6 Trends in 21st Century Design

One blueprint doesn’t fit all when designing schools and the reason for this is simple: each institution encompasses a different purpose in order to serve their students. However, within 21st century school design, architect’s do have one common goal in mind: to exceed the demands of their clients by delivering sustainable, flexible, and joyful buildings. It is likely that schools will start incorporating new trends and goals alike within their designs, giving architects a bigger, more exciting margin to work with.


To get insight on what to expect in the years to come with educational design, take a look at the six growing trend predictions below.


Expansion & Renovation
Undersized facilities create a problem with growing communities and sometimes two separate buildings aren’t the answer due to budgetary demands and other factors schools face. If schools instead expand for a larger footprint in highly-populated communities, they demonstrate diversity and give the feel of a college campus layout. Although studies show that smaller schools lead to better academic outcomes, larger schools could mimic this concept by subdividing the student body and making a school within a school. Expect to see more  school buildings that merge their departments and expand on to the existing facility instead of building two completely separate facilities.
Stimulating Appearance
21st Century school designs are stepping away from conservative color palettes and are instead creating “joyful chaos” within the building. Vivid hues and occasional accents embracing colors like orange, green and pink are just a few trends that we will likely see in designs to come, especially within elementary schools. However, to create a more “grown up” atmosphere for junior and senior high students, schools are transitioning from the expressive colors to more neutral palettes, while incorporating sophisticated elements throughout the building. These elements could be anything from exposed concrete to wood slabs with the occasional pop of color. All of these stimulating quirks not only give a refreshing aesthetic, but provide the building with a playful sense of space, energy and imagination.
Engagement with Nature
The schematic planning of learning spaces is becoming more driven to facilitate two major passive design strategies. The prevailing strategy is the incorporation of natural daylighting. The second most common driver has been to holistically engage students with the natural elements that occur outside of the learning space. The integration of nature and increased natural daylighting has been proven to enhance academic performance, decrease disciplinary issues, lower stress levels, encourage curiosity, and enhance occupants’ ability to focus on tasks.
Use of Local Materials
In smaller communities, we can expect to see a growing use of local materials and sources for school construction and design. Using local materials develops a sense of entrepreneurism and sustainability, something that is already being taught in school. This could be anything from locally sourced lumber, fixtures or even an integrated community garden effort. This is an easy way to bring a community together by utilizing locally sources materials while also educating students on the importance of supporting small businesses.
Environmental Responsibility
Schools will continue to harness the many benefits of natural daylighting paired with energy-efficient lighting solutions such as LED fixtures. While this is among the most popular of sustainable design trends, we can also expect to see few other strategies, both passive and active, that can significantly improve a building’s performance. From geothermal heat pump HVAC systems, to low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials, these concepts can be used to lower the amount of resources required to operate, thus improving the quality of the facility.
Safety & Security
Possibly the most important step in creating a successful school is designing the building with protection and security. While this may not be seen as a “trend” and more of a priority, schools are investing in carefully secured designs in order to keep their students safe. We will likely start seeing schools with unobtrusive secure strategies and “natural surveillance”, giving students and staff the opportunity to keep an eye on the facilities through thoughtfully placed windows and location of the building.
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