Early Childhood Education Design

Early childhood education (ECE) campuses have unique design needs for campus circulation, building layout, and learning environments. While some elements of ECE campus design relate to the design of K-12 schools, it is important that spaces designed for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers support the specific developmental, scale, and schedule needs of young children.

Site Design

Most ECE campuses need to enable parents to park and walk their child into their classroom or a designated hand-off point. Compared to K-12 schools with drop-off lanes, this can require a significant number of parking spaces unless the program has staggered start times. Site design must balance the needed parking with the goal of minimizing walking distances for young children, or for parents carrying infants and daily supplies. Traffic control can be an important consideration for half-day ECE programs which may have 4 peak traffic periods every day. And full day programs that serve breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day may require additional service vehicle access.

Building Design

Whether an ECE campus has only a few classrooms or many, the building needs to feel welcoming to young children which can influence how classrooms are grouped, where shared resources are located to reduce walking distances, and how volume and views to outside are used to define spaces. An ECE campus may consist mainly of classrooms, or may have shared resources such as a library, multi-purpose room, fine motor and gross motor spaces, discovery labs, art and music classrooms, administrative offices, and space for related services such as speech/language, physical therapy, and social services. Many preschool/pre-K programs encourage independence amongst students – an intuitive building layout with thematic wayfinding that is appropriate for pre-literate children can help the building be used as a teaching tool to promote independence.

Learning Environment Design

Unlike classrooms for older students, ECE classrooms should support learning through play and enable the creation of varied activity centers such as dramatic play, sensory exploration, building blocks, literacy, art, technology, and movement, for small group and individual exploration. Classrooms for infants and toddlers often must meet specific requirements for crib or cot spacing and may require space for car seat storage and privacy for nursing mothers. Restrooms/changing rooms are usually attached to each classroom or pair of classrooms to enable supervision and assistance with toileting and provide easy access to changing supplies. Classroom materials should be durable enough to stand up well to robust use and regular sanitizing while providing a welcoming background for instructional displays. Outdoor learning environments should provide a variety of opportunities for gross motor play, sensory play, discovery, and interaction with nature. Depending on the school’s scale and outdoor play schedule, this can be a single large area or several different outdoor learning spaces, and may need to include child restrooms and trike storage rooms that can be accessed from the playground.

D/P/S has extensive experience designing early childhood education environments including:

  • Districtwide early childhood campuses for preschool and pre-K students
  • Preschool additions to existing elementary schools
  • Standalone childcare centers serving infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
  • Head Start programs
  • Preschools that serve students with special needs
  • Childcare centers located within high school or college campuses
  • Church-based early childhood education programs
  • Special needs preschools integrated into a new elementary school

What We Create

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini is an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm that has served public and private clients for 60 years. Our staff includes architects, interior designers, planners, structural engineers, landscape architects, and experts in sustainable design in offices in Albuquerque, NM; Phoenix, AZ; Las Cruces, NM; and Amarillo, TX. As a regional leader in design excellence and sustainability, we have successfully completed thousands of projects by collaborating directly with owners and communities.


Our professionals are experienced in primary, secondary, and post-secondary facility design to provide specialty design services for a variety of educational facilities. This diverse pool of talent enables us to develop innovative design solutions that draw upon the best ideas and practices from throughout the Southwest. A well-designed building not only provides an aesthetically pleasing and functional environment for the people who work and learn in them, but also centers on a balanced response to changing ideas in teaching with recognition of our client’s reputation and traditions.


We are an award-winning, multidisciplinary design firm that has served public and private clients  for more than 55 years. To better respond to our clients’ needs, we have concentrated our design and technical resources into “Practice Areas,” where our personnel specialize in building types such as housing, commercial, healthcare, government and education. Through the Practice Area concept, designers work on the projects they are passionate about, honing their skills specific to that type, keeping abreast of the latest trends, and training the next generation of designers.


We provide specialty design services for a variety of commercial projects, including workplaces, mixed-use developments, retail, and restaurants. We have experience with commercial projects in markets throughout the Southwest, as well as major markets elsewhere in the United States. Our diverse pool of talent enables us to develop innovative design solutions that draw upon the best ideas and practices from throughout the nation. A well-designed building provides an “edge” to our clients, whether the task at hand is to reach out to customers or to recruit and retain tenants and employees.

Landscape Architecture

We provide landscape architecture services to all of the specialized design groups within our offices as well as to external clients. The Landscape Architecture team focuses on the planning and design of exterior places  – with a thorough understanding of real estate development and the interrelatedness of structures, land, and people. From project inception to the close of construction, our landscape team makes important contributions to a collaborative, multidisciplinary design process with their expertise in concept development, site planning & design, and landscape design.


We are committed to delivering quality multi-family housing. With full-time dedicated staff, we have developed the knowledge, resources, and networks to deliver the best, most well-designed product for our clients. We work closely with our clients to quickly produce graphic packages that illustrate flexible solutions that can be easily priced and worked into a pro forma. Focusing on the amenities, construction costs, rent structure, and financing options very early in the process helps give shape to the finished product.

Structural Engineering

We provide structural engineering services to all of the specialized architecture design groups across our firm, as well as for external clients. Our goal is to create a truly integrated structural solution for any design challenge. We strive towards creative and efficient design solutions, utilizing a wide variety of structural systems and building materials. To accomplish this, we are involved in projects from inception to final punchlist.


We provide specialty design and planning services for a variety of public clients. Our professionals have “hands on” experience with civic projects throughout the southwest, including personnel who have project experience while serving in the public sector. Their talent enables us to develop innovative planning and design solutions that draw upon “lessons learned” from the various public agencies served. 


As a leader in the field, we have over 20 years’ experience in the design of healthcare facilities. With more than 20 multi-disciplined personnel, our Healthcare Group has collectively worked on more than 250 healthcare projects. Our group has created master plans for medical centers, planned new hospitals and hospital additions, orchestrated major renovations to outdated hospitals and created spaces for highly specialized equipment.


We have extensive experience in the design of LEED buildings, and we’re committed to incorporating appropriate sustainable strategies into our projects. Although sustainable design has recently become a popular national trend, our firm has embraced this concept for many years as responsible design professionals. We have realized energy efficient projects for our unique climate by using common sense approaches to building siting, solar orientation, appropriate fenestration, building mass, appropriate mechanical systems, and the use of building materials readily available in our region.


We provide a wide range of planning and design services, from conceptual land use plans to design guidelines to municipal submittals and approvals. We excel at providing integrated design and planning solutions that are market-driven and sustainable. Projects range from large-scale master planned communities to small in-fill tracts. Our group utilizes the design expertise of the firm and a collaborative approach to maximize development opportunities for the client. With our integrated team of planners, landscape architects, and architects, we can generate initial design concepts and take projects through to construction documents.

Interior Design

We believe the successful interior design of a space requires a collaborative effort. We work as a team with our clients and consultants - a team with a common goal of achieving the most dynamic results, smoothly and reliably. Our staff of Interior Designers and Interior Architects provide the highest level of expertise in design and construction.

In Progress

Our passion is to help our clients realize their dreams by partnering with them through a collaborative, multidisciplined process that recognizes new trends and utilizes technologies to create functional, comfortable, and stimulating places. Browse some of our newest projects that are currently in construction.