Architectural Programming for Schools

Programming is a critical pre-design task that engages all stakeholders in a collaborative process of defining the goals for a project. It is a massive information gathering exercise that translates complex relationships into a clear road map for the design process to follow.

While teachers and students grace the hallways and classrooms of facilities they learn how to navigate the school; They locate important areas like the cafeteria, and establish routes that lead to restrooms and classrooms in the most efficient manner. Do they ever wonder about the size of certain spaces, the number of offices, or why some areas seem to have a specialized purpose? If the program was well-developed, they probably do not, as the spaces should comfortably and unobtrusively support the users.

School buildings have become more complex and more flexible in recent years. The impact of curriculum delivery on space design is more evident than ever before.

Each space needs to respond to the needs of the individual, small group, and large group interactions. Curriculum needs and instructional approaches should drive the process.

No longer can we program schools based on the simple math of multiplying the number of classrooms by 25 students. Comprehensive architectural programming now combines the client's needs, current district policy, and specialized academic programs with building codes and regulations, safety requirements for specialized equipment, ADA accessibility, cost limitations, sustainability, required adjacencies, flow of people, equipment and materials, and even social impacts.

A thorough programming process saves money and provides clarity as potential problems are identified at an early stage in the design, when changes are the least disruptive and least costly.

As time goes on, the impact of changes gets more expensive and slows down the design and construction process. Staying within budget and on schedule is crucial for school districts, as we must be cognizant of the constant use of public funds for these facilities.'