Reimagining Learning Spaces
Carl Bower

Traditionally, architects designing in the education sector have followed age-old practices, representing school systems while providing solutions that serve students and teachers. But what if architects could not only envision a new school but create new learning spaces without building additional facilities? What if an architect could reinvent existing spaces, allowing students and educators to use them more effectively and creatively while saving valuable resources, time, and money?

The AIA’s new B210-2017 document—Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Facility Support—provides architects and owners with the ability to speak a new language of nontraditional architecture. No longer are schools beginning with a traditional “project” in mind. The first step is to evaluate the existing environment, understanding what works and what prevents students and teachers from performing to their highest potential. Then architects can make strategic decisions to repurpose spaces or create new ones, with the occupants’ needs in mind.

The following are some of the key concepts included in the B210-2017 document, which architects can use to provide enhanced value to their clients:

Occupancy planning. Change is constant; change is progress. Occupancy planning is about preparing for future scenarios that may or may not happen. What would you do if a major change in the surrounding community impacted your enrollment significantly? If the economy went south and your workforce was decreased? Anticipating change allows one to act quickly and confidently in response to any future challenge.

Portfolio vs. building. Very rarely does a building stand on its own; it is usually a part of a real estate portfolio. When a portfolio is adequately studied, more strategic issues may be resolved. For example, can a central cafeteria encourage collaboration, or an underutilized floor become touchdown space for teachers and students? Occupancy challenges, evaluated over an entire portfolio of buildings, can lead to creative solutions.

Sustainability and wellness. Over the last century, architects have increasingly incorporated sustainability into our built environment. The next step is our journey into healthy facilities. Whether or not one believes in rating systems, we must make it a priority to increase the health of our facilities and their occupants.

AIA’s B210-2017 document provides increased communication between architect and owner, allowing supporting services— beyond those listed above—to be scoped, scheduled, and priced. As architects, we need to stop thinking in terms of “projects” and start thinking about how we can be strategic partners to clients in the management of their facility portfolios.

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