How to Avoid Negative Impacts of School Construction Projects on the Community

PART 3 IN A SERIES

Consider the community that surrounds and supports your school when planning for new builds and renovations

Schools are important assets to cities and towns. A neighborhood school is responsible for producing good future citizens and has a direct impact on the well-being of the community.

As a result, changes within a school don’t just affect the people who come to learn or work there every day. They affect parents, neighbors, partner organizations, and all community members. A new school or significant changes to an existing school—even when carefully planned—can have unintended consequences on the larger community.

Involving these external groups in the school build or renovation process will help to mitigate any of these potential negative consequences of the project. Here’s how:

1. Design with the community in mind.

Schools have a wide impact and a variety of uses. Outside of class, they are home to sporting events, academic competitions, and celebrations for students. They may also serve as a district polling place, host community events and meetings, or be a part of the city/town disaster plan.

These varying functions should be considered in the design of the building, accounting for appropriate meeting and event spaces. Also think about utilization by the public when planning parking, security, building access, and other campus features.

Allowing the larger community to provide input on these and other aspects of the project during early phases can help get buy-in. This is critical if public support for a referendum is needed to fund construction. Also be sure to work with the local police and fire department to gain their community insights and collaborate on safety needs of the campus.

2. Avoid cookie cutter solutions to unique challenges.

Just like every community is unique, so is every school. Community makeup dictates a school’s primary aim in serving its students. These factors can shift from district to district and city to city.

Attempting to apply a solution that may have worked in another district, city, state, or even another country could create unused space. While there’s nothing wrong with looking to other successful education spaces for inspiration, solutions should always be tailored to the specific needs of your school and student population.

3. Be considerate of your neighbors.

A school campus may be planted within a residential neighborhood or near other businesses and organizations. The footprint of the campus may impact daily life for the entire neighborhood, including things like traffic, lighting, and noise.

Consider how the school fits into the surrounding landscape and plan accordingly to minimize negative consequences. Also consider how the construction process—e.g. noise, dust, street closures—will affect surrounding residents and businesses.

4. Keep the community involved.

Just as you would update students, teachers, and parents about the project, plan for regular community progress updates. This is especially important when a referendum has been passed to make the project possible.

Post photos and updates to social media, start a project newsletter that anyone can subscribe to, provide updates at key community meetings. Give them a sense of ownership from start to finish, and make them feel like this building is theirs too.

It’s also important to give the community a method to provide feedback. Whether it is regularly scheduled committee meetings or a specific email inbox where they can direct their comments and questions, giving them an outlet to provide feedback will benefit both sides.

 

Learn More

Avoid unintended consequences of school construction projects on students and teachers, too.

Choosing a Construction Delivery Method for K-12 Building Projects

Construction Administrators

If you’re starting your first building or renovation project in your district—or even your first project in a long time—there can be a hefty learning curve. The processes are nuanced, there are endless acronyms and industry jargon, and many different people and organizations are involved.

For even the savviest of school administrators, it can be a very complicated and high-pressure process, especially when using public funds. One of the most important, and potentially difficult, decisions you’ll need to make during your project is which method of construction delivery to use.

 

What is Construction Delivery?

“Construction delivery” refers to the way in which the construction process is managed and services rendered in order to complete the project. There are a variety of construction delivery methods to choose from, and the one you decide on will determine the steps in the process and your role throughout.

In K-12 school construction projects, Owners typically use one of three common construction delivery methods: Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa), Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc), and Design-Bid-Build (DBB) without a construction manager.

There are several additional construction delivery methods, but we’ll focus on these three most common. To learn about other construction delivery methods, check out our e-magazine.

Role of a Construction Manager

Two of the three construction delivery methods we’ll discuss involve a construction manager (CM). The CM is hired by the project Owner (you) to be the point person who organizes and oversees all aspects of a construction project. This includes:

  • Managing the project schedule, including design and construction
  • Managing the project budget, including preparing cost estimates during the design process
  • Organizing and administering the bidding process
  • Serving as the primary point of communication and a liaison between contractors and the architecture/engineering (A/E) firm(s) that designed the building
  • Ensuring contractors construct the building according to the exact specifications of the design drawings
  • Working with the A/E to review construction work for quality assurance

A CM is essentially a middle man between all major players in the process. They work on behalf of the Owner and are deeply involved in the day-to-day aspects of construction.

