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School buildings are an integral part in the formal education of the student. They are to be designed and constructed in such a way that will enhance the potential of each student and boost the learning process. There are many considerations when designing and building a school. Some of these include:
Accessibility – Schools buildings must be designed in such a way that will provide equal access to all. It must also be designed to be flexible to increase the probability of being able to provide equal access throughout the life-cycle of the facilities.
Aesthetics – Focusing on the physical appearance of the school must not be neglected. The school building must be attractive and pleasing to the eye, with a similar context of the neighborhood, in order to develop a sense of ownership and pride among the members of the community, most especially to the teachers/staff and students of the school. In addition, there should be a clear balance between the exterior features of the school and the neighborhood, reflecting the values of the community, while the interior features should develop the learning process.
Cost-effectiveness – Being cost-effective does not mean that the quality of the school building will be compromised, rather, being cost-effective means that the school should use facilities that can save money over time by balancing the design and constructions costs with the costs of maintaining and operating the facility.
Functionality – The school must be able to give a high quality formal education to its students as it has promised by creating a learning environment that will enhance and speedup the learning process.
Productivity – A productive school must be able to provide the students and teachers a comfortable, safe and healthy environment in order to achieve maximum potential.
Security – A safe and secure school building has always been and is still the most important goal of project managers, engineers and architects. A safe and secure school building must have a fire protection system, must consider the safety and health of its occupants and visitors, must be able to resist natural hazards, and must be able to effectively secure the assets of the school (material assets and human assets – occupants and visitors).
Sustainability – With all the talk on global warming and climate change, the concern for the environment has grown tremendously. Considering that every activity has a direct and indirect impact on the environment, school building construction and operations are not exempt from impacting the environment as it uses raw materials and water and energy resources, and in turn, produces solid and liquid waste and gas emissions. A sustainable school must optimize site potential, energy use and operational and maintenance practices, use environment-friendly products and materials, conserve water and enhance environmental quality within the school building.
Community-Centered – As a community-centered school, it must be able to serve the community as a whole.
Considering all the elements of a school building stated above, this paper will provide a comprehensive planning and design of a school. The school designed and planned in this paper will cater secondary students, which will generally include grades 9 to 12. The total number of students will be approximately 250 to 300 students.
Essential Spaces Needed
The following are the different spaces that will constitute the school building. Each of it will be discussed in the following section.
The Administration Unit
The administration unit is particularly important in any type of school as it provides a specific hub for its staff, as well as an area for interaction between the staff, students and parents. The school’s administration unit will be located at the main entrance of the school, which is directly accessible to the public and may be accessed after school hours and on weekends. The administration unit will include private offices for the school’s principal and assistant principal and open offices for its clerks, a lobby with a visitor’s waiting area, a small conference room for meetings and small conferences and a faculty room for teachers. The lobby will have writing and seating surfaces used for completing forms and notes. The faculty room will have enough space for administrative activities such as photocopying, assembling and fastening documents needed for their classes. The administration unit will also have spaces for storage of their office supplies, equipments (i.e. computers, printers, scanners, copiers, telephones, etc.), LAN central location, and mail boxes. This unit will also provide adult restrooms for the employees and its visitors.
Lounge for Faculty and Staff
This space will be especially designed for the teachers and staff of the school for relaxation, small informal meetings with other teachers and staff, and dining. The lounge will be located near the administration unit.
Health Services Unit
Located next to the administration unit, the health services unit will provide health services to the students and employees of the school. It should be noted that information taken from the health services unit are private and confidential, and so, the students’ health records and information will be properly stored and will only be disclosed to appropriate people such as the school’s administrators, their teachers and counselors and healthcare aides. The health services unit will include a cot room, an examination area for visiting doctors and other healthcare professionals, a nurse’s desk, a ten-foot long eye examination lane, a first aid space, patients’ waiting area and a private storage for medical supplies, equipments and medications.
Counseling and Attendance Unit
The counseling and attendance unit will serve as an area for guidance and counseling programs and a service center for students arranging their enrolment and transfers, as well as an area for the maintenance of students’ attendance records and files. Sometimes joined together with the administration unit and located next to the main entrance, the counseling area where counselors administer psychological examinations, discuss exam results and problems with the students and their parents, and keep records and files of each student. This unit will include private offices for the counselors with a working space, guest seating and computer workstation, interview and testing areas, and a waiting area for guests.
