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Primary school building design plan: 8 innovative characteristics

How to design a school: the guide to BIM architectural design

How to design a school: guidelines, concept and spaces organization together with a project example complete with renders, DWG drawings and a 3D model ready for download

In this insight we will address the topic of how to design a school building and cover important aspects relating to spaces and furniture arrangement together with the relevant building standards.

The final project reproducing  a primary school consisting of 5 classrooms has been created by the BibLus staff with an architectural software and can be downloaded in DWG format.

How to design a school building

school entrance render – created with Edificius

Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file)

Guidelines for contemporary school architecture

At an international level, most countries have guidelines containing design trends for the construction of new schools.

How to design a school building

school aerial view render – produced with Edificius

These building standards define the design methods that can be adapted to the teaching and organizational needs of a school in continuous transformation. Modular space types are suggested, which can be easily represented and able to respond to different educational contexts operating in the most advanced teaching and learning systems. With the evolution of teaching criteria, thanks to the continuing spread of ICT educational practice,  the design of school buildings should also respond to the architectural parameters and criteria and the organization of new spaces.

School as a civic center

The new school building is becoming a connection element with the surrounding environment, a civic center that contributes to the quality of the urban surroundings, and that is preferably established in healthy and quiet areas and where it is possible to organize playing and sports facilities on flat areas.

How to design a school building

garden render – created with Edificius

In short, the new guidelines for school architecture aim to provide a new idea of educational area in terms of:

  • Learning environments enhanced with new functions, for example service centers in the area;
  • Providing not only places for training, but also areas which encourage building a “ bridge” between generations and different cultures ,offering  spaces and opportunities for dialogue between Public Administration and Citizens;
  • Places designed for children which serve as a reference point for the several Associations working in social environment and dealing with urban environments;
  • School buildings in continuous transformation that are able to manage accurate pedagogic information and receive the full potential of a future society.

Spaces for learning

How to design a school building

classroom render – created with Edificius

The new guidelines contain interesting introductions relating to specific areas for learning destined to activities with a technical potential:

  • The Agora is a school square, a big space where everyone can get together to follow events of main interest;
  • A group space which represents the development of the traditional classroom set up for face-to-face lessons and must be an environment which allows you to perform diverse and interactive activities;
  • The informal space must be the place which can be used by children in their free time, equipped with sofas, chairs, cushions etc, also providing usable areas which were only used as corridors in the past;
  • The individual space expresses the environment where the student can concentrate escaping from the surrounding context;
  • The exploring space/laboratory/atelier is the space where children can perform activities which require specific instruments, for example a science laboratory or a digitalized classroom.
How to design a school building

concept design – planimetric hypothesis of the distribution of functional blocks

Technical standards

The urbanistic, technical and safety standard analysis is followed by the design phase and establishes the functional and dimensional aspects of the school building.

How tod esign a school building

Library render created with Edificius

In addition to the building legislation, it will be necessary to follow certain rules when choosing suitable school furniture. For example, in the European Union each country needs to be compliant with:

  • EN 1729-1 | standard for the specific functional dimensions and the size of chairs and tables for school institutions
  • EN 1729-2 | chairs and tables for school institutions – safety requirement and test methods

Designing a Primary school: a practical example

Let’s move on to explain the usual design procedures for a primary school consisting of 5 classrooms, a learning spaces, and technical specifications.

How to design a school building

concept design – school plan configured with the main building blocks intended for classrooms (east), hall / agora (center), laboratories and library (west)

The compositional/functional methodology

Let’s start off with arranging and designing the main functional blocks – classrooms, spaces, laboratory, atelier, teaching and personal areas, canteen, technical spaces – next to the central element of the building, the hall/agora.

