Planning & Design

There are many factors that influence the design of effective and efficient learning environments. Learn more about site selection and space planning; meeting the needs of urban, suburban and rural communities; historic preservation and adaptive reuse; accessibility, design guidelines, and more.



  • Outdoor Learning Spaces

    Reimagine Outdoor Spaces as Dynamic Learning Environments

    We've all heard it a million times. "Go outside and get some fresh air." Well, Mom was right, and not just about being bored on a summer afternoon. There’s solid research that shows taking the classroom outside can be a game-changer, especially when it is introduced early to our youngest learners. 07/02/2024

  • Universal Design for Learning
    Image courtesy of Studio G Architects

    Building Inclusivity: Universal Design for Learning in K–12 Education

    Approximately 15 percent of children in U.S. public schools receive special education support or services—with some states reporting numbers over 20 percent—and these figures are rapidly increasing. When considering English language learners, the numbers climb even higher. As school districts prioritize the inclusion of all learners, school design teams can support district initiatives by integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into the fabric of educational environments. 06/11/2024

  • Evidence-Based Design

    Improving Test Scores & Student Well-Being: Why Education Facilities Should Prioritize Biophilic Design

    As design professionals, we know the impact our physical surroundings can have on occupants – open spaces can inspire a sense of grandiosity but create a lot of noise, certain colors feel calming while others build excitement, curved lines soften a space while straight lines add intensity. These are all well-known tenants of design, but only in the past few decades have we used science to support these claims. 05/28/2024

  • Classroom Design

    Elevate Classroom Environments, Create Positive Learning Outcomes with Color

    Color selection for classrooms must rely on evidence-based design and principles to enhance engagement and, more importantly, support both teachers and the students in the desired outcomes for their time within classrooms and learning spaces. 05/28/2024

  • Learning Space Design
    futuristic classroom

    The Future of Learning Environments: Flexibility, Simplicity, Connectivity

    Spaces4Learning recently convened a panel of ed tech experts to discuss how technology and design can help create a better learning experience for all students — and how institutions can plan, design, and assess their own vision for the classroom of the future. 04/03/2024

  • Predictions & Trends

    Spaces4Learning 2024 Predictions for Educational Facilities: Part 3

    We asked our readership to send us their predictions for 2024 trends in educational facilities. Across K–12 and higher-education campuses both, we asked for opinions on topics like technology, flexible learning spaces, campus safety & security, disaster response, and more. This article is the third in a three-part series compiling responses from educational professionals and vendors. 02/08/2024

  • Predictions & Trends

    Spaces4Learning 2024 Predictions for Educational Facilities: Part 1

    We asked our readership to send us their predictions for 2024 trends in educational facilities. Across K–12 and higher-education campuses both, we asked for opinions on topics like technology, flexible learning spaces, campus safety & security, disaster response, and more. This article is the first in a three-part series compiling responses from educational professionals and vendors. 02/01/2024

  • Healthy Schools

    Unveiling the Research-Based Benefits of Sensory Movement Pathways for Children

    Incorporating sensory movement pathways in schools can offer several benefits for students' physical, cognitive, and emotional development. These pathways are designed to engage multiple senses and provide students with a structured way to engage in physical movement throughout the day. Sensory movement pathways, also known as sensory pathways or sensory trails, have gained attention for their potential benefits in promoting children's physical, cognitive, and emotional development. 12/05/2023

  • Building Blueprints

    Community-Driven Design for Next-Generation Learning: A Case Study of Upper Arlington High School

    “Your voice matters” defined the Upper Arlington, Ohio, High School master planning and design process, and it was the catalyst behind the project to improve aging facilities in this high-performing district. 11/28/2023

  • Designing for SEL

    An Open-Door Policy: Designing for Social-Emotional Learning

    While these design goals sought to balance the various needs of a school, they also supported social-emotional learning (SEL), which focuses on fostering social and emotional skills within school curricula. SEL can take many forms, but it generally adheres to five central competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. 11/14/2023

  • Campus Design

    Delivering Successful Career & Technical Education (CTE) Spaces that Spark a Sense of Curiosity

