As new schools are constructed in the United States, the trend toward customization is increasing. Schools currently being built employ a host of new technologies, techniques and other features that make them very different than the somtimes 50 year old buildings they are replacing.
Although schools have always served as community centers, the needs of the communities have changed and so has the design of such facilities. Those buildings now include such amenities as theatres, swimming pools, common areas for meetings, and other community events.
The learning environment has been through a number of changes over the years. One of the biggest detractors from learning tends to be disciplinary problems. The school buildings of yesteryear were marked with long, narrow hallways. This design was conducive to turf wars, as groups would withdraw to a specific wing or hallway. It made it difficult for school officials to monitor all building locations and maintain discipline.
Today, the trend is toward more open, common areas where students can congregate before school or during lunch. It doesn’t prevent students from gathering in groups, but it makes it easier for administrators to control fighting and other potential disciplinary problems.
Building layout also influences staff collaboration and student learning. For example, subjects that complement each other are often grouped in the same wing of the facility. Classrooms are located in "schools" within the school. This allows teachers to collaborate on lesson plans more easily. Newer high schools are arranged in "academic houses" with courses grouped together according to what careers or degrees students hope to acquire after high school.
Another advantage to newer educational facilities is cost savings from energy efficiency. State of the art lighting systems with LED light bulbs (that only need replacing every 15 to 20 years) as well as mechanical systems for heating and air conditioning with high efficiency ratings can reduce energy costs by 20 to 30 percent.
As design and constructions methods continue to evolve, we are able to build customized facilities that are more economical, environmentally friendly, and conducive to teaching, learning, and social interaction.