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Design Awards: Principles

Re-Defining the Global Vocabulary for Educational Facility Design!

Since 2000, the annual DesignShare Awards program has been redefining the global vocabulary for educational facility design by challenging traditional standards and committing to learner-centered, cost-efficient and sustainable learning environments.

This assemblage of projects is not a fashion show showcasing the ‘look’ of the building. The DesignShare Awards program is unique in many ways because it extends well beyond the architecture itself:

  • it focuses first on learning
  • second on the learners
  • third on how the built or natural environment provides rich learning opportunities
  • Project team applicants are asked to answer two questions with each submission:

    1. What exemplary ideas do the designs contain that enhance learning?
    2. What innovations in the planning, programming and design process supported the realization of those exemplary ideas?

    Criteria for evaluating submissions are based on the six design principles developed by the US Department of Education—principles that were endorsed in 1999 by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Council for Educational Facilities Planners International (CEFPI), Urban Educational Facilities (UEF), and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

    The design principles are predicated on three conditions: that learning is a lifelong process, that design is always evolving, and that resources are limited. Learning environments should be designed to:

    • Enhance teaching and learning and accommodate the needs of all students
    • Serve as centers of the community
    • Result from a planning/design process involving all stakeholders
    • Provide for health, safety, and security
    • Effectively use all available resources
    • Allow for flexibility and adaptability to changing needs

    The bulleted list below is a summary of the criteria, provided by past Review Team member Steven Bingler in 2000:

    1: Enhance Teaching and Learning and Accommodate the Needs of All Learners

    • Follow the research in the learning sciences
    • Students doing rather than just receiving
    • Students creating rather than re-creating
    • Students solving problems
    • Cooperative, project based, interdisciplinary learning
    • Emphasis on learning styles, multiple intelligences and the special needs of each student
    • School buildings are important tools for learning
    • Accelerate research on the impact of the physical environment on student achievement

    2: Serve as a Center of Community

    • Encourage community use after hours, late at night and on weekends
    • Serve as centers of lifelong learning and training
    • Serve leisure, recreational, wellness needs of the community
    • Facilitate public access to communications technology
    • Facilitate parent and community involvement
    • Support professionalism and participation of staff members
    • Reflect the noble character of public architecture

    3: Result from a Planning process Involving all Stakeholders

    • Include educators
    • Include parents
    • Include students
    • Include community stakeholder
    • Respect differences in age, culture and gender
    • Allow adequate time and resources for the planning process

    4: Provide for Health, Safety and Security

    • Attractively designed and well maintained facilities
    • Appropriate school and classroom populations
    • Address all safety and environmental codes
    • Maintain healthy indoor environments
    • Minimize obscured or poorly lit places
    • Carefully designed traffic patterns

    5: Make Effective Use of All Available Resources

    • Maximize the impact of the physical environment on learning
    • Building and landscape should serve as “three dimensional textbooks”
    • Maximize the use of community resources
    • Encourage learning/workplace interface
    • Re-use existing facilities to preserve natural and historic environments
    • Maximize the benefits of cultural diversity
    • Maximize the use of energy resources
    • Provide for the extensive use of technology
    • Design within limits that can be maintained by future generations

    6: Allow for Flexibility and Adaptability of Changing Needs

    • Allow for what we do not yet know
    • Flexible design and adaptable systems
    • Evaluate master plans and educational
    specifications at least every five years
    • Plan for the rapid expansion of technology

    At its core, the Awards program remains focused on projects designed for the future of learning which serve communities around the world.


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