    Creating successful spaces to spark curiosity, collaboration and confidence for students starts with several key programming and design considerations. 11/08/2023

  • Building Blueprints

    Case Study: Modernizing a 1960s L.A. School with Biophilic Design

    The client was Grover Cleveland Charter High School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District in Los Angeles, Calif. The challenge, modernizing a 1960s-era, single-story school to double its square footage to accommodate additional students and to follow biophilic design goals that would benefit students and foster collaboration and social interaction. 06/20/2023

  • Active Learning Spaces

    Bringing STEAM to Life in the K–12 Classroom

    What if you could apply crucial STEAM concepts in a way that engages students like never before? 05/30/2023

  • Learning Space Design

    Designing Learning Spaces for Generation Alpha

    Generation Alpha is the class of digital natives born after 2010—currently learning, exploring, and growing in PK–12 environments. What makes them different than past generations of learners? Technology has been ingrained into them as part of their childhoods. 05/23/2023

  • Facility Focus

    Francis Tuttle Technology Center: Danforth Campus

    The Francis Tuttle Technology Center, one of the premier career training schools in Oklahoma, enlisted architecture and design firm Bockus Payne in the creation of the Francis Tuttle Danforth Campus in Edmond, Okla. 02/22/2023

  • Design Guidelines
    small classroom with three children sitting on puffs

    The "Human" in Human-Centered, Evidence-Based Design for Education

  • science classroom

    Building Blueprints Vertical Learning

    Schools In Focus podcast logo on the left and Ishita Banerjii

    Schools In Focus: KSU’s New Multicultural Student Center

    Ishita Banerjii, project architect at Hollis + Miller, discusses Kansas State University’s new multicultural student center. The building, dedicated to advance student diversity, features various gathering spaces like dance studios, huddle rooms, and a commercial kitchen. 12/08/2020

  • Adaptive Reuse
    The volume of the existing structure of CEC Fort Collins High School offered an opportunity to bring daylight in from above, creating a community space within the hallway.

    Adaptive Reuse Offers Schools an Opportunity to Innovate, Embrace Sustainability and Reduce Costs

    As the education industry assimilates to a new and uncertain future, we can take one lesson from 2020 with us: we must embrace innovative solutions and have the courage to try new things as we plan for the future. Adaptive reuse can support this endeavor. 11/16/2020

    Schools In Focus Podcast logo and headshots Turan Duda and Jeff Paine.

    Schools In Focus: Centering Student Health and Wellness In Design

    In this episode of Schools In Focus, Turan Duda and Jeff Paine, founding principals of Duda|Paine Architects, discuss how architectural design is shifting to better address the mental and physical health needs of students. 11/10/2020

  • Classroom Spaces
    Outdoor learning pavilion at Linden Waldorf School in Nashville, TN.

    With New Open-Air Classrooms, Nashville Private School Moves Learning Outdoors

    With a curriculum centered on connection to nature and environmental stewardship, Linden Waldorf School's vision for the pavilions were to move all classes completely outdoors where students get to be in nature throughout the whole school day. 11/06/2020

  • Planning
    Visioning workshops with district and community representatives help uncover concerns and goals. Photo: Courtesy of Finegold Alexander Architects.

    CommUnity: Uniting Communities through School Design

    At the onset of a project, the design team and the district must unite to develop the appropriate “Visioning Process” to gain input from teachers, administrators, parents, students, and members of the public. This typically takes the form of in-person workshops or on virtual platforms as we encountered this past spring. The architect can then use that feedback to develop a customized school design that meets the district’s goals and expectations. 09/09/2020

  • Episode 5
    Schools In Focus Podcast logo and Stu Rothenberger

    Schools In Focus: Rethinking Higher Ed Spaces

    Stu Rothenberger, Principal at DLR Group, discusses flexibility on a campus scale, the need for long-term resiliency plans, tackling equity issues, and creating smaller interaction spaces in a post-COVID19 learning environment. 08/12/2020

  • Planning
    Man speaking in a video conference.

