flexiblefullpage -
billboard - default
interstitial1 - interstitial
Currently Reading

Educational design taking lessons from tech firms

Education Facilities

Educational design taking lessons from tech firms


By Andrew Wickham | LPA | May 22, 2017

Several years ago, my brother worked for a high-profile tech firm in the Bay Area. When I visited him at work, I was blown away at the variety of amenities and “green space” he had access to as an employee. I commented on it, and he went on to explain that this was normal for his line of work. That got me thinking, and after a little research, I discovered the online technology industry was on the forefront of workplace design, and in a way, on education design as well.

Recently, in educational design, we have seen a trend toward more flexible learning spaces. As the body of research on the various ways people learn, work and de-stress grows, so changes the way we are designing schools. More and more, we are designing schools with fun, energetic and flexible spaces like some of the working environments you find at the larger tech companies.

An emphasis has been put on the quality of and access to outdoor environments to create a balance between the indoors and out. Research suggests a direct correlation between access to and the quality of nature and mental well-being. Through our process of informed design, we use research as a tenet of our education design and incorporate easy access from classrooms to a variety of outdoor spaces intended for formal, informal and social learning.

 

 

Lately, we have seen a big shift in educational design as more schools are seeing the outdoor environment for the teaching potential it holds. The mild climate of California and other western states is especially conducive to blurring the indoor/outdoor line. It wasn’t too long ago that the thought was the classroom stopped at the doorsill. Nowadays, that line has been significantly blurred. Just as on the tech giants’ campuses, it is not uncommon to see large roll-up doors effectively erase building walls or outdoor small-group pods complete with power and writing surfaces.

Educators are realizing the value of outdoor environments to expand and enrich the user’s experience. At my brother’s firm, hammocks were strung between trees to encourage an afternoon nap. Studies show that classrooms with views to natural elements such as trees and shrubs greatly increase the occupants’ cognitive ability. One study measured that a person who spends 15 minutes walking through a park-like setting increased memory and attention performance by 20 percent. In addition, access to nature can lower stress levels, improve a student’s ability to focus and improve mood.

 

 

We recognize that learning happens everywhere and plan for outdoor spaces that encourage collaboration, conversation and growth. With the growing presence of Wi-Fi and on-site power, any place on a campus can become a classroom. Something as simple as cost-effective, flexible furniture can turn an existing courtyard into an English classroom. An outdoor space could also be designed to become a natural science classroom, highlighting biology, horticulture, geology, hydrology and a multitude of other natural sciences.

Much like tech firms in Silicon Valley, educators are also understanding the value of having the ability to rest and recharge. For instance, California State University Northridge (CSUN) Oasis Wellness Center recognized a need to provide students with a space where they would be able to relax, relieve stress and take a break. A growing body of evidence shows that access to quality outdoor environments helps students to deal with stress and think clearly. At CSUN, through a variety of flexible indoor and outdoor spaces, the students now have a space that promotes mindfulness and a healthy, stress-free lifestyle.

Now is a very exciting time for education facility designers. Never have we seen such a fundamental shift in the way we approach programming and designing the outdoor learning environment. We should all take a lesson from the big tech companies and think outside of the building.

 

Andrew Wickham, ASLA is a Landscape Designer at LPA Inc. He is a LEED accredited professional who specializes in K-12 School design.

More from Author

LPA | Mar 2, 2023

The next steps for a sustainable, decarbonized future

For building owners and developers, the push to net zero energy and carbon neutrality is no longer an academic discussion.

LPA | Dec 20, 2022

Designing an inspiring, net zero early childhood learning center

LPA's design for a new learning center in San Bernardino provides a model for a facility that prepares children for learning and supports the community.

LPA | Aug 22, 2022

Less bad is no longer good enough

As we enter the next phase of our fight against climate change, I am cautiously optimistic about our sustainable future and the design industry’s ability to affect what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) calls the biggest challenge of our generation.

LPA | Aug 9, 2022

Designing healthy learning environments

Studies confirm healthy environments can improve learning outcomes and student success. 

LPA | Jul 6, 2022

The power of contextual housing development

Creating urban villages and vibrant communities starts with a better understanding of place, writes LPA's Matthew Porreca. 

LPA | Mar 21, 2022

Finding the ROI for biophilic design

It takes more than big windows and a few plants to create an effective biophilic design.

LPA | Apr 28, 2021

Did the campus design work?

A post-occupancy evaluation of the eSTEM Academy provides valuable lessons for future campuses.

LPA | Feb 23, 2021

Rising costs push developers to consider modular construction

The mainstreaming of modular construction offers a cost-effective and creative solution to develop new types of urban developments.

LPA | May 20, 2020

From shopping mall to eSports supercenter

An aging shopping mall is reimagined as an eSports-focused mixed-use facility, creating new links between the community and the growing eSports industry.

LPA | Feb 1, 2019

Designing a net zero aquatic center

Buildings can be designed to cut consumption and operate more efficiently, but the pools always make it difficult to achieve substantial savings.

boombox1 - default
boombox2 -
native1 -

More In Category




halfpage1 -

Most Popular Content

  1. 2021 Giants 400 Report
  2. Top 150 Architecture Firms for 2019
  3. 13 projects that represent the future of affordable housing
  4. Sagrada Familia completion date pushed back due to coronavirus
  5. Top 160 Architecture Firms 2021

 



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: