As parents continue to return to the workplace, young children are heading back to the early childhood classroom. Are the design considerations of our early childhood facilities keeping up with the ever-changing requirements of today’s COVID social distancing society? Most professionals in the industry think their facilities could use an update.
“Taking into consideration potential updates that could be made to your existing or new facility is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Nick Pape, COO of Old Forge Builders, who specializes in the construction of early childhood education facilities. “Facility design and construction is as critical as top-of-the-line educational programs for success, more recently around safety, wellness, and technology.”
What should you consider as you plan to update your existing or plan your new early childhood education facility?
Establish Goals for a New or Renovated Center
- Help ensure the final product fully meets your needs by describing things such as how you want the center to feel and function and the type of atmosphere you hope to create
Have your Architect Evaluate Your Existing Center (when renovating, or adding locations)
- An architect needs to understand how you currently use your center and determine what you like/don’t like about it, so be sure to think about how different functions and activities occur and what changes you should make to have a more effective environment in your new facility
Check Out the Competition
- Visit newly constructed facilities and high-quality spaces to pay careful attention to design features that appeal to you, interview staff
Interview Potential “Users” of your New Center
- Gather sufficient input from those who will ultimately use the facility: parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, and children to identify and prioritize needs
- Remember to plan for potential program growth or other trends that might affect your facility’s plans
Identify Your Center’s Specific Needs
- Think about your center’s total population, the number of children you hope to serve as well as the number of adults who will use the space
- Consider how children will interact in the physical space and provide your architect with specifics regarding children’s ages, head count, need for spaces with distinct use, spaces that should be adjacent to one another, etc.
- Plan for more than the required square footage by state licensing standards to ensure that you have the amount of usable space you will need today and in the future
- Allow for at least 50 SF per child of useable classroom space for preschool-age children and even more for infants and toddlers
Identify Each Type of Use Space
- Classrooms: Specify the types of features you would like to have in each classroom, such as child size bathrooms, windows, counters/cabinets, access to the outdoors, etc.
- Staff: Staff needs may include things such as secure storage for personal belongings, phones/intercoms in rooms, work areas in classrooms, convenient storage for classroom supplies and materials, staff break and resource rooms, and more.
- Offices: Plan for the number of staff who need private office space and the types of activities that will take place in the various offices
- Kitchen: Decide early in the process how you plan to use the kitchen and communicate this with your architect.
- Miscellaneous: Consider other types of spaces you should provide for adults using your center, such as adult bathrooms, staff break and resource rooms, meeting room, and dedicated parent spaces such as a resource area.
- Storage: Plan for ample space for storage needs up front to add to your satisfaction with the center when it is complete.
- Entry/Reception: Discuss what type of reception work area is needed, security system requirements, waiting area layout, and a potential separate delivery area.
- Maintenance: Plan for enough space for important functional areas such as laundry facilities, janitorial closet, mechanical room, etc.
- Outdoors: Carefully think of the areas outside of your facility such as parking, landscaping, playground, etc.
JL Architects has over 30 years of experience providing planning, permitting, design, and architectural support across the entire US. With a variety of early childhood care and educational facilities in our portfolio, how can we help you update or plan your next child care center?
-Laura McLaine, Director of Business Development