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You are here: Home > Online Articles > Planning a New School



Planning a New School

By Waheed Sarfraz Malik


Planning a New School
Private education is a growing business in the Middle East. Businesses traditionally involved in non-academic ventures are now endeavoring to diversify into educational projects, while those already in this field are looking for opportunities to grow. These projects include setting up preschools, college preparatory schools, tertiary education centers, and a variety of institutes offering a plethora of certifications. With soaring tuition fees and ever-improving facilities, education is a thriving business with a potential for huge returns.

Investors and developers are designing and building bigger and better school buildings. Schools operating in rented facilities are a thing of the past. Schools now increasingly start in purpose-built facilities that meet the requirements of rigorous curricula and extra-curricular programs. While many creative and innovative school designs have emerged in the past ten to fifteen years, many architecture firms do not understand the basic requirements of students, teachers, and administrators. Designs primarily follow land size and budget constraints. However, some basic guidelines for design and space are presented here.

Once the budget has been finalized and the finances have been secured, the operators of the school must prepare a list of parameters before the task is assigned to an architect. A decision must be reached regarding matters such as the count, size, and equipment considerations with respect to types of spaces and features.

1. Area of the plot

2. Type of school (preschool, K-12, etc.)

3. Expected maximum enrollment

4. Number of classrooms

5. Media center(s)

6. Theater(s)

7. Gymnasium(s)

8. Laboratories

9. Cafeteria

10. Faculty and student bathrooms

11. Prayer room

12. Health office

13. Storage

14. Aquatics

15. Indoors and outdoors open spaces

16. Entrances/exits

17. Security concerns

18. Safety concerns

19. Handicap access

20. Administrative offices (academic and non-academic)

21. Number of specialty rooms

22. Aesthetic preferences

23. Grade levels at the school and number of sections of each

24. Curriculum to be used

25. Tuition level charged

26. Locality profile of the school surroundings

27. Number of faculty, administrative staff, and support staff.

The size of the school will depend upon the size of the plot, demographics of the target market, and the capacity planned. The school must be designed with growth and further construction in mind for a later time. Growth decisions may depend upon the school site, peripheral roads on any side, buildings around the school, height restrictions, and structural integrity of the existing structure to build vertically. The architect will take these constraints and prepare concept designs for client perusal, following which detailed drawings are prepared.

To operate optimally, efficiently, and effectively, the school must work within a student population of 1,200 to 1,800 to best utilize the economy of scales. Let’s look at some calculations of space and building requirements (developed with the help of Ng, Boon Yew, CEO Emaar Education, 2009) assuming a baseline of 1,500 students.

1. If there will be a maximum of 25 students per room. As a rule of thumb, each student takes about 2.5 square meters, giving us a total of 62.5 sqare meters (sq m) per classroom. Primary students require more space as a whole. An adequate room size with teacher desk and filing cabinets is approximately 65 sq m. This gives us a covered area of about 3,900 sq m for classrooms.

2. To accommodate other necessary facilities, such as science laboratories, gymnasium, art rooms, media center, bathrooms, etc., it is estimated that twice the classroom area will be required. Doubling the classroom area calculated in (1) above, we arrive at a built-up area of 7,800 sq m for facilities.

3. The total covered area required for educational purposes is 11,700 sq m. Typically, 25 percent of the built-up educational area is needed for internal spaces such as corridors, casual sitting areas, lockers, elevator shafts, etc. This may also depend upon local construction regulations of the area. Another 5 percent is dedicated to electrical rooms, wiring hubs, and service accesses. This 30 percent increase will augment the covered area to 15,210 sq m.

4. Outdoors sporting facilities and other play areas for elementary students will require another 15,000 sq m. These can easily accommodate a football pitch, track, swimming pool, outdoor tennis courts, and teacher parking.

5. If regulations allow for G+1 school buildings, then the footprint of the building will be about 7,600 sq m. It is not uncommon for a constructed building to occupy only 60 percent of the total area. This means the plot size cannot be smaller than 12,675 sq m, in which case some of the outdoor amenities will be compromised. Ideally, the minimum plot size should be 22,600 sq m.

In conclusion, to construct a quality school with the potential to provide a world-class education to K–12 students, one must aim for a dedicated plot of land approximately 20,000 to 25,000 sq m. This will allow for the teaching of any curriculum and will provide ample outdoor space for sports and activities, which at some point may be reconfigured for future growth.

Similar calculations can help you make educated estimates before you take on the daunting task of starting a school. This will give a clear idea of the space requirements needed prior to embarking on the journey. Of course, a school is far more than just brick and mortar.

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:

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04/10/2021 - Kolawole
Thank you. I have 6 plots in kwara state which I want to build primary and secondary schools and a central mosque on, how can I plan it
02/27/2021 - Francois Demonique
I am interested in a school development in Monrovia, Liberia west Africa
11/16/2019 - nadia
is there any more recent information?

thank you
08/17/2019 - rajesh sanasam
05/20/2019 - vinod
useful guidlines
04/04/2019 - Lama
very useful information
Thank you very much
I just was wondering how to plan the no. of sections per class.
01/10/2019 - Pincku
15*20 plot land for building school,
06/01/2018 - J. Pritchard
Practical and to the point, generally a good read. The spaces are quite generous for an inner city private school. Nevertheless, useful information for a startup.

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