When deciding if you need a CM, carefully consider who on your staff would manage the project otherwise. Does this person have recent experience managing complex construction projects and their many details and nuances? Does this person have excellent communication, organization, and project management skills? Does this person have the necessary knowledge of various disciplines involved, including electrical, mechanical, HVAC, carpentry, etc., to be able to oversee such work? And perhaps most importantly, does this person have the time available to manage the construction process in addition to his/her regular duties?

 

Construction Manager as Adviser (CMa)

 

What is it?

In this construction delivery method, the CMa performs all functions described above. While the CMa organizes the bidding process and manages the construction process, the Owner contracts directly with the contractors. Typically, the Owner will hold contracts with five to 10 different contractors chosen to complete the construction.

When do you choose it?

CMa is often used for larger, more complex projects—typically over $5 million. A CMa is paid a fee separate from the construction costs. This is typically 4-8% of the total construction cost. The Owner is essentially paying for a trusted adviser to guide them through the project.

What is your role as the Owner?

As the Owner in the CMa method, you hold the contracts with each contractor. This gives you control over the contractors, as well as the CMa and A/E. It also means you assume the risk associated with those contractual relationships.


Construction Manager as Constructor (CMc)

 

What is it?

In this method, also known as Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR), the CMc performs all functions described above. However, instead of the contractors being contracted with the Owner, they are contracted with the CMc. The CMc is paid a fee for pre-construction services, as well as a management fee, typically 4-8% of the total construction cost. In CMc, a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) for the cost of construction can also be used.

This method of construction delivery has been used on privately funded projects in Indiana for many years. Recently, Indiana law changed to permit CMc on publicly funded projects, including public schools. There are specific provisions that must be followed when using CMc.

When do you choose it?

Like the CMa method, CMc allows the Owner to step out of the day-to-day of the construction process by entrusting an experienced party to coordinate and oversee the work. The CMc method transfers the contractual authority and risk to the CMc. This is attractive to many Owners. CMc is often used on projects that require multiple phases of construction, have tight schedules, or have special site constraints.

What is your role as the Owner?

CMc allows you to step back further from the construction process, as you do not hold the contracts with the contractors. You are only contracted with the CMc and A/E. In this method, it’s important to establish the process in which construction costs are determined as part of the selection of the CMc.

 

Design-Bid-Build (DBB) without a CM

 

What is it?

DBB is the most traditional method of construction delivery. “Design-Bid-Build” describes the sequence of the project: the design is completed; the construction work is competitively bid by contractors; and the lowest, most responsive bidder is chosen. Usually, DBB involves the Owner contracting with one prime contractor—typically a general contractor, or GC—who is responsible for managing all construction activities.

The A/E prepares the design, administers the bidding process, and monitors the construction through its construction administration services. The A/E is not considered the CM, however, and does not have all of the same responsibilities.

When do you choose it?

Not all projects warrant a CM. Smaller, simpler, lower-budget projects do not require pre-construction services, phasing of construction, or as much paperwork and management as larger projects do. In these cases, a GC can typically get the job done.

DBB is a good option for projects less than $5 million. It is also good for projects that have a relatively straightforward timeline—for example, if work can be completed during summer break—or if the project involves a new building separate from an existing school.

What is your role as the Owner?

The GC is responsible for coordination and communication of construction activities throughout the process. They hold the contracts with sub-contractors and are responsible for the management of cost and schedule. As the Owner, you are responsible for providing the GC with information and decisions in a timely manner to keep the schedule on track. Owners sometimes supplement this by hiring a Clerk of the Works (CoW) or adding Extended Services from their A/E firm.

 

When to Use Extended Services

As a full-service A/E firm, Schmidt Associates provides Owners with Extended Services when needed. Extended Services can include a host of specific tasks during the construction process that typically fall under a CM’s responsibilities. The A/E firm can step in to fill any of these gaps if the Owner deems it necessary.