    How to Keep COVID-19 from Negatively Impacting Learning Space Design

    Here are five ways that K-12 school districts can keep their learning space design projects on track in a world where social distancing rules and shutdowns interfere with normal operations. 07/22/2020

  • Design-Build
    academic design and construction

    Why Design-Build Merits Serious Consideration for Academic Design & Construction

    The academic sector is the perfect use case for exploring how design-build is the best delivery system for mitigating risk, increasing the speed of delivery, lowering costs, and delivering great design – all through a simpler, more collaborative process. 07/01/2020

  • Sensory Rooms
    sensory room

    Sensory Rooms May Help Ease the Anxiety Students Feel from COVID-19

    The stimulating environment of a sensory room may heighten awareness, provide a sense of security and comfort, improve creativity, promote mental and physical relaxation, and even decrease aggressive behaviors. 07/01/2020

  • proper distancing in schools

    Rethinking School Spaces and Structures to Maintain Proper Distancing Amid COVID-19

    When students finally return to school after months of learning from home, there will be dramatic changes. Even when K-12 leaders are allowed to reopen their facilities, doing so safely and responsibly will require everyone to maintain proper distancing while they’re at school, experts agree — at least until there is a working vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. 07/01/2020

  • Planning and Design
    Austin Community College, Elgin Campus. Photo by Mark Menjivar.

    Design Considerations for Supporting Student Resiliency

    How can higher education institutions incorporate student success in their resilience planning process as they consider future impacts on campuses? And how can design professionals use their knowledge and skills to support this effort? 06/23/2020

  • Facilities
    NC State University’s Talley Student Union

    Design for Post-Millennials: How Gen Z Is Shaping Higher Ed Spaces

    They are the first generation to be immersed in technology since birth, experiencing it as an extension of daily life. As future Gen Zers progress through our learning institutions, their characteristics, wants and needs will further shape K-12 education environments, university campuses and future workplaces. 05/25/2020

  • Reopening Schools
    Woman taking the temperature of a child who is wearing a face mask and a backpack with a contactless thermometer.

    Here’s What Designers and Architects Anticipate Schools Will Look Like in the Fall and After COVID-19

    We asked designers and architects from across the country what they anticipate classrooms will look like in the fall if they were to reopen, how the coronavirus will impact school design in the long-term, and suggestions on design concepts schools can implement right away to help with social distancing in facilities. Their answers offer insight to available design options and possibilities that can help school leaders plan and make the best decisions for their students and staff. 05/18/2020

  • COVID-19
    Empty classroom. Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

    UPDATED: Resources for Educational Facilities During COVID-19

    With COVID-19 changing the educational landscape each day, school and college decision makers need all the help they can get during this global crisis. Here are some resources on everything schools and colleges need to consider regarding educational facilities, construction, design and planning of new facilities, maintenance, managing employees and much more. (Updated 5/13) 05/13/2020

  • Reopening Schools
    A woman architect looking at blueprints with her laptop open.

    What Schools and Colleges Have to Rethink for Fall 2020

    The fall of 2020 will be different. Nobody knows for sure what it will look like, but most would agree that it will be different, which raises many questions for those of us involved in the construction and design of academic facilities. 05/01/2020

  • STEM
    The Berkner STEM Exploration Center features flexible and adaptable spaces.

    First Look: Berkner STEM Exploration Center

    When students return to school at Richardson Independent School District near Dallas, Texas, they will be able to utilize a brand-new state-of-the-art STEM facility that is open to all K-12 students in the district. Designed by Perkins and Will, the Berkner STEM Exploration Center was created for students of all ages. 04/01/2020

  • Expert Viewpoint
    4 Reasons to Build Choice into Classroom Design — and How to Make It Work for Students

    4 Reasons to Build Choice into Classroom Design — and How to Make It Work for Students

    Teaching and learning are undergoing significant transformation, but, by and large, the design of classrooms has not transformed at the same rate. Here are six key elements of a modern and highly engaging learning space that both supports and encourages 21st century learning: choice, comfort, versatility, connection, stimulation and technology. 04/01/2020

