorable trend for schools to re-design or purchase new curriculum delivery that will help our students become more competitive by specializing very early on in their education process.  This trend in specialization has changed the way schools look and feel, with many new high schools around the country having more of a feel of a college than a grade school.

The following is a link to an article involving a major Corporate Partner, Microsoft discussing the teaching of "21st Century Skills:"


Small Schools, Walkable Schools, Smart Schools
D/P/S has found that many school districts in New Mexico and across the country are leaning toward smaller school designs, keeping schools closer within the community and limiting their maximum student design capacity in order to better manage student/teacher ratios, more easily adapt to community growth trends, more easily fund  facility design, construction, operations and maintenance, and - most importantly -  to improve the learning success of the students.

The following is a case study done by Public Schools of North Carolina:

Trends in School Design Feasibility.pdf

The following is a case study done by The University of California, Berkeley on California Public Schools:

Smart Schools Smart Growth.pdf

Safety in Public Schools
Over the past ten years security and safety of children on school campus have become huge priorities.  Modern social ailments have leaked into our schools and affected the way teachers and administrators must manage the safety and security of our school facilities. Dekker/Perich/Sabatini works closely with school administrators and local and national initiatives to design safety and security into every facility.

The following is a checklist published by Safe Havens International for the design and implementation of safe learning environments and emergency preparedness for both new and renovated school facilities. D/P/S uses this type of information on every project design:

School Facilities Design Checklist - Safe Havens International.pdf

Energy Conservation and Sustainable Design in School Facilities
D/P/S has a firm commitment to work with facility operations and maintenance administrators and school staff to design facilities that comply with modern energy conservation measures.  Energy conservative design will help operations and maintenance budgets for school districts, as well as provide a more healthy and clean living/working environment for the fifty or more years each school may be in operation.

The following is a case study for the implementation of ground source or geo-thermal heat pump HVAC systems in an existing school facility.  D/P/S has designed schools that utilize this modern and sustainable heating/cooling system:

Geoexhange Heat Pump.pdf

D/P/S welcomes questions or comments from educators everywhere regarding state-of-the-art education for our children.  If we can assist you in understanding, interpreting, or implementing more modern trends into your educational facility, or help you to pursue corporate partners or find funding for the purchase of capital improvements or curriculum programs please contact Benjamin Gardner at benjaming@dpsdesign.org. Construction prices are low and it's a great time to plan and build!