How to design a school building

Agora render created with Edificius

Paying attention to the extension of the plot and the relationship with the surrounding environment, we can describe in a detailed but schematic way, the learning spaces which characterize the architecture of the primary school having 5 classes:

  • Classrooms have an articulate perimeter to suggest ability for more complex and less typical arrangements of desks, complying with the most up to date educational requirements. They are easily oriented to the east while protected by brise soleil which are sensitive to sunlight and enable automatic rotation by photo sensors;
  • The laboratories / atelier and the canteen are distributed through similar patterns of regular spaces on the west side;
  • The spaces for teachers and for the school staff consist of two functional blocks used for teaching;
  • The Agora, the community space for excellence, is represented with a large square, in which all types of other environments converge. It is always ready to receive the students at the beginning and at the end of the lessons and on the occasion of particular events such as assemblies, collective meetings, shows, and even parent meetings and community events. A small staircase holds information on activities or leisure time pursuits;
  • The informal spaces, obtained connecting multiple environments, are equipped with couches, chairs where children can spend their free time, making transit areas usable spaces;
  • The individual spaces, placed mainly near classrooms, allow students to be able to concentrate in the didactic activities escaping from the surrounding environment;
  • Lastly, green spaces, external to the school walls, promote curiosity, development of the children and their socialization, by stimulating the sensibility towards the natural environment which becomes a diffused atelier.

To avoid classroom overcrowding, the number of students and teachers have been assumed to range from 17 to 19 people.

How to design a school building

internal courtyard render – created with Edificius

Furthermore, the primary school has been equipped with a large library and a family counselling center, directly accessible from the outside, which contribute to:

  • Improving education which provides educational environment for students;
  • Making school environments usable and enjoyable even after school hours;
  • Developing relationships between the school and the local community, as well as being a reference point for the area.
Primary school building design plan

concept design – elevation scheme of the double-height hall / agora

The 8 technology characteristics for designing a primary school

Let’s summarize the main technical and technological elements for designing different work categories, such as walls, insulation, fixtures and technical installations of the school building:

  1. the use of high efficient heating and cooling systems and renewable energy sources both for cold and hot months;
  2. the vegetation interacts with construction elements having several functions such as microclimatic variation of the temperature, humidity and wind control. In addition, it serves as a purification system and it helps to reduce noise. Both interior courtyards and the external green spaces, in addition to granting visual comfort, they also provide natural ventilation and the penetration of sunlight which is adjustable by fixed and mobile shielding systems and from the presence of deciduous trees;
  3. the walls, that are more exposed to solar irradiation and risk overheating in the summer, are adequately shielded with deciduous trees and sun shading systems to optimize the light coming in. However, the entire wall panel has an interspace made of thick wooden fibre panels which guarantee efficient comfort both in summer and winter seasons;
  4. the roof is equipped with a ventilated air gap which decreases the “heat island” effect and creates a thermal and acoustic insulation;
  5. on the ground floor, a ventilation through the air gap created with “igloo” type of elements has been planned. These elements reduce excess moisture and contribute to removing the possible presence of radon gas;
  6. the glazed parts are made up with low-emission glasses with added argon gas in the air gap, which are also impact resistant or shatterproof and framed with aluminum pre- painted or wood thermal fixtures. As mentioned, windows and doors that are facing east and west are also equipped with sun-shading systems;
  7. the library roof is characterized by the installation of skylight with opal glasses which capture the light from the north and diffuse it in a homogeneously in the reading area, lighting up in a harmless way the spaces designed for the book archives;
  8. the openings placed on the upper part of the internal spaces allow an adequate and natural ventilation of the classrooms thanks to a chimney effect.  Fresh air, that is collected from the inner courtyard and lower spaces thanks to the special openings on the glass windows, replaces rising warm air in a natural way which is then expelled from the “light chimney” skylights placed on the roof.

Project drawings in DWG and 3D BIM model ready to download

Here are the project drawings in dwg and the 3D model produced with an architectural BIM design software available for free download.

How to design a school building

library entrance render – created with Edificius

Download the 3D BIM model(.edf file format) of a primary school project

Download the IFC model of a primary school project

Download the project drawings in DWG format of the primary school design plan