School Design in the 21st Century

Matt Horne recently created a video (correction: updated version of the video is here) explaining a shift in the way many school districts throughout the United States are designing newly constructed school buildings (see this site for additional school photos). Our district, much like his, has been in "building" mode for at least the last fifteen years. Consequently, new buildings have been going up in masses - many of which have implemented modern designs (Sunset Ridge Middle School is an excellent example).

Matt's list of design changes are certainly thought-provoking:

  • Social areas, open ceilings, green spaces indoors
  • Outdoor classrooms, courtyards, lobbies
  • Creative architecture, hallways as classroom spaces
  • No chairs, glass walls, lobbies
  • Round buildings, buildings on hills
While these new designs are certainly refreshing, I wonder how much "better" they actually are, compared with traditional (or other) school buildings. Here are my questions:
  1. Is there data that supports the implementation of modern designs for academic purposes?
  2. Do modern school designs actually improve student learning? If so, by how much and is the margin large enough to justify increased building costs?
  3. What are building trends on an international level? Are new schools being built that are radically different in their design philosophies? If so, what are the results?
So, what are your takes on the matter? What kinds of building are going on in your area?

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