The Probability of Change
Changes in our social, environmental, and technical norms over the past decade have demanded adaption in established design practices of educational facility planning. We have witnessed and benefited from an age of technology that is exponentially accelerating so fast that we have no time to even reflect on what we have just experienced. The breadth of this adaption in our practice, or should I say advancement, is perhaps more measurable now than ever due to the heightened changes in the aforementioned variables, all colliding at once.
One catalyst for change is an elevated concern about the environmental impact of our buildings. As that concern may have only been previously expressed in an ecological sense, we see it now in how our buildings impact not only our ecology, but also our sociology and economy. We are balancing the financial expectations and responsibilities our districts have, with providing the most innovative learning environments for our students, as well as with volatile construction costs and capricious education legislation.
Maybe these are not new changes. For the past 30 years, VLK has led our profession in designing innovative learning environments utilizing the most efficient and durable building systems possible to maximize our clients’ investments. And, we don’t believe any of our clients have ever asked for a school that was designed with opulence, to be extraordinarily expensive to operate, to be replaced in 10 years, or to be unfavorable for student learning. So, the mission is the same, but the variables have changed. At VLK, we continue to deliver solutions for school districts throughout Texas that solve these variables in a variety of ways.
As a result of advancing technology, there is an ocean of resources and knowledge immediately accessible to us now that was not present 10 years ago. Pairing that with our extensive experience in educational facility design, we are constantly researching, studying, and developing best practices that benefit the students of our schools as they relate to the designed environment in order to support districts as they assume the costs to build and operate their facilities. Whether it is quickly responding to the needs of our fast-growth clients, renovating and optimizing facilities for a district functioning in a consolidation mode, or designing a community centerpiece for our rural districts, we are applying a client responsive approach specific to individual circumstances that maximizes the return on investment and the effectiveness of the learning environment for end-users.
Regardless of the changes in the landscape of education, and its facilities that we are experiencing, we are still operating under the same framework that we were 20 years ago. However, the challenges that we must deliver solutions for have grown exponentially. We must provide purposefully designed space for our children to learn, but due to technology advancements, there are no limits to learning every minute of every day. Therefore, those spaces, and our solutions, must be more dynamic and innovative while adapting to evolving curriculum and instruction. The funding mechanisms for building schools have not changed since 2001, although the construction indices have out-paced the Consumer Price Index by 33%; schools are ever increasingly more expensive to build. With a more expansive global economy, the commodities indices are more volatile, making long term planning of construction budgets for bond referendums and capital improvements much more difficult. Unfunded mandates, building code advancements, TEA amendments – the cards are stacked against our clients in their ability to provide learning environments needed for their students. VLK Architects overcomes those challenges time and time again with the schools we design.
The probability of change is not a probability at all, it is a certainty. It is that certainty that founds the strategies we employ for our clients. We exceed expectations in service, we design optimal solutions, and we build consensus with the teams of people with whom we work. In addition to providing expertise and thought leadership in 21st Century educational design, we provide diligent research and formulation of capital improvement budgets for long range facility planning and bond referendums. We develop and execute political strategies for our districts to assist them in informing their communities to secure the resources required to educate their children in these new social norms, and we have educational planners on staff with expertise in academic leadership to anchor design decisions around curriculum and instruction.
At VLK Architects we welcome what the future may bring. Change drives innovation and our firm thrives when given the opportunity to partner with school districts to provide excellent learning environments that overcome the probabilities of change.