We recommend utilizing Extended Services when you or your staff do not have the experience or the capacity to oversee certain aspects of the construction process not covered by your GC in a DBB project or other construction delivery method.

The basic construction administration service our firm provides includes A/E representation at the construction site an average of one day a week. Adding Extended Services allows you to customize services to receive a higher level of site presence. This could be anywhere from one additional day a week to full-time on site. This gives you a proactive presence from the A/E to address contractor issues and review the quality of the work as it’s completed.

 

Questions? Check out our e-magazine for more details, or contact us to connect with our construction administration professionals.

 

How to Avoid Negative Impacts of School Construction Projects on Students

Students Studying

PART 1 IN A SERIES

Proper planning is critical to avoid unintended consequences of school construction for those who matter most—students.

Initiating a new school build or a significant renovation can be a lengthy process. Getting the project approved, perhaps passing a referendum, and determining the vision for your new or updated facilities is a lot of work.

This is ultimately all for the good of the students—to ensure their health and safety, improve their ability to learn, and give them tools for success. Even with good intentions, however, there can be unintended consequences of school construction projects that aren’t in the best interest of the kids.

That’s why it’s critical to put proper planning and consideration into every aspect of the project before a shovel ever hits the ground.

We’ve been designing K-12 schools for roughly 40 years, and we’ve seen it all. Here are a few key reminders we give to administrators to prevent negative impacts of school construction projects on students.

1. Don’t eliminate spaces that help to educate the whole child.

When budgets get tight, you may be tempted to cut some of the more non-traditional spaces in the school. These seem like luxuries. We need an adequate cafeteria; we don’t need “nooks” or green spaces.

When we talk about educating the whole child—creating an environment and providing opportunities that ensure every single child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—this includes providing spaces that cater to the needs of every personality type and learning style.

In the planning and design process, be sure to address dedicated places for students to:

  • Take a quiet break
  • Discover their individual strengths or talents
  • Safely engage in physical activities
  • Utilize technology to its fullest potential

Also ensure students will be able to comfortably move throughout the school. For example, hallways should be large enough to accommodate busy passing periods and still have room for students to pull to the side to tie a shoe.

2. Make sure learning environments are the right size.

When you are trying to be efficient with dollars and square feet, there is a temptation to squeeze students into classrooms that are too small.

You must be realistic about the number of students that will—and should—be in each classroom, as well as how the classroom will be used and the subjects and types of activities that will be taught. Work closely with your design team to understand both anticipated class size (now and in the future) and the room’s purpose to create an adequate space for learning.

For example, science labs and other hands-on environments will have different space requirements than other types of rooms. Using classrooms and other spaces for their intended purpose is important for the success of your programming. It’s also why flexible classroom styles that can be adapted for the class at hand are preferred.

3. Be mindful of increased school security measures.

School security is top of mind for every parent, teacher, and administrator—as it should be. However, it shouldn’t have to be top of mind for students.

Part of what helps students be successful is a positive, welcoming, secure environment. In fact, it’s a biological requirement. The basic need of safety must be met before a child’s brain can focus on learning and building new connections. Obtrusive security measures can create the opposite effect, making students feel stressed about potential dangers.

Safety should be ingrained in the design of the facility so that it feels natural. There are many ways this can be achieved, such as creating clear lines of site throughout the building, choosing an appropriate security system, implementing sufficient lighting, and properly managing building access points.

4. Minimize distractions and risk during the construction process.

If you are renovating your current space, students and teachers will likely still be using portions of the facility. This means they may be near the construction work and all of the distractions that come along with it.

Make special effort to minimize the effects of the construction process on kids to maintain as much normalcy as possible, especially if standardized testing or other critical activities are occurring at the same time.

