Western Canada’s population is on the rise. And with provinces such as Alberta and BC exceeding the nation’s average population growth, the construction of well-designed and sustainable new schools has come to the forefront of the building industry. From developing and maintaining a realistic budget, to creating a building that will positively impact the students, teachers and larger community, each step taken when designing a new school is an important one. Here’s a closer look at how budgeting, site selection, design, technology and sustainability all play integral roles in the creation and construction of a new school.

Budget

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Because so many factors – such as a building’s design, materials and technology – affect construction costs, creating a detailed budget should be the first step when building a new school.

Materials will need to be cost-effective and durable without contributing to factors such as reduced air quality. Also consider the lifespan of the intended building, as the operational systems such as lighting and HVAC will need to last the same amount of time.

Site Selection

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Characteristics and amenities of the surrounding town or city should be taken into consideration when selecting a new school’s site and how the school itself will connect with the rest of the community.

Extensive research and testing on the viability of a potential site includes previous uses, topology, geographical considerations, hydrology, wildlife, vegetation and proximity to natural hazards. Further, a site will have to accommodate the footprint of the school, allowing for playgrounds, sports fields, parking and required setbacks. 

Design

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Where function meets aesthetics. Schools require a multitude of spaces, from classrooms to offices to media centres to gymnasiums to lunch areas. The need for these spaces must be balanced with the need to create a welcoming and stimulating place for students.

It’s during this phase when administrators and designers must decide square footage of each space within the school as well as overall footprint and how each distinct area co-exists with and flows into the next.

Technology

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How today’s students are taught is a much more interactive process than in past years. Standalone computer labs no longer suffice, as technology is now employed not as something to learn about – but as something to facilitate the learning of everything from art to mathematics to physical education.

Aside from learning-based technology, new school builds also require technology in the form of such systems as telephone, data and intercom. 

Sustainability

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It’s becoming increasingly important to design and build a new facility with its effect on the environment in mind. Aside from how the construction and operation of new schools interact with the natural world, there is also the necessity for the students of today to learn in a building that takes their future into consideration.

Furthermore, eco-conscious building design often has a two-fold outcome – not only are sustainable design choices such as the use of natural light and airflow ways to reduce environmental impact, but they are also ways to provide students with a healthy place to learn and grow.