Probably the central element of any school, the classrooms will be designed for approximately 25 to 30 students per class. There will be a total of ten classrooms in this school with approximately 960 square feet each. The classrooms will be laid out in linear form accessed by internal corridors. They will be situated somewhere that is easily accessible to other essential areas critical for their studies such as the library or media center, PE facilities, administration and health services unit, cafeteria and restrooms.
Science classrooms, which are critical for learning practical applications of scientific theories, will be designed with approximately 1,300 square feet. Situated away from the other rooms, the science classrooms will have ample working spaces for fixed learning stations to perform their laboratory experiments and for lectures. The classroom will have a separate preparation room, which may be directly accessed from the science classroom. This separate preparation room will serve as a space for preparing and storing of supplies and equipments
Physical Education Facilities/Gymnasium
Physical education, intended to develop the physical and social skills of the students, need a gymnasium for its activities (i.e. individual/team sports, body mechanics, rhythmic lessons, health, safety and first aid sessions). The gymnasium will be approximately 7,500 square feet and will include sports areas, team rooms, showers and lockers. Other essential spaces will be for the lobby, ticket booth, press area, snack bar and laundry areas. The gymnasium will also have private offices for P.E. teachers and team coaches, usually in parallel sight to locker rooms, and public toilets, separate from the shower and locker areas. Situated adjacent to play fields, the gymnasium may be directly accessed by the public for community usage and after school hours. It will have a distinct entrance/exit gates for absolute control of events and will be fully secured from other areas of the school to avoid intrusion of other school spaces during weekend and evening events.
Library and Media Center
The school library and media center, designed to cater the augmentation of the instructional needs of the students, will be located at the heart of the academic spaces of the school, easily accessed by the students from their classrooms and by the public for community use and after school hours. Similar to the gymnasium, the library and media center will be properly secured from other areas of the school to avoid intrusion of other school spaces during weekend and evening events. This area will be designed to be visually appealing and pleasing to the students to encourage the development of positive attitudes towards researching, reading, studying and learning. This area will include computer stations for student usage (i.e. research/report writing), spaces for multimedia presentations, private office space for librarian and open workrooms for its staff. The library and media center will be fully equipped with technological equipments such as electrical outlets, data network connections, open and closed circuit televisions, and phone extensions.
Because the library and media center contains state-of-the-art media facilities and technology, as well as special collections of books and journals, the library and media center will be properly secured with visual supervision from the circulation desk to student work areas, stack space and study spaces and book-theft detection system located at exit points. Special book collections and media and technological equipments will also have a proper secure storage space, wherein students must ask for assistance from staff when they intend to use such books and equipments.
Food Services Unit
The food services unit will include the kitchen, cafeteria, lunch center and outdoor eating spaces. The kitchen is situated wherein it is directly accessible to the cafeteria and service and delivery vehicles, but is separated from the academic areas of the school. The kitchen will have a food preparation area, a serving area, an office, a changing area, locker rooms and restrooms for the staff, janitor/custodian room (for food services unit only) and storage rooms (walk-in freezer/refrigerator). The kitchen will have serving windows, stainless steel sinks and work surfaces, stainless steel counter tops for its serving areas, a dish shelf, an exhaust air system and a wet chemical fire extinguishing system.
The cafeteria will be located where it is directly accessible from the kitchen and to the lunch shelter and restrooms. There will be sufficient space for the waiting line in the cafeteria, with specific orientations in providing a smooth traffic flow. There will be covered sun and rain protection at the waiting line, food serving area and to the lunch shelter. Expecting to have plenty of trash from the cafeteria, there will be sufficient trash and recycling containers throughout the cafeteria and with an adjacent storage room for cleaning supplies.
The lunch shelter, while easily accessible to the cafeteria, will also be easily accessible to outdoor eating spaces. It will be designed in such a way that it can provide shelter from sun and rain, but with an open and airy atmosphere. The lunch shelter will have at least two drinking fountains within the vicinity.
Lastly, the outdoor eating spaces, which will supplement the school’s cafeteria and lunch shelter, will have tables and chairs and some benches. It will be designed in such a way that there is minimal heat reflection and glare, perhaps offering some shade to protect the students from the sun.
