Digital Crayon: Article 3 – Growth and Capacity

 International School Design
First let’s talk about some of big drivers behind a facility project. Ideally, these are defined in a strategic plan, but that is not always the case.  Having a strategic plan as starting point gives the school leadership team a clear mandate for pursuing its primary facility goals.  Often, however, needs emerge from the planning process itself. We might start with growth issues, for example, and find out that collaborative spaces are a dire need on campus.

International School Design Growth and capacity issues are classic drivers of a facility project, especially with international school these days. Understanding the parameters around the issues is important.  Is it to meet market demands, or provide richer program offerings? How big does the school want to grow? Over what period of time? Is it likely to expand evenly across all grades or only in certain areas? Having answers to these questions will help clarify the planning task ahead for the architect. Let’s spend a little more time on the growth issue. Many times we are asked by our clients: what is the capacity of our campus? How many kids can we accommodate? Our answer is often: depends.  We say this because we have worked with schools with little to no green space. They bus their kids to shared fields.  We know we can fit a lot of program on a site, especially if multiple story buildings are allowed. The question for the school is: can it live with these impacts to its open space? To be clear: the architect’s job is to show the extent of the expanded facilities so the school can determine if these impacts are acceptable. Another issue with growth is sense of community. Universally, we hear that people love a small school feel, meaning a sense of community where everyone knows each other. Maintaining that feeling becomes difficult as a school grows. Many of the larger schools tackle this by creating schools within schools.  A middle school, for example, can work hard to create a sense of belonging among its students and teachers. This can be reinforced by design. Providing separate entrances and social spaces within the “smaller” school can support a sense of identification with that entity. Likewise, a single campus entrance can reinforce the notion of the community as a whole. Enhancing the sense of community is a common theme for schools these days. And not just among students. Schools are looking for spaces for teachers to connect and collaborate with each other, and places for the larger community to gather together.

Truexcullins School Design
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