  • facilities
    Learning in Lounge Areas

    Extending the Classroom

    Learning is no longer restricted to the classroom or the library. Increasing the use and appeal of the space in between classrooms and other traditional learning environments can play a key role in teaching and learning. 03/30/2020

  • Interior Design
    Caption: Single leaf sliding doors support North Creek High School’s (NCHS) collaborative culture in Bothell, Washington. Credit: © Chris Eden /

    Collaborative Design Through the Lens of Interior Sliding Doors

    In Bothell, Washington, Dykeman, Inc. worked with the Northshore School District to create a flexible, innovative learning center for 1,600 students centered on collaboration. They incorporated state-of-the-art interior single leaf sliding doors and hardware into eight "collaboration cubes" to pave the way for project-based and problem-based group learning, without compromising design. 03/25/2020

  • Episode 2
    Schools In Focus Podcast logo and Todd Ferking, principal at DLR Group

    Schools In Focus Podcast: 2020 Education Design Trends

    In this episode, Todd Ferking of DLR Group talks about education design that is geared toward the future. 03/04/2020

  • facilities
    North Carolina School of Science and Math Morganton Greenway

    Master Planning the Outdoors: Spaces for the Life of a Campus

    Some common strategies and parallel considerations are at play in all master planning for the outdoors. Each campus must first be approached on its own terms, free of predispositions on planning. 03/02/2020

  • Planning & Design
    Pathfinder Kindergarten Center: photo ©Chris Roberts, courtesy of DLR Group

    K-12 Design Trends to Watch in 2020

    Just as Winston Churchill once said, “we shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us,” designers must consider how education environments of the next decade will shape student behavior. 02/26/2020

    Children using tools like a screwdriver to tinker with a robot on a table.

    Design Trends Influencing STEM Education

    Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are crucial parts of today's curriculum. When it comes to maximizing learning outcomes, many schools focus on the equipment and technology available. However, design also has a significant impact. 02/19/2020

  • Episode 1
    Spaces4Learning recently launched Schools In Focus, a podcast spotlighting K-12 school design, planning and management.

    Introducing Schools In Focus Podcast

    Spaces4Learning recently launched a podcast focused on K-12 school design, planning and management. 01/27/2020

  • Facilities
    Designing Faculty Spaces

    The Time Is Now to Create High-Performing Faculty Spaces

    Increasingly, leading institutions are recognizing that the time is now to focus on workspaces that allow their faculty members to perform research and other academic activities effectively while simultaneously nurturing meaningful relationships with their students. 11/21/2019

  • Facilities
    Laboratory Design

    Lab Design: Keeping People in Mind

    A people-centered focus of the design of lab spaces can encourage engagement and place more emphasis on the purpose of the lab, leading to success for the institution. 11/06/2019

  • Interiors
    adaptable educational space

    Preparing Students for an Unpredictable Future

    Creating an adaptable space is only one component of the agile classroom. What we teach and how we teach are just as important. 11/01/2019

  • Space Planning
    College students

    Optimizing Campus Space to Create a Better Student Experience

    Colleges and universities are rethinking the traditional use of space, taking innovative approaches, and using analytics and advanced scheduling technologies to optimize their existing resources. 10/07/2019

  • reinventing learning

    A Roadmap for Reinventing Learning

  • Interiors
    Copenhagen school

    Designing with an Eye to the Future

  • Facilities (Campus Spaces)

    Transforming Traditional Campus Buildings

    With careful planning and craft, architecturally significant buildings can take on new life through interior renovations that create up-to-date spaces while retaining historic integrity. 10/01/2019

  • Construction Methods
    storm shelter

    Winds of Change: Storm Shelter Design Guidance

    In recent years, the International Building Code has mandated that all new construction for K–12 schools in most of the Midwest and South Central United States include a community storm shelter. This article will explain the requirements of storm shelter design and explore best practices for planning and construction. 09/01/2019

  • Facilities (Campus Spaces)
    quiet spaces

    Shhh. How to Design Campus Quiet Spaces

    Students need space and time for quiet study, reflection, mediation, and stillness. Here’s a look at what goes into the design of quiet spaces in order to make them both welcoming and effective. 09/01/2019