Did you know that even the most basic characteristics of your physical environment — so the air, light, colors, and materials that surround you — have a strong effect on how you feel and how you think? This connection has great significance in school settings. The important decisions made about a campus design in turn impact how students perform and learn. They also affect teaching practices and capabilities.
As we consider the many ways to improve schools, it’s time to add space design to the list. While school leaders and architects should be thinking about how the physical environment can support a particular curriculum and group of end users, the first step in design is to understand how fundamental elements will influence everyone on campus. Here’s ten common ways that architectural features impact schools.
1. Noisy floors lead to poor concentration and comprehension.
Students in carpeted classrooms have higher test scores in math and language than students in rooms with hard floors. Background noise also affects learning, particularly for young children who require optimal conditions for hearing and comprehension.
Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Image: School District 38 Richmond.
2. Daylight significantly boosts student learning progress.
In classes with the most daylight students progressed 20% faster in math and 26% faster in reading compared to students in classrooms with the least daylight, and these results did not vary by grade.
Source: Heschong Mahone Group, Inc. Image: Stian Rodven Eide, Flickr.
3. To stay focused, we need views of the outside world.
Ophthalmologists recommend distant views and views of nature to provide needed breaks from close work and restore students’ ability to concentrate.
Source: California Energy Commission. Image: Springfield Public Schools.
4. Learning progress is affected by level of control occupants have on windows.
Operable windows in classrooms promote student progress, associated with 7-8% faster learning.
Source: National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Image: Chuck Choi.
5. Poor indoor air quality leads to millions of missed school days a year.
American children miss more than 10 million school days each year because of asthma aggravated by poor indoor air quality.
Source: American Lung Association. Image: wallpapers.red.
6. Colors have an ability to boost creativity and attention to detail.
Red is the most effective color at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.
Source: University of British Columbia. Image: rgbstock.com.
7. New spaces lead to feelings of safety, pride, and enjoyment.
Student attitudes become more positive after a move to a new school building. Students who “felt safe” increased from 57% to 87%; “felt proud” increased from 43% to 77%; “enjoyed going to school” increased from 50% to 61%; and “bullying” decreased from 39% to 16%.
Source: National Foundation for Education Research. Image: Rosan Bosch.
8. Higher quality buildings are correlated to better student behavior.
The higher the quality of school construction and design, the lower the incidence of vandalism, absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, violence, disruptions, tardiness, and smoking.
Source: US Department of Education. Image: Milton Academy.
9. Low ceilings equal low creativity.
In rooms with higher ceilings, people are 25% better at seeing connections between seemingly unrelated subjects.
Source: Journal of Consumer Research. Image: Leigh Simpson.
10. Poor facilities chase teachers away.
Studies in Los Angeles and Milwaukee public schools show that poor school buildings have a negative effect on teacher retention.
Source: National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Image: Kurani.