21st Century School Design

by Woolpert

Working with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), I’ve gotten a firsthand understanding of the 21st century school design. This innovative approach to education impacts teaching methods as well as the design of the school facilities, which will need to support today’s more dynamic method of teaching and also respond to students’ broad range of learning styles. The goal is to make every area of the school an opportunity for learning and to blur the edges of instructional spaces while maintaining functionality and security. Whenever possible, the building itself will serve as a teaching tool to inform students about how systems work and the principles of sustaining our environment. An emphasis will also be placed on creating outside learning areas that can be accessed by students and teachers.

DoDEA describes their 21st century concept as a school that “takes into consideration innovation in education, curriculum delivery, use of technology, and the growing expectations for sustainability and energy conservation. The schools that we are building today will be in use for the next 45 years.”

What I find exciting is how we can transfer this concept to our other educational clients. Recently, Woolpert introduced the components of a 21st century design to a group of top Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) leaders in the Dayton community as they plan for a new regional STEM campus. The concept is that the facility provides dynamic and flexible spaces to house several program components, including the STEM School. The facility will foster unprecedented levels of synergy among the STEM leaders and improve our future by cultivating a STEM workforce of young adults that is ready for real-world problem solving and collaboration in a safe and sustainable environment.

Not only am I excited this concept is transferrable, I’m also excited to see renewed importance placed on the sustainability of education facilities. This Architectural Record article provides further background on when and why design and construction of schools lost its focus on the concept of building to last. Now, in a time when cost efficiency and sustainability are more critical than ever before, we have finally shifted back to the concept of designing a school to last.