What New Education Buildings Will Need From Design


Modern trends in education demand a forward-thinking approach to design. Industry professionals need to adapt their approach, refining their current practices to accommodate the needs of a new generation of students. Some of these adjustments are relatively small, while others are far more involved. 

As an example, single-purpose buildings are no longer practical for many institutions. Universities are opting instead for buildings that allow interaction between various departments and faculty. In doing so, they create a strong sense of cohesion and organization across their campus. 

So how should architects and design professionals approach planning when they're working on projects for educational facilities? Which emerging trends in the sector are relevant to their work? This article answers those questions and others like them, looking at the latest and most fascinating changes.

1. Flexible Use Spaces

What New Education Buildings Will Need From Design

Vittra School Telefonplan by Rosan Bosch

The conventional arrangement of classroom desks is starting to shift. Instead of the typical rows, education professionals have shown an interest in flexible use spaces. They've moved away from an organized setup toward a relaxed, comfortable design where students can modify their postures and seating. 

Rosan Bosch, a Copenhagen-based designer, showed the enormous potential of flexible use spaces with his futuristic take on design. In Stockholm's Vittra School Telefonplan, Bosch created an open-plan layout where rolling bookcases and half-walls joined to form improvised teaching areas.

2. Hygienic Materials

What New Education Buildings Will Need From Design

Purdue University by Synthesis Incorporated

Research has shown as many as 200 million bacteria can populate a person's hand after they use a public restroom. This startling statistic supports the need for improved hygiene in bathrooms, particularly those in education facilities. With increased attention on hygiene, industry professionals have adopted new solutions.

In addition to more frequent, thorough cleanings, specialized types of bathroom stall can also help. Phenolic core partitions are strong enough that they don't support the growth of bacteria, and their contemporary aesthetic works well with modern styles. In restrooms with proper drainage, a custodian can even hose them down.

3. Increased Sustainability

What New Education Buildings Will Need From Design

R.W. Kern Center in Amherst, Massachusetts

Universities have taken an active role in environmental stewardship by embracing sustainable architecture. As an example, Hampshire College is home to the 17th certified "living building," the R.W. Kern Center. It produces its own electricity, collects its own water and contains no "red list" chemicals in its composition. 

The R.W. Kern Center goes above and beyond the standard for sustainable architecture, but even small changes can make a big impact. Architects and design professionals need to give thought to energy efficiency and eco-friendly materials in the early stages of development. Fortunately, green construction is gaining traction. 

4. Converted Libraries

What New Education Buildings Will Need From Design

New York University Abu Dhabi by Rafael Vinoly

The presence of digital technology in libraries isn't necessarily new, but their layout is slowly starting to shift to make room for modern needs. Universities are beginning to trim the space they allocate for books and storage, forming consortiums to share resources. These areas take many different shapes. 

A programming study for the Academic Success Center at North Carolina State's D.H. Hill Library looked at converting book stacks to create space for student services, including peer tutoring, academic coaching and careering counseling. In making this transition, the university can provide more value. 

5. Retrofitted "Gates"

A first impression is influential in a visitor's overall opinion of a space. In acknowledgment of this fact, universities have invested in new and retrofitted buildings to make a positive impact on students, parents and the community. These buildings serve as a sort of gateway to the rest of the campus. 

Some progressive colleges have also viewed their buildings as venues for engaging and fostering connections with people in the surrounding area. They've started to lease on-campus incubator spaces for local entrepreneurs and business owners, one of the more exciting trends in higher education projects.

As trends in education continue to change, architects and design professionals need to remain aware if they're to remain relevant. More than an obligation, professionals should view it as a form of ongoing education, helping themselves as they help others.

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