Monday, May 16, 2011

Collaboration in Planning School Improvements

A new wave is passing over the traditional educational facilities culture.  It is perhaps new to people working in school facilities planning in the 1980s through the present, but not so new to those of us that predate the age of Disco.  Bellenger in a commentary entitled “Forging the Path” found in the January 2011 issue of Today’s Facility Manager advocates a fresh look at collaboration.

According to this article, 98% of construction dollars in the United States are spent on existing buildings, where the demand to become energy efficient takes precedent.   Hence, the standard for the Design of High-Performance, Green Buildings (USGBC) sets the stage for “going green” and using collaboration as a tool to achieve the high performance needed to decrease energy consumption.

The buzz term is “integrated design.”  What this means for school leaders (the proxy owners of schools) is that they must come to the table with design professionals, contractors, engineers, facility managers, and developers.  Finally, it is being recognized that the recent approach (I hesitate to use the term traditional approach) where the architect designs the building’s shape, orientation, and envelope, and then transmits the drawings to engineers and owners for their design, is the silo approach that misses the rich opportunities for optimizing a building’s performance through collaboration from the beginning. 

This presents a cultural shift in the building industry to transform the design process, but, according to Lynn G. Bellenger, it has to be done if the goal of net-zero-energy buildings can be realized.  As I have noted for many years, unsuccessful projects can be traced to failure of communication among architects, engineers, owners (educators), and contractors. 

In education, the educational community has given design for efficiency and learning over to architects, contractors, and engineers, assuming they know more about educational learning spaces than the educators themselves.  We must consider value engineering that includes the variable of how much does the green building really influence learning.  Does it in any way hinder learning and teaching? 

To ensure success for everyone, it is imperative to cultivate stronger communication skills and demand collaboration among the design team’s members as they work to enhance building performance.  Why not include building performance and student performance in the equation together?  Educators can only work successfully with the design team when they have been trained in educational facilities planning, design, and management.  This part of the university curriculum for educators has all but become extinct since the 1980s.

Collaboration with equal influence on the design team is a new challenge and opportunity for education!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Best Practices Research

We have always been fascinated with people and organizations proclaiming "best practices." In fact, some well meaning organizations have proclaimed "best practices research". It will be interesting for our bloggers to read about the process of "best practices research." Let us hear from you! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

School Design & Planning Laboratory

I found this quote on an educational Internet site: "Green schools not only make a big impact on the district’s budget, but also create green scholars as test scores rise for those surrounded by healthy environments."

Does this statement imply that test scores rise in green schools? I certainly hope they do, but how do we know this is true? Can anyone show a causal relationship between"green" schools and student achievement? (I am thinking about standardized test scores in "green" schools compared to standardized test scores in "non green" schools measured with appropriate statistical methods.)