There are several primary areas to consider:

  • Wayfinding and Procedures – Make sure students (and their parents) are clear on room changes and other new procedures necessary during construction, and post adequate signage throughout the school to remind them. Install highly visible signs and implement barriers around construction zones to prevent students from entering these potentially dangerous areas and to guide them through route changes while their normal facilities are unavailable.
  • Noise – Loud noises during construction are unavoidable, and they can substantially interfere with students’ ability to concentrate, especially for those with sensory challenges. Noise can be quieted to a certain degree with construction protocols, such as installing temporary sound-absorbing barriers and using newer equipment that operates more quietly. Also try to schedule as much time away from noisy areas as possible for all groups of students (e.g. allow for classes to rotate through outdoor spaces or other places that are away from any construction).
  • Environmental Disturbances – Construction can also result in other environmental disturbances, such as smells and dust. Make sure teachers and parents understand that the construction team takes precautions to mitigate these factors and ensure no harmful impacts. If students express concerns about these disturbances, raise them with the contractor, who can help.

Planning the timeline and phases of the construction process appropriately is also key to avoiding or diminishing many of these disruptions. Some of the most intense or disruptive portions of the build should be scheduled during school breaks or outside of school hours when possible.

Learn More

Students aren’t the only ones to consider during school construction projects. There can be many unintended consequences for teachers, as well. Read part 2 in this series to learn more.

What is Retro-Commissioning?

retro-commissioning energy assessment

 

Is your building’s energy performance at its highest possible level? If you don’t know the answer to this question offhand, it’s probably “no.”

Even if your building was designed to be energy efficient at the time it was built or renovated, as time goes on, building usage may evolve and equipment ages. Modern building systems are very complex, and one small change can have a snowball effect on the entire facility. As systems drift from original settings, energy consumption and operating costs creep up.

This is where retro-commissioning comes in. Retro-commissioning (RCx) is the process of assessing a building’s energy performance and taking steps to return it to the original design intent.

The Retro-Commissioning Process

A successful RCx process consists of four steps:

1. Find an RCx Study Provider

Not all engineering firms offer RCx as a service. A firm with specialized energy engineers can most appropriately assess and improve your building’s efficiency and lead you through any incentive programs you plan to pursue for the work (more on this later). Some utility companies require this work be performed by firms they have approved as certified RCx study providers in order to qualify for their incentive programs.

2. Complete an RCx Study

Your RCx study provider will review your energy bills and perform an on-site assessment of your existing mechanical systems, lighting systems, and building controls. They will compare your energy consumption to national benchmarks to see how you compare to your peers’ buildings around the country. In addition, they will compare your building operation to the original design intent for your building and identify areas of improvement to return the building to peak energy performance.

3. Implement Recommendations

The RCx study will result in a list of specific adjustments to be made to your control system and other low- or no-cost recommendations. These could include adjusting equipment schedules, correcting economizer operation, or reducing or eliminating simultaneous heating and cooling. Your RCx study provider can work with your staff or contractor to correctly implement these recommendations and make the necessary adjustments.

4. Continue Monitoring Building Performance

To extend the benefits of the implemented RCx measures, you should put a process in place for ongoing monitoring of your building systems. This will ensure they continue to operate efficiently and prevent energy costs from creeping up again.

Benefits of Retro-Commissioning

Ultimately, RCx decreases the cost to operate your facility. By optimizing your building systems, you lower your energy consumption and, thus, your energy bills. But there are other financial and operational benefits to RCx.

Many utility companies will pay cash to businesses that commit to an RCx study and implement the resulting recommendations. Some of these RCx incentive programs will reimburse up to 100% of implementation cost for qualifying measures. If you plan to pursue incentives for RCx, you or your RCx study provider must apply for the program before proceeding with an RCx study. After RCx is implemented, the utility company will verify implementation and measure improvements in energy consumption. The dollar amount you receive is based on actual kilowatt (kWh) savings.

RCx can also have a significant impact on building occupants. Once systems are adjusted, your staff is likely to notice a difference. Improving thermal comfort is a proven factor in employee satisfaction and can increase productivity.

 

To plan your RCx study or learn more, contact our energy experts.

 

 

Our Back-to-School Memories

With design studios in both K-12 and higher education, back-to-school season is a busy and exciting time for our team. This year, some of our staff members reminisced on their favorite grade-school memories. Read their sweet, funny, and surprising stories below!

 

Laura Hardin

Laura Hardin – Senior Interior Designer

What made school the most memorable was that my mom was also a teacher there, so I got to know all the teachers very well and even rode to school with my kindergarten teacher at times. My most influential teacher I would have to say was my fourth grade teacher Miss. Butler. She was stern and disciplined, but I felt she understood me, and I never got called out in her class like most of the other kids did.

