As with most design disciplines, school architecture advances and develops according to trends and circumstances. Worldwide educational establishments are embracing the emerging innovations and trends in school architecture, where safety, flexibility and comfort are prioritised while incorporating a sense of community and connection with nature. The COVID-19 pandemic has played an important role in the latest developments in school architecture. Architects, designers, and educators have started reimagining the traditional classroom setting and are now also prioritising well-being and safety for staff and students, not just education.
Innovations that are being used include integrating technology in establishments, creating flexible, student-centred spaces that promote collaboration, maximising natural lighting, and prioritising sustainability. Other cost-effective solutions innovations, influenced by the pandemic, include enhancing health and safety measures like improved ventilation systems, using touchless technology, adaptable spaces that allow for easy rearrangements in case of a need for physical distancing, and the integration of hybrid teaching and learning models.
The nature of education and school architecture is evolving to enhance student engagement and knowledge acquisition by providing students with better access to learning resources and educators with better instructional capabilities. These trends emphasise the importance of lifelong education, digitalisation, and preparing students for future careers. School architecture adapts and evolves to meet the changing needs of society by embracing innovative design and technology to create engaging and future-ready environments.
Reimagining Traditional Structures with Flexible Spaces.
The emerging trends in school architecture greatly involve creating innovative and adaptable learning spaces that prioritise student-centred approaches and safety.
Designers are creating flexible and blended learning spaces that simultaneously support in-person, remote, and hybrid learning experiences. Creating diverse learning areas, quiet zones, collaboration zones, and interactive spaces allow for personalised learning, project-based learning, and student-led initiatives. By incorporating areas where students can relax with cosy fabrics and gaming zones, along with touches of nature, comfortable and encouraging environments are created that maximise the learning experience. Corridors and other informal areas are utilised as learning spaces that encourage further student interactions and create an engaging environment outside traditional classrooms.
Alternative, interchangeable seating arrangements that maximise student engagement and participation are placing traditional rows of desks. These arrangements encourage collaboration, more comfortable flexibility, and better opportunities for educators to monitor individuals and offer personalised attention.
Education establishments adopt a hybrid approach by integrating modular and traditional design elements. This approach offers cost-effective solutions that can be customised to match the aesthetics and requirements of each establishment. These solutions allow classrooms to be personalised while ensuring safety with movable furniture, socially distanced seating layouts, portable technology, and mobile whiteboards. Using flooring that can withstand wear and tear from furniture movement is another element the hybrid approach offers.
Embracing Technology in the Classroom.
School architecture has fully embraced integrating technology in the classroom, creating smart and connected environments. Advancements like automated systems, IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and advanced connectivity setups further develop smart and sustainable educational environments.
Equipping classrooms and spaces with advanced tools and devices, such as interactive displays, digital projectors, wireless connectivity, and touchless technology, enhances the learning experience for students both in person and remotely. Through these implementations, collaboration is enabled, and access to educational resources is provided, which can also be shared between other connected schools and smart spaces. Technology integration creates a controlled and productive environment while ensuring safety and security.
Personalised learning is becoming more important. Design considerations that support this include multiple power sources, internet access points, and classroom Wi-Fi hotspots allowing students to use their devices effectively and access information easily.
Enhancing Safety and Security Measures.
The safety and security of students and staff within the school environment are being enhanced by implementing measures such as controlled access systems, surveillance systems, emergency response protocols, and durable and secure building materials to protect against potential threats and accelerate emergency response remotely and on-site.
Safety is a top concern in school architecture, with schools reconfiguring classrooms to accommodate fewer students and implementing hand sanitising stations. Products and design elements that are easy to clean and maintain are utilised.
Innovative Use of Space and Infrastructure.
Further progression for school architecture beyond additions of integrated technology and new organisational ideas involves innovative physical space utilisation and design approaches. Beyond simply incorporating different functional spaces, as discussed earlier, learning environments are being enhanced and optimised by incorporating maximised natural lighting. Acoustics and bright colours can create inviting spaces and dedicated areas for specific functions, like quiet reflection or engagement.
Mindfully designed environments with a calming atmosphere that promotes mental well-being and a sense of safety and connection are becoming essential in school architecture. Improving acoustics to increase noise reduction is vital for minimising distractions and promoting engagement. School architecture solutions, such as amphitheatre seating arrangements and appropriate noise-reducing materials, help create acoustically balanced learning environments. Decorative acoustics also play a role in creating comfortable and visually appealing spaces.
Using natural materials like ceramic tile, recycled metals, and reclaimed wood to bring the beauty of nature indoors, along with calming colours inspired by nature, help to reduce stress and create a relaxed atmosphere. By creating comforting and inviting atmospheres in spaces, students are given spaces that offer privacy and individuality, which helps to individualise and increase the success of the learning experience. Designing spaces that prioritise comfort, relaxation, and a sense of ease, resembling the warmth and familiarity of the home, increases student interaction and willingness.
