DeepDive: Smart Schools Pay Off in the Long-run

A good school is a safe place where young people can experience warmth and community, discover life-long interests and enjoy the satisfaction of overcoming difficulties. With the right planning and design, the school can elevate pupils, staff and the entire neighbourhood.

A new school is a major investment that should do more than simply provide teaching facilities. A well-planned school that meets current and anticipates future needs, that is created for friendship and security, movement and concentration, does not simply lay the foundations for a good education and workplace, It engages the local community, engenders civic pride and can become a much-needed centre for activities and social intercourse.


The activity and flow that a school generates is an excellent motor for driving a vibrant urban area and can create a hub for residents and students, as well as for cultural and commercial activities and for local clubs and associations. This is where architecture can play a crucial role in successfully and efficiently meeting all of these needs.


Making maximum use of the school’s premises provides profits not only financially but also socially and in terms of sustainability. It becomes a place where the local community can gather. A school that is teeming with life during many hours of the day and days of the year also provides an increased sense of security by populating local streets, footpaths and public spaces. Such a school creates a sense of participation, interest and engagement and becomes something to be nurtured and cared for; in this way, we can promote positive social development on several levels, with the school as a rallying point. As such, the school’s design and location in the community is crucial.

School is the place where children live, learn and grow. Where life long interests and friendships are born.

Each school is of course unique and we must take the inherent qualities of the location as a point of departure by emphasising its culture, history and nature. The location should enrich the organisation and the architecture and, in turn, the school should contribute to developing the surrounding urban area so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. At the same time, there are certain aspects that are fundamental to creating a good school environment.


  • The pupils must thrive. Every pupil must feel at home in their school and they must be seen and heard. They must have the opportunity to get to know their surroundings inside and out, so that they can move freely and make progress. They must feel secure as individuals and secure in expressing that individuality.
  • Friendship and community. in a school, it must be possible to meet in large forums and in intimate groups, something that demands a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces. Students and teachers also need to be able to meet spontaneously and often.
  • Create the desire to learn. It must be possible to work flexibly and simply in both small and large groups, indoors and outdoors and in traditional, innovative and creative ways. The premises should never present a limitation – they should be a platform for each child to discover the joy of learning, to develop and build their personality.
  • Physical activity and health. children should experience the joy of movement from an early age and have the right to a school playground in which they can run and play. A well-designed outdoor environment both promotes health and increases the child’s ability to concentrate throughout the day.

Learning environments can be a powerful lever for creative thinking.

New challenges

We live in an age of change. It is difficult to predict the challenges that our children will be faced with in the future. Globalisation and technological development are changing our society and our professional roles. The teaching offered in schools needs to reflect these changes in order to meet the new demands that will be placed on our children and young people.


That which applies today may be redundant in five or ten years time and schools that are built on temporary foundations may provide a birth cohort’s total schooling. It is therefore vital to arrive at a solution that is sustainable over several generations.


We must create value that is sustained over time. This is a matter of healthy, efficiently utilised buildings with a small ecological footprint – where smart thinking can cope with both large and small birth cohorts, organisational changes and new approaches.


Important key skills that are predicted to be increasingly in demand in working life include analytical ability, problem-solving, communication skills, creativity and collaborative abilities. Just as important as these skills are behaviour, motivation and attitudes. This places demands on the design of the physical space.

Interaction, identity, orientation and accessibility have been the guiding principles in the development of the proposal for Schulcampus Stuttgart-Feuerbach.

Intuitively, most people would probably agree that the design of the spaces we live and work in makes a difference to how we feel, something that in turn affects how we perform. We also find support for these conclusions in both international research and White’s own internal R&D projects. Daylight, illumination, air, noise, the balance between stimulating and soothing environments and colour schemes – these are just some of the important aspects. Collaboration between a great many specialist skills is required to manage all of these areas and to bring them together in a functioning whole that can act as a powerful lever for creative thinking and learning. We have developed five strategies to achieve this.


Five routes to a sustainable school

  1. More than a school. Make the school part of a greater social infrastructure that strengthens the entire local community.
  2. An attractive meeting place. Meetings between people lead to increased knowledge and greater social cohesion, security and integration.
  3. Developmental learning environments. Diverse environments that promote the joy of learning and support various styles of learning and children’s differing needs also facilitate flexible use over time.
  4. The healthy school. Children are especially sensitive to toxins and endocrine disruptors and therefore require a toxin-free environment. The building must meet tough sustainability requirements, as well as visualising a sustainable lifestyle in which school playgrounds and indoor environments encourage motion rather than sitting still.
  5. The right floor area at the right price. Premises in which functions overlap and spaces have multiple uses create both collaboration and efficient utilisation. Flexible buildings facilitate flexible use; they can cope with changes in pedagogical direction or variations in the size of classes over time without the need for renovations.

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