How to Tackle Tough Facility Design Considerations: When Making Decisions about the Design of Your Facility, There Are Many Aspects to Consider-From Technology to Aesthetics to Environmental Responsibility

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TO DATE, THIS SERIES HAS OFFERED INSIGHT on planning a facilities project, hiring professionals, delivery system options and your responsibilities as the owner. This month, we'll focus on some of the planning and design concepts you may be asked to consider in providing direction to your design and construction team.

Technology--How Much is Enough?

Technology has proven to be a powerful driver of change and a significant force in the development of humanity. While there is no simple answer on how to deal with technology, there is an approach.

In the second article in this series, we talked about creating a facilities master plan--a long-range vision of how your facilities will support your current and future programs. In concert with your institution's approach to pedagogy, it is highly advised to develop a technology master plan.

Your technology master plan will set the institutional direction for the integration of technology in the delivery of your educational programs, and it will define your philosophy and set the initial phases of an implementation plan. Once you prepare the technology master plan, you will need to continuously invest in keeping it up to date. Elements of the plan may change every year, but the core philosophy you adopt toward the role of technology within your institution can remain a constant. Your board will have to buy into the philosophy, because once it becomes accepted at the institutional level, it will drive hard decisions.

While I believe in the value and power of human interaction and the necessity of developing social skills, I also agree with Willard Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, that technology has to be the foundation block in our educational strategy for building schools of the future, today. Look at their Model Schools initiative and you'll see the commitment to technology as an integral element in education.

If you attended the ACTE Annual Convention in Atlanta last December, you might have seen the Advanced Learning Space (ALS). The ALS was created to demonstrate the integration of technology, pedagogy and architecture. Through sample courses delivered in the ALS, participants experienced a sense of the power and flexibility, as well as the social and human interaction that a thoughtful plan could produce.

It is critically important that you share your institution's strategic position on technology in the classroom with your design and construction team early on in the design process. This will set the stage for future plans and ensure the technology infrastructure is in place to support your vision.

Sustainable Design

Issues surrounding sustainability have become mainstream in the past few years. Yet for all the support sustainability issues are receiving, it is not well understood. Some institutions are passing policies on sustainability without realizing the meaning of those commitments. Let's take a closer look.

The rate at which the world is consuming nonrenewable resources is increasing, and the impact we have on our environment is undeniable. We need to be better stewards of the world we live in today so that there will be time for our children and grandchildren to find answers and alternatives to the things we're consuming and can't replace.

How do these concepts affect decisions in a construction project? That depends on how far you want to go. The United States Green Building Council has developed a certification program for buildings based on accumulating points for project elements. The certification process is rigorous and has associated with it considerable record keeping. The certification process involves the design, construction and operation of the facility. The institutions we see going for certification, in many cases, are doing it for the status of having a certified building. Getting your facility certified is a worthwhile goal, but find out what that means, how the process works, what it will cost, and do it for the right reasons, not because it's trendy. …