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Cindy McLoed

Cindy McLoed – Senior Project Architect

I wrote my first love letter in first grade! The little boy couldn’t read it, so he took it to the teacher who read it out loud to the whole class! I crawled under my desk! I didn’t like him anymore after that.

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Chris Hawk

Chris Hawk – HVAC Mechanical Engineer

My mother managed to convince myself and a lot of my friends to participate in the school talent show in fourth grade. We ran around and danced to Milli Vanilli with keyboards in our hands. Unfortunately, it was video recorded…but I really hope that it doesn’t surface.

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Sarah Hempstead

Sarah Hempstead – CEO, Principal

I loved school, and third grade was my favorite. I had the nicest teacher, and it was the start of books worth reading. Every first day of school picture I have looks ridiculous, though, as we always had to bring in paper towels. For some reason, I didn’t put them down for the photo!

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Steve Alspaugh

Steve Alspaugh – Design Architect

In sixth grade, I had my first male teacher, Mr. Davis. He was firm, but he also smiled and laughed a lot. I wish I’d had a chance to talk to a lot of my teachers later in life and thank them. They meant a lot to me.

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Morgan Sizemore

Morgan Sizemore – Communications and Digital Media Specialist

As a kid, I always loved Halloween time—who doesn’t like getting dressed up and getting a bunch of free candy? But I specifically remember transforming into a scarecrow in my grandma’s kitchen with my mom for the 1st grade dress-up day at school. I got so many compliments on my dedication to creepy poses and the fake straw stuffing. I thought it was so cool to dress up as something fun every year for school, showing off (my mom’s) creativity to all my classmates. And now I happen to work in an office that also embraces dressing up for Halloween, so the tradition lives on!

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Meghan Miller

Meghan Miller – Architectural Graduate

In fifth grade at Southwest Elementary, I was in a large, rowdy class. I think we had almost 30 students which is a HUGE number of students for one teacher to manage. I was a very shy, quiet kid whose mother worked in the high school just a few yards away, so with the fear of immediate and unpleasant punishment I was always on my best behavior (and a bit of a teacher’s pet to be quite honest). One day when it was time for Library, my class was loud as always, but I was engrossed in a very good book, so I never said a peep. Come recess, my class lost their privilege to go out to recess, except for me. Mrs. Havens (my 5th grade teacher) asked who wasn’t talking in Library today. I raised my hand, and my table mates vouched for my good behavior. So I was the only one out of a class of 30 to go outside.

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Eddie Layton

Eddie Layton – Architect, Project Manager

I was a pretty good speller as a kid. In first grade, I made it to the final of the school spelling bee. However, I often had a problem in school when I would get in a hurry to finish things and make careless mistakes. Well, this was one of those times. I was so confident I knew how to spell the word “W-E-N-T” that I boldly stepped up to the microphone and promptly spelled “W-A-N-T.” It took me a minute to even realize that I had made a mistake because I was so sure I had spelled it right!”

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John Harrison

John Harrison – Plumbing Designer

While saying the pledge of allegiance in fourth grade, I said, “Oh can you see my eyes, if you can then my hair’s too short.”  I had to stand in the corner, but the whole class broke into laughter.

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Megan Scott

Megan Scott – Marketing Manager

I loved back-to-school and riding my bike to and from school every day. I learned how to ride my bike and steer with no hands the year this photo was taken. It was pretty exciting and something I can no longer do!

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Kathryn Roche – Interior Design Intern

Here is a photo of me from kindergarten. I look thrilled to be there, right? Apparently, I cut my bangs myself the night before, despite the direction from my mother to not do so. Immediately after, of course, I was in tears because I did have full fringe and was left with small pieces that parted from the middle.

Schmidt Associates Gains 9 Spots on List of Top 300 Architecture Firms

Schmidt Associates is proud to be named to Architectural Record’s 2019 Top 300 list. The firm earned the 195th spot on this year’s list, moving up nine spots from last year.

