Educational

Ask an Engineering Expert: What trends do you see in designing K-12 schools?

In this installment of our Ask an Engineering Expert series, April L. Halling, P.E., Project Engineer at RTM Engineering Consultants, answers the question: What trends do you see in designing K-12 schools?
By RTM Associates May 7, 2019
The Center for Academic Achievement is a 140,000-square-foot, newly constructed facility within the Shawnee Mission School District. It includes a mix of student space and administrative staff space with a mission to support collaboration and a healthy sustainable atmosphere. Throughout the design process, the importance of future flexibility was top of mind as the needs of the facility will likely vary over time. Photo courtesy of ACI Boland Architects

RTM has worked on a wide variety of education projects, ranging from elementary schools to universities. K-12 schools, both public and private, have particular needs for different spaces. An elementary school cafeteria, a middle school gymnasium, and a high school theater, for instance, all have unique requirements.

The Center for Academic Achievement is a 140,000-square-foot, newly constructed facility within the Shawnee Mission School District. It includes a mix of student space and administrative staff space with a mission to support collaboration and a healthy sustainable atmosphere. Throughout the design process, the importance of future flexibility was top of mind as the needs of the facility will likely vary over time. Photo courtesy of ACI Boland Architects

High school facilities are increasingly offering advanced education courses requiring specialized facility spaces, such as science labs that include vacuum, compressed air, and natural gas distribution systems. These systems need special shut-off and isolation controls to ensure student safety. RTM’s diverse portfolio allows us to address unique challenges and design systems for any type of educational space.

The Center for Academic Achievement is a 140,000-square-foot, newly constructed facility within the Shawnee Mission School District. It includes a mix of student space and administrative staff space with a mission to support collaboration and a healthy sustainable atmosphere. Throughout the design process, the importance of future flexibility was top of mind as the needs of the facility will likely vary over time. Photo courtesy of ACI Boland Architects

The biggest trend we’re seeing at the moment in K-12 schools is creating more open, flexible, and collaborative spaces. It’s reflective of what we’ve been seeing for years in commercial office spaces. By using movable walls and centralized common spaces, we’re able to build areas that can adapt to serve a single classroom or a combination of several grade levels at one time.

Rhein Benninghoven Elementary School is a 74,000-square-foot, two-story elementary school within the Shawnee Mission School District. The center core of the building includes the ability for open access to the media center, cafeteria, and collaboration areas from both levels. Photo courtesy of ACI Boland Architects.

Another trend we see on the horizon is the ability for schools to change the color temperature of lighting. Some studies have found that simulating natural sun patterns and synchronizing with students’ circadian rhythm can boost concentration and improve behavioral health. For example, this customization will allow schools to shift to a cooler color temperature, like 4100K, to improve concentration during testing times, and back to a warmer color temperature during other times to reduce stress and create a relaxing environment.

We are always looking for ways to deliver creative and cost-effective solutions in educational facilities, factoring in initial costs and long-term costs as we develop flexible and comfortable learning environments.

Crestview Elementary School is a 64,000-square-foot facility within the Shawnee Mission School District, designed with long term flexibility in mind as well as a positive learning environment for students. The school includes a kindergarten and pre-K education wing complete with collaboration areas for group interaction. Photo courtesy of ACI Boland Architects


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