I consider educational planning and design more of a vocation than simply my profession. By definition, “…a vocation (from Latin vocātiō, meaning ‘a call, summons’) is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which a person is particularly suited,” and this is precisely my feeling about it.
Over the course of my career I have attended a lot of conferences to increase my knowledge about design as it pertains to educational spaces. Recently, I attended the 2017 Association For Learning Environments (A4LE) National Conference in Atlanta, where the focus was on preparing students for future careers by not only honing their technical skills, but also developing their leadership, collaboration, and communication skills.
Multi-Discipline Learning Spaces
One of the presentations that I attended, “The Innovation Campus: Student Driven Learning for the NEXT Century,” discussed the importance of incorporating innovation and modern elements into high school campus design to reflect the changing face of students’ future career opportunities. Merging what used to be separate schools and training areas into a single “Innovation Academy” was a great solution and a current trend that incorporated all career areas of interest into a single, collaborative learning environment. Programs were tied to many industries, yet all were under one roof, including:
- Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering
- Business, Agricultural and Natural Resources
- Creative Arts, Communication and Design
- Health Sciences and Human Services
In addition to receiving high school credits for participating in these courses, many programs culminate with students receiving real-world certifications as well, making students immediately marketable upon graduation.
Another presentation I attended focused on how the learning environment (both physical and institutional) can cause stress for students. Speaker Bill Latham from Meteor Education explained that teaching and nursing were the most stressful professions today.
Intense stress leads to high levels of Cortisol that can result in ailments and diseases like Diabetes and Cushing Syndrome. Not surprisingly, the lack of sleep caused by these factors is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content of .08, with the impact being irritability, impaired decisions, and in some cases impaired moral judgment. The level of disengagement on the part of teachers amounts to 2.3 million workdays missed, and a 40% turnover rate in the teachers within the first five years costing $7B.
Through design, we can build work environments that facilitate calm, helping to increase levels of social and emotional health. “There is no such thing as a neutral environment,” Latham added. “It’s either helping or hurting you.” So staying current on how to design and manage more calming work environments continues to be a sincere focus for us here at BRPH.
Facilitating Student Success
In a world where students and educators alike are struggling with increasing stress every day, it is our duty to design and create environments that provide all parties with the opportunity to be as successful as they can be. This idea should ring true across all design. Whether an office building, a retail store, a school or a manufacturing facility, it is imperative to design environments in which everyone who uses them can thrive.
I am not someone who believes that “architecture can change the world,” but what I DO believe is that architecture, planning, and creation of space can change how people experience their everyday lives. This leads to each of us reaching our highest potential – and when we do that – we can change the world.
Sean Tracy is the Director of Education for BRPH’s Florida markets. He is a registered architect and a graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is one of only four ALEP’s in the State of Florida. Sean is also a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) Practitioner Certified.