Educational Centers Need to Revise and Redesign their Layouts to Create a Safe Environment

Date: 24 August 2021.

Over the past few months, numerous studies, have shown that COVID-19 spreads more in compact, closed-off, and poorly ventilated spaces. But if you notice, most schools and university campuses today, exist as hermetically-sealed, integrated buildings that are connected through shared circulation elements such as lobbies, double-loaded corridors, and elevator banks. In this case, the ventilation problem is exacerbated since 90% of the air is recirculated due to air conditioning. As a result, only 5% of fresh air is brought in. This increases the possibility of cross infection and contamination. Moreover, it causes high operational energy costs and maintenance problems.

As of today, there is an imminent need to re-think and conscientiously adopt an action plan that aids in building a safer community to cultivate learning. Education architects or university architects need to discover more trends and strategies for transforming educational environments for a more agile, resilient, and equitable future.

So what can be done? According to Rahul Kadri - Partner and Principal architect at IMK Architects, the following changes can be implemented in architectural designs:

Learning Spaces

One promising solution is to move learning outdoors or bring the outdoors in. Lectures and workshops can happen in shady open spaces such as courtyards and terraces wherever possible, while indoor classrooms can be planned along large, single-loaded corridors to ensure optimal ingress of daylight and fresh air.

Segregated Circulation Paths

It is important to create clearly segregated circulation paths for students, teachers, and visitors. There needs to be designated lobbies and staircases for entry and exit so that transmission of infections can be contained. Given that social distancing is likely to remain, educational centers will also need to revise interior layouts and furniture designs, leading to increased area requirements.

Re-purposing Large Unused Spaces

The management can re-purpose large unused spaces such as gyms and libraries for classes and lectures. Moreover, the teachers can move from class to class instead of the students. This will limit unnecessary movement and help lower the spread of infections.

Moreover, furniture that is light-weight and designed for single-occupancy can be combined or de-attached as and when required - this aspect will aid in meeting multi-functional needs.

Staggering Class timings and Breaks

Social interaction and collaboration are critical to learning and, hence, one needs to find ways to adjust to this ‘new normal’ for educational spaces.

Staggering class timings and scheduling classes or lunch breaks in different time slots across the day and the week can help avoid crowding. This concept will create safe spaces for social interaction and collaboration.

Harness Technology

Schools and universities will need to blend online and physical learning experiences in order to promote a safe learning environment.

Amidst the pandemic, technologies are playing a crucial role in keeping our schools/colleges functional in a time of lockdowns and quarantines. This technological revolution is set to have a long-lasting effect on the educational sector for many years to come.

Post-COVID, institutional buildings/ primary school building designs in India will see new changes. With determined optimism and a renewed focus on health and wellness, resilience, agility, educational architects will attempt to plan for a reimagined future.

IMK Architects has great experience in designing education units. If you are one of those looking for new design innovations in schools/colleges, get in touch with IMK Architects. One of the best architects for institutional buildings in India, the IMK team will help you reshape the educational world.