7 Innovative Design Ideas for an Educational Building

Written by: Natalie Akins, Innovative Building Materials

Higher education has been forced to adapt on the fly in recent years. Mounting student debt, a heightened focus on student rights and safety, the shift to online learning, and the massive changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic are just a few of the forces influencing the industry. As a result, educational buildings must evolve to match the demands of this shifting landscape. The following breakdown looks at 7 of the most innovative design ideas for modern educational buildings.

1. Exterior Study Areas

Although there had been an increasing interest in creating transitional interior/exterior spaces prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global health crisis accelerated this trend. In order to ensure that building occupants are able to get a healthy dose of fresh air throughout the day, many buildings are now transforming seldom-used patios, landings, and breezeways into functional open-air workspaces.

Through the use of durable and stylish patio furniture and the premier shading devices in architecture, colleges and universities are able to create top-notch outdoor lecture spaces and study areas that not only provide a change of scenery for faculty and students but guarantee fresh air and help accommodate social distancing in the event that variants of the virus continue to linger.

2. Socially Separated Spaces

While innovative exterior work areas do wonders for providing social distance, there will remain plenty of times throughout the year when the comfort of the indoors is necessary for a hospitable learning environment. As a result, interior design efforts for educational facilities are taking marked efforts to help create socially separated spaces. Some key features of creating a socially distanced classroom include:

  • The most durable flooring, such as terrazzo or polished concrete, allows desks and furniture to be easily moved without defacing their appearance
  • Stylish area rugs and mats to help indicate which areas of the room can be utilized and which should be avoided
  • Modular glass partitions that can be used to easily create small cohorts without blocking light flow in the room

3. Designing for Security

Image courtesy of: https://mankato.mnsu.edu/university-life/health-and-safety/university-security/

Social distancing is just one safety consideration for which contemporary educational buildings must account. They must also be well-equipped to handle a safe, secure environment.

  • Controlled door access
  • Cell phone apps for door access
  • Cell phone alerts
  • Coordination with local public safety for responsiveness
  • Conduct facilities and site assessments
  • Staff & student safety training/education
  • Security surveillance
  • Defining boundaries
  • Defined safe areas

4. Personalized Living Spaces

Educational buildings are increasingly being forced to adapt to a hybrid learning environment. As a result, the stiff, barracks-style residence halls prevalent on college campuses for decades are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Educational living spaces are shifting to provide more homey features to compete in an environment in which many students are choosing to obtain their higher education from home. Some of the innovative features in modern educational living spaces include:

  • Increased study space in rooms, with easy-to-clean desks and comfortable chairs to accommodate students with online classes
  • Fitness centers in the residence halls themselves, eliminating the need to trek across campus to the rec center
  • Built-in dining areas on each floor of the building to accommodate the exploding meal delivery industry
  • Group study areas in residence halls

5. Decorative Sound Insulation

Sound insulation has long been a priority in educational buildings, as preventing distracting noise transfer is an important component of ensuring academic success. However, much of the drop-ceiling insulation traditionally used in areas such as libraries and auditoriums have been utilitarian, at best.

Fortunately, modern acoustic ceiling tiles are not only 95% effective at dampening noise transfer but also come in a wide array of decorative designs that can enhance a building’s interior ambiance to promote creativity in students.

New building and building renovations consulting teams should include an acoustical consultant to ensure sound transmission is considered in the design of each space.

6. Focus on Flex Spaces

Another byproduct of the shift to hybrid learning is the increased prevalence of academic flex spaces. To remain competitive as much of higher education moves online, modern educational buildings must have unmatched technology tools and broadband access. Learning environments must be equipped with collaborative technology, such as projector screens, smart televisions, and phone apps for locking and other system controls. They must also have flexible and adaptable furnishings that can be easily rearranged to accommodate different size groups and cohorts or allow for access to charging centers.

7. Sustainability/WELLCentric

As the world focuses on ways to lower its carbon footprint, educational buildings must be designed with sustainability in mind. Some common features of environmentally friendly educational design include:

  • Using repurposed furniture or furniture made from recycled polymers
  • Choosing insulated concrete forms as a framing option, as icf school construction not only improves safety, but its elite thermal mass helps regulate interior temperatures is just one of many exciting building options
  • Incorporating large windows throughout the building to promote the flow of natural sunlight
  • Installing below-grade insulation to keep hard flooring warm during the colder months of the year
  • Following the WELL Building standard – The WELL Building Standard allows organizations to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces that enhance health and well-being. Backed by the latest scientific research, WELL includes strategies that aim to advance health by setting performance standards for design interventions, operational protocols, and policies and a commitment to fostering a culture of health and well-being.

The Most Innovative Design Ideas for Educational Buildings

A host of powerful forces have put pressure on the traditional higher education blueprint. Therefore, college campuses must adapt to meet the needs of contemporary students. The 7 design ideas for educational buildings listed above are great ways to keep college campuses attractive in the rapidly evolving higher education landscape.

Natalie Akins is an editor for the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. She is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.

Need help with a higher education project? Contact Patrick S. Seiwell at DRG Architects to discuss your needs.

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