The annual national list, compiled by Architectural Record’s sister publication Engineering News-Record, ranks companies by their architectural revenue from the prior year, as reported by firms that choose to participate.

In 2018, Schmidt experienced significant growth not only in terms of revenue, but also in staff size, seeing a 12-percent increase in total employees.

See below for a sneak peek at a few of the significant projects we started in 2018 (all still underway).

Hammond Middle High School

Location: Hammond, IN
Project: Renovation and New Construction
Cost: $80M

 

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

Location: Indianapolis, IN
Project: New Construction
Cost: $160M

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

 

North Montgomery Elementary School

Location: Crawfordsville, IN
Project: Renovation
Cost: $30 million

North Montgomery - Main Entry

North Montgomery – Main Entry

North Montgomery - Media Center

North Montgomery – Media Center

A Word from Our Owners – MSD of Washington Township

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations at MSD Washington Township, brings 30 years of educational qualifications extending into facilities management, maintenance, custodial, food services, safety, and security. Ms. Britain-Smith holds a MS degree & Indiana School Administration Licensure from Butler University; BS degrees in Library Services K-12 & Speech & Communications 5-12 from Indiana University & Purdue University; and an Associate degree in Applied Science Human Services & Social Work from Indiana Vocational Technical College. She is an Indiana Certified Safety Specialist and former building administrator.

 

Mike Kneebone, Director of Technology

Mike has been in education for twenty-four years. Now in his 12th year as Director of Technology, he oversees all aspects of technology procurement, deployment, integration, and support. Mike holds BS & MS degrees in Education & Educational Technology from Indiana University.

 

 

Is Washington Township schools doing anything new with their current construction projects around safety and security?

ABS – Safety and security has always been one of our top priorities. When we did the planning for our 2016 referendum projects, we had four priorities – one of those being “safety and security”.

It is extremely important for the Director of Operations and the Director of Technology to have a close working relationship. Together, we need to fully understand the educational specifications and design standards in order to hit the mark.

Can you describe what this includes?

Angela – We are implementing several different measures: secure entries, lockdown features, and mass notification alert systems. Hardware features have also been added to classroom doors with a visual indicator showing if a door is locked or unlocked.

Mike – Our key technological focus behind all measures is to make everything easy to use and accessible to everyone in a lockdown situation. To help with this, we’ve added in a smartphone function to secure doors and trigger alerts throughout various locations of the building.

Another feature we’ve decided to incorporate is sound control. With everything going on in a classroom (movies, digital presentations, and other interactive media), we realized there is a need to auto duck audio if there is an alert being sent out. We tied all the systems together so that the alert audio has the priority, ensuring everyone can hear them.

With so many safety and security options out there, how did you determine to do these items?

Angela – We had a process in place. We engaged with a consultant for educational specs, worked with our professional partners in regards to design standards, involved many stakeholders (teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, administrators, district leadership, etc.) to outline our priorities. The district is also engaged with a technology consultant who helped us set up webinar and info sessions to look at the different technologies available in order to make the best decisions for Washington Township.

We also attend conferences on a regular basis and collaborate with our District Police Department and local agencies to stay up to date with the best safety and security practices.

Mike – Ultimately, we used a very collaborative process to come up with our plan. What helps all the systems work together seamlessly is knowing what every department needs and what they are implementing. During the initial visioning sessions, we were able to learn how to integrate all of the systems.

Are you doing anything that is not related to the actual building, but an increased focus such as guidance counselors spending more time with students?

Angela – This is another important area to focus on. Whenever we have the opportunity to increase our operating budgets, we certainly review our social and mental support service in regard to need and capacity. During our 2016 operational referendum, we brought in additional social workers. Just recently, we were able to add more guidance councilors at our high school.

Can you describe the experience of working with Schmidt Associates?

Angela – It is always very positive and collaborative, which is most important. Schmidt Associates has the district’s best interest in mind, and they work really hard to ensure the design is inclusive of Washington Township’s needs and priorities. The team is also extremely responsive and answers any questions we have very quickly, which is very appreciated.