School architecture trends regarding space planning focus on individualised experiences, addressing health and well-being. There is a need for greater distancing and comfort of all users by creating more spacious and ventilated spaces. Larger spaces can be designed for safer student interaction, with maximised natural light, incorporated biophilic design elements, taller ceilings, wider hallways, and bump-out spaces. Improved indoor air quality and ventilation are a big priority. Although budget challenges may arise in updating ageing HVAC systems, the overall improvement is well worth it.
Blending Indoor and Outdoor Learning Environments
Another big trend in school architecture is the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces to create lively learning environments. Blending indoor and outdoor spaces enhances a hands-on learning experience with a nature connection and exploration.
Natural light, which can energise a space, improve mood, and enhance focus and alertness, is a great way to blend these two environments. Daylighting is a cost-efficient way to use natural light to increase visual comfort and cognitive performance. Daylighting can be implemented by using walls of windows, multi-level lighting, skylights, and clerestory windows. The increased use of glass and clear glass partitions will create a connection with the outdoors while sharing light between rooms.
Indoor air pollution is a significant health risk, and the movement to improve air quality significantly affects school architecture. By upgrading air quality monitoring and HVAC systems, including high-efficiency filters, ionic air purifiers, and UV irradiation systems, contaminants can be removed, and indoor air quality can be improved, reducing sicknesses and missed school days.
Integrating nature and biophilic design with school architecture can improve a building’s self-regulation, energy consumption, and overall performance. This incorporation also creates healthier, more supportive student environments with enhanced engagement and learning outcomes. Research suggests increased contact with nature improves academic performance, social-emotional well-being, memory, and attention, reducing fatigue.
Design strategies that prioritise student-centred learning and well-being include creating outdoor spaces as extensions of indoor classrooms to provide additional learning areas with maximised space, connecting façades with openable doors and windows, such as sliding glass walls assist with seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces, allowing students to spread out and work alone or in groups.
Vertical schools can use their height to provide unique views of nature and outdoor experiences, while daylight views of nature can be provided with comfortable window seats/nooks.
Safe, communal outdoor spaces like designed courtyards and gardens can become learning squares and open-air classrooms. Connecting to indoor learning areas using natural materials like timber create visually appealing links and sensory experiences. By incorporating nature and biophilic design principles into school architecture, educational spaces can create healthier, more connected, and supportive environments that enhance student and staff well-being and educational outcomes.
Sustainable and Eco-Friendly School Architecture.
Sustainability and environmental considerations are fundamental to trends in school architecture. School architecture prioritises eco-friendly design, incorporating plants, living walls, and outdoor spaces to improve air quality, reduce toxins, and promote student well-being.
Sustainable cleaning practices and the use of eco-friendly products are also encouraged. Students and schools are increasingly concerned about the environment, aiming to make a positive impact. Designers and architects collaborate with schools to create sustainable learning spaces, utilising environmentally friendly materials and furnishings that meet LEED and WELL building standards. The focus is on energy efficiency and adopting proactive measures to promote eco-friendliness throughout the school environment.
The future of school architecture holds immense promise for enhancing students’ learning journey while also bettering the environments around them. By embracing flexibility, integrating nature, leveraging technology, and prioritising student well-being, school architecture is ready to create transformative educational experiences.
The traditional boundaries of classrooms are dissolving, giving way to dynamic, adaptable spaces that inspire collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation. Architects, designers, and educators must continue pushing the boundaries of traditional school architecture, embrace sustainable practices, and embrace the ever-evolving needs of students. By doing so, we can create educational environments that nurture the growth and potential of every learner. School architecture is a field of endless possibilities, where the physical spaces become catalysts for knowledge, creativity, and lifelong learning.
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- School architecture advances and develops according to trends and circumstances. (ArchDaily, 2023)
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- Trends in school architecture are moving away from traditional rows of desks. (Hamilton, 2018)
Hamilton, J. (2018). vacant white painted classroom with chairs, tables , and map on the wall. Unsplash.com. Unsplash. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/jrRe6er0pY0 [Accessed 9 Jul. 2023].
- Integrating technology in the classroom enhances the learning experience for students both in person and remotely. (Eliason, 2018)
Eliason, K. (2018). a group of people in a room with a projector screen. Unsplash.com. Unsplash. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/1-aA2Fadydc [Accessed 9 Jul. 2023].
- Decorative acoustics also play a role in creating comfortable and visually appealing spaces. (Buildinganddecor.co.za, 2023)
Buildinganddecor.co.za (2023). Classroom acoustics: 5 steps to successful learning. Buildinganddecor.co.za. Available at: https://www.buildinganddecor.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Classroom_acoustics_aluglass.jpg [Accessed 9 Jul. 2023].
- By creating comforting and inviting atmospheres in spaces, the learning experience increases. (Innoveedu.org, 2023)
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- Daylighting is a cost-efficient way to use natural light to increase visual comfort. (Stantec, 2021)
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- Courtyards and gardens can become learning squares and open-air classrooms. (LPA Design Studios, 2022)
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- Image 8: School architecture prioritises eco-friendly design to promote student well-being. (EcoWowLife, 2021)
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