Time has Told

Nov. 1, 2007
Commentary from the 2007 Architectural Portfolio jury.

“As we look to the 21st Century, we face the question, ‘What will our educational facilities look like in the year 2000 plus?’ … Change will come, but as always, it will be slow,” writes C. William Day, associate professor of education at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.

No, you don't need to check your calendar. We are well past the year 2000, and if you are a regular reader, you will notice that Bill Day, columnist of AS&U's Tech Talk, now is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga. This quote is from the first Architectural Portfolio published in 1983, of which Day was a juror.

Let's look back at where education design and construction was headed in 1983, and where it is headed today. Throughout his 1983 article, Day predicts the following:

  • “Additional effort will be put into master planning, protection of the natural environment, creation of more humanistic surroundings and low-maintenance facilities.”

  • “More and more, we will see the use of active and passive solar energy systems, alternative fuel sources, and new mechanical-electrical concepts such as heat recovery, heat pumps and heat storage.”

  • “We will continue to see specialized schools to meet the increasing demand of individualized differences, and more magnet schools.”

  • “In an existing school, an addition can be added to permit joint-use areas to separate the lower grades from the upper, thus permitting one building to house two schools. Flexibility and openness to change will be essential.”

Time has answered these predictions. We have seen education institutions develop detailed master plans that account for years into the future, and we have seen architects place importance on creating learning environments that feel like home, instead of an institution. We have seen the school-within-a-school concept develop, and a greater importance placed on making learning environments as flexible as possible to accommodate student needs. We have seen the education community embrace sustainable construction, and more and more institutions seek LEED certification.

The jury's criteria for the 2007 Architectural Portfolio shows that some of the same concepts that Day mentioned in 1983 still are valid considerations today. Along with them, today's education planner must consider security and student safety to a greater degree as school violence has become more prevalent. Technology must be planned into schools and universities to a greater degree than could have been imagined 25 years ago. Today's education facilities must incorporate aesthetics, technology and function in a way that allows them to work together and at a cost that makes sense over the life of the building.

In the 25th Architectural Portfolio competition, the jury considered the following criteria when making its selections:

  • Innovation (new ideas that enhance learning, not the “status quo”).

  • Sustainability/Maintainability (use of local materials, daylighting, energy-efficiency, economy, social aspects, building orientation, impact on the environment, community).

  • Safety/Security (transparency, location of offices at the front, security in classrooms).

  • Image/Aesthetics (technologically progressive, inviting, economic development/funding).

  • Life-cycle costs (maintenance, quality materials).

Time has told us much about education construction in 25 years. As we look from 2007 on, the final sentence of Day's 1983 article still applies: “Educational construction will continue to be a vibrant industry. Money will be tight, needs will be great, and significant changes will be necessary. Architects, educators and planners have a delightful challenge.”

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