The Effects of Natural Daylight

Daylight - Marian University

It’s not a secret — it is scientifically proven that we, as humans, thrive best when we have access to sunlight. If you are having a long and stressful day at work, a walk around the block is a good way to clear the mind. Restaurants with outdoor seating tend to be packed during those sunny, 75-degree days. Homes typically include large living room windows that allow sunlight to coming flooding in.

When designing for an academic space, whether K-12 or higher education, keeping this biophilic factor in mind is essential in producing an effective learning environment.

Design considerations:

  • Include large, floor to ceiling windows in common spaces like cafeterias/dining halls, library and media centers, hallways on the upper level floor, etc.
Daylighting - media center and dining hall

Left: West Lafayette Intermediate School Media Center | Right: Marian University Dining Hall

  • Utilize glass walls between interior spaces adjacent to a room or hallway that includes plenty of windows. To add privacy, use clearstory windows or semi-transparent glass that will allow light to pass from space to space.
Daylight - expandable walls

Clark Middle School – Expandable glass walls between classroom and hallway let light flow throughout a large space

  • High, small, frosted windows in gyms/fieldhouses allow natural light to come into the space without resulting in glare on the court. Include windows near cardio machines in campus’ fitness center to give runners a little sense of being outdoors.
Daylight in gym and fitness center

Left: Plainfield High School Fieldhouse | Right: DePauw University Lilly Center

  • Residence hall bedrooms can feel a little tight and stuffy to students, but providing large windows for daylight to spill throughout common areas will help give them a sense of relief.
Daylight residence hall

Left: University of Indianapolis – Greyhound Village | Right: Ball State University – Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall

  • The second-best option is LED lighting if a space is limited in natural light potential. Sunlight and full-spectrum LEDs expose people to blue light wavelengths, which has a positive impact on our hormonal levels compared to other lighting systems.
Daylight - LED lighting

Before & After LED Retrofit at Bunker Hill Elementary

 

Benefits of natural daylight:

  • Positively impacts cognitive performance, resulting in better test results, information retention, and productivity levels. The U.S. Department of Education states that classrooms with the most daylighting saw a 20% better learning rate in math and 26% better in reading when compared to classrooms with little to no daylight.
  • Sunlight increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved moods and overall mental health of students.
  • Daylight helps regulate circadian rhythms, reducing stress and enhancing the brain’s readiness to learn.
  • Provides opportunity for sensory change, giving students a mental break from what’s going on in the classroom. These short mental breaks help students stay focused and motivated. It is proven that the opportunity to interact with the natural world is particularly helpful to kids with ADD/ADHD, which effects an estimated 1 million children.

Introducing natural daylight into schools for maximum benefits needs to be done in a controlled and responsive manner. Proper building orientation means maximizing southern and northern exposures and minimizing east and west exposures. Worried about the energy costs and thermal comfort issues that come along with a wall full of windows? This is the importance of engineers to help design with tools for energy savings. Exterior shading devices, elements that push daylight deeper into the building, and proper interior window treatments can be incorporated.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can incorporate natural daylight into your existing space or your next projects – give us a call!

What are the Roles of a Design/Build Team?

Typically there are three primary team members on a design/build project. They include the Owner, the criteria developer, and the design/build (D/B) contractor. Each one is explained in more detail below:

1. Owner

•  Work with criteria developer to capture needs and desires in criteria documents/contract documents
•  Implement a process to select D/B contractor
•  Work with D/B contractor to finalize design and construction (sometimes through criteria developer/project manager)
•  Communicate changing needs to D/B contractor
•  Participate in punch list process
•  Move in and enjoy the new facility

2. Criteria Developer

•  Work with Owner personnel and stakeholders to draft criteria documents/contract documents
•  Sometimes hired to represent the Owner throughout construction and review design/construction/completion activities
•  May review pay applications and change orders and assist Owner in the punch list process
•  Advise Owner on contractual matters and D/B contractor compliance with contract
•  Assist Owner to maintain budget integrity

3. Design/Build Contractor 

•  Provide qualifications proposal and initial renderings to demonstrate their vision of compliance with the criteria documents
•  Confirm pricing with subcontractors that meets design criteria
•  Provide scope compliance information and agree on cost with Owner
•  Design the project using qualified design professionals and obtain Owner approval of code- compliant design that meets the criteria documents
•  Design team maintains engagement in project throughout construction
•  Construct the project, draft changes, punch out and complete the facility
•  Maintain budget and schedule throughout the duration of the project
•  Provide clear and regular communication with Owner on project status and any changes
•  Obtain good reference from satisfied Owner

So, why should an Owner select design/build?