There will be separate restrooms for students and employees of the school. Restrooms for students will be located within 200 feet of all classrooms, while restrooms for the employees will be located near their workstations, also within 200 feet or less. Aside from this, restrooms will also be found in the different areas of the school to cater the occupants of the school’s different units mentioned such as the administrative unit, health services unit, library and media center, gymnasium, cafeteria, eating spaces, etc.
Similar to restrooms, drinking fountains will also be located in the different areas of the school to cater the occupants of the school’s different units and other public areas where students will gather together. They may be placed next to the student restroom entries and eating spaces and inside and outside the gymnasium and other P.E. facilities. The drinking fountains will not be made of stainless steel, especially those that are subjected to direct sunlight, to avoid heat upsurge inside the unit.
There will be two types of lockers: books lockers and P.E. lockers. Each student will have one book locker, located in locker recesses in covered walks or in corridors. P.E. lockers will be separately provided for male and female students and P.E. teachers. The lockers will be extremely visible for easy supervision. They will have built-in combination locks, with a master-key for emergency purposes.
There will be public payphones located within the school’s vicinity in an accessible route in compliance with the accessibility requirements.
Aside from the essential spaces provided, there are other considerations in the planning of the school building that will be discussed in this section in order to achieve maximum learning processes.
Comfort (Acoustic/Thermal and Visual Comfort)
To enhance the learning processes of the students, their comfort will be given priority. The noise levels of the school will be kept at minimum. These include noises from outside the school (i.e. noise from vehicles, aircrafts, etc.), corridors (i.e. conversations and foot traffic), other classrooms, mechanical equipments, and even noise from inside the classrooms. The school will also take note on the thermal comfort of the students and the teachers as it significantly affects their performances. The school will have independent controls in all classrooms to oversee and easily manage the temperature to facilitate the changes in activities, occupancy levels and personal preferences.
Visual comfort will also be given consideration in designing the school. With students occupied with a lot of visual tasks in school (i.e. reading and writing), the school will provide a balance combination of natural and artificial lighting systems. The school will also use pastel colors for the walls.
Modern schools use as much natural daylight as possible, since it provides the best quality source of light for visual tasks. Daylight enhances the appearance and color of the objects, while at the same time research has shown that the proper use of daylight also enhances the performance of the students. Furthermore, the use of daylight as a light source in the school also gives the school much cost-savings from electrical lighting. The school will optimize the use of daylighting, by using daylight in the classrooms and some offices within building, while at the same time, avoiding heat gain, heat loss and glare from the sun.
Safety and Security
The school will be safe and secured at all times by having a controlled access to the school premises. A secure fence will be built to control access to school grounds. Entrance and exit points will be limited and provided with security guards, with visual surveillance. High-risk spaces will be protected by high security locks. The design of the school will be in such a way that is easily surveyed – minimizing spaces hidden from sight, proper lighting outside the school to assist easy surveillance during nighttime and key public areas such as parking areas, drop-off points and entrance/exit points are easily visible from inside the building.
As part of the sustainability aim of the school, the materials used for construction will be significantly considered. The school will use materials that are durable, but at the same time non-toxic, highly recyclable and made more on recycled materials.
The HVAC system, which includes the heating, ventilating and air conditioning system of the school, is very important in providing a comfortable and healthy environment for the students, teachers, administrators and visitors. The school’s HVAC system will utilize a highly efficient equipment, appropriately sized for the demands of the school and comprise controls that will enhance the performance of the HVAC system.
The building envelope, which includes the roofs, windows, floors and walls of the school building, is critical in improve energy efficiency. The school will use an energy efficient building envelope that will put together and optimize the levels of insulation, shading, thermal mass, glazing and air leakage control through the use of shading devices, light colored surfaces and high performance glazing.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Accepting that nothing is constant except change, the school will be designed in order to cater flexibility and adaptability. The school will use flexible stations for equipment, easily movable and transferred to another area in case of modifications of the area. The different units within the school will be designed to give way to changes in furniture layouts and functions.
LA Unified School District. (2010, January). School Design Guide. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.laschools.org/employee/design/fs-design-guide/download/2010/LAUSD_School_Design_Guide_2010_Version.pdf?version_id=84218872
National Institute of Building Sciences. (2010). Retrieved March 25, 2010, from Whole Building Design Guide: http://www.wbdg.org/
New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation. (2007, May 15). 21st Century Schools Design Manual. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.njsda.gov/Business/Doc_Form/PDFsForms/DM.pdf
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