  1. Single source of accountability – this goes for design and construction
  2. Budget management – discussing budget throughout the duration of design
  3. Enhanced communication – early and ongoing communications between Owner, design contractor, and subcontractor(s)
  4. Faster project completion – can shorten overall schedule since construction starts while design is being completed

If you have more questions or want to get started on your next project with us, reach out!

 

5 Ways to Improve School Safety through Site Design

Physical design features are only one piece of enhancing school safety and security that we—as designers—can directly play a part in. School Corporations regularly tell us student and staff safety are their top priority when taking on a new project, as it is ours as well.

School safety includes crime prevention as well as traffic safety. Looking at the outside of a school, we have 5 main ways to improve school safety through site design alone:

1. Fencing

  • Fencing helps to designate a sense of place, maintain lines of site, and restrict access to areas of the school that might not be highly visible.
  • Fences around playground areas help keep kids in a safe area while running around at recess, separate the “little kids” from the “big kids”, and keeps others out. Including fencing around vehicular areas, providing separation between walkways and drop-off/pick-up areas, can help to keep kids from darting into traffic.
  • Choose a material that is easy to see through but difficult to climb or vandalize—often wrought iron or ornamental fencing.
West Lafayette New Intermediate School - Fenced Playground

West Lafayette New Intermediate School – Fenced Playground

2. Security system

  • Include real-time security on the premises that local police can have access to in the event of an emergency.
  • Making the security cameras highly visible can also deter criminal activity before it starts.

3. Management of access points

  • Create a welcoming main entrance to the building through a secure vestibule which leads directly to the main reception area. Access into school corridors are controlled from here. Including card readers to monitor when a door is being opened and by who also helps with access control.
  • Limit the number of access points so school personnel can better monitor the comings and goings throughout the school day.
  • Physically separate school bus drive, parent drop-off/pick-up routes, and parking areas to help alleviate the chance of traffic-related issues. Clearly mark all separate areas with signs and include traffic flow directions for clear orientation. This is helpful in guiding students, parents, and emergency personnel.
Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

Battell Elementary School, School City of Mishawaka – Secure Entry Technology

4. Natural surveillance – maximize visibility from within

  • Give people who might consider committing a crime on the school grounds a sense that they are being watched. This alone can help prevent crimes from occurring in the first place.
  • There should be clear lines of sight from road/parking lot/entry for school personnel. Make sure any landscape elements are maintained and trimmed regularly so bushes or trees do not block this line of sight.
  • Include windows in main office area so staff can monitor parking lots and entry walkways.
  • Sufficient exterior lighting eliminates potential hiding spots and increases overall visibility from school personnel.

5. Territoriality

  • By creating a well-defined and appealing exterior, incoming visitors will know they are coming into a protected, cared for, and proud space. This can be done through:
    • Clear, recognizable main entry.
    • Exterior door numbering for the public and authorities in emergency.
    • Utilizing school colors to define walking spaces from vehicular traffic areas.
    • Landscaping elements like shrubs, trees, stones, and fencing that are low to the ground for visibility and well maintained.
    • Site signage that clearly identifies school name, front entry, and other specific destinations such as athletic fields and performing arts entries.
  • Ongoing maintenance is important, such as repairing and updating doors and windows before they begin to “really show their age”.
  • Landscape elements should be low to the ground or have a high canopy to prevent spaces that can’t be supervised or monitored.

LaPorte High School – Performing Arts Center Entrance

There are many approaches to take when it comes to improving school safety through design, this is in no way a be-all-end-all list. Each school has a unique site and a specific set of needs, but these five simple tactics can be used as part of an overall strategy.

It is also important to note there are no school safety measures that are 100% reliable—despite the best plans and precautions. Please reach out if you are interested in learning about what is best for your school, have questions, or would like additional safety tips. Our K-12 team is ready to work for and with you!