Committee on Architecture for Education


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The Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) is a large and active group of architects and allied professionals concerned with the quality and design of all types of educational, cultural, and recreational facilities.

CAE Sub-committees 

03-18-2019 09:39 AM

Each subcommittee is pursuing research, articles, trends, and best practice information on the design of all types of learning environments. 

Early Childhood Learning Environments Subcommittee

Subcommittee co-Chairs: Rebecca Baibak, AIA, LEED AP and Gail Sullivan, FAIA

The AIA Early Childhood Learning Environments Subcommittee was formed in 2011 and is focused on all aspects of preschool and early childhood facility design. It is becoming widely understood that very young children are not simply mini-adults, or even mini-schoolchildren.  They are different in many ways, and it follows that educational buildings for very young children are likewise not simply mini-schools.  The Early Childhood Learning Environment Subcommittee seeks to recognize and understand these fundamental differences, and make that information available to the members of the Institute so that buildings for young children can also be informed.  As a client group that is unable to directly verbalize their needs, wants and wishes, it is up to the architect to understand, to interpret, to innovate and to advocate for design that:

  • Inspires the lifelong learner in all children
  • Creates healthy safe and nurturing learning environments
  • Encourages sustainable and toxin free indoor and outdoor environments
  • Respects age-appropriate learning and developmental curricula
  • Supports both the young child and the adult caregiver simultaneously
  • Teaches environmental responsibility and stewardship

Childhood has its own way of seeing, thinking, and feeling and nothing is more foolish than to try and substitute ours for theirs.” Jean Jacques Rousseau.

K-12 Education Subcommittee

Subcommittee co-Chairs: JoAnn Wilcox, AIA and Brandi Rikels, AIA

Join the K-12 subcommittee and contribute to the national conversation on K-12 design. We share insights and information to advance knowledge of best practice in the design of educational environments around five key issues: 

  • Understanding diverse learning models and learner needs
  • Analyzing the relationship between design and improved learning outcomes across socioeconomic/racial learning gaps
  • Removing barriers to innovation in education design
  • Advocating for high performance design in schools (Living Building, ZERO-carbon, LEED platinum, WELL, plus)
  • Engaging students and stakeholders in the design process

The K-12 Education Subcommittee is charged with: developing knowledge; identifying, performing, documenting and disseminating research; communicating with AIA CAE members; and contributing content for conferences.

Higher Education Subcommittee

Subcommittee co-Chairs: Jason Forney, AIA and Susan Morgan, AIA 

The subcommittee is pursuing research, articles, trends, and best practice information related to the following areas:

  • Higher Education Evaluation (benchmarking, evaluation, innovative learning environments and higher education as “think tanks”)
  • Master Planning (including agenda planning, sustainable growth planning, campus community, blurring of living/learning, community partnerships, and sense of place)
  • Process, Design and Sustainability (LEED, net zero and carbon neutral, integrated design)

Informal Learning Environments Subcommittee

Subcommittee co-Chairs: Kate Scurlock, AIA  and Irene Monis, AIA

The Informal Learning Environments Subcommittee is focused on the role of informal learning environments as places of learning, researching, and teaching. Informal Learning Environments include a wide range of project types which include, but are not limited to: Libraries, Museums, Interpretation Centers, Corporate and Convention Facilities, Nature and Environmental Centers; which support life-long learning. These project types, often focused on experiential learning, have unique requirements which differ from traditional learning environments. The subcommittee is pursuing research on trends and developing knowledge to support the AIA CAE on Informal Learning Projects.

The Subcommittee  is charged with: Developing knowledge; Identifying, performing, documenting, and disseminating research; Communicating with the AIA CAE members; Coordinating with AIA CAE Conference chairs.

Research Task Force

co-Chairs: Dina Sorensen,  Caroline Lobo, PhD, AIA, and Valerie Caruolo, Assoc AIA

The Research Task Force aims to position research as a knowledge asset for the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education members and affiliated organizations by establishing a research agenda reflective of contemporary themes and needs. In addition to establishing an agenda; over the next nine months we will prioritize relevant topic domains, empower practitioners who are leading innovative design and research initiatives, define goals that promote the translation of expertise from outside disciplines into design and education, and provide relevant resources for members. Learn more on the CAE Research webpage.

Advocacy Task Force

co-Chairs: Dan Curry, AIA and Tracy Hucul, AIA

As Architects interested in the design of educational facilities, we are in a unique position to advocate for those causes that impact architects, educators and learners across the country. We have formed a task force to establish the below initiatives. If you are interested in being part of the group that supports our advocacy agenda and shapes the future for educational architecture, please express interest on web form below. 

Remove barriers to innovation in education through advancing state & federal standards

In the United States, every state has an educational agency. Each agency sets the educational standards for that state. The breadth of what each agency regulates varies by state, but they all affect to some extent the educational environments our students attend. The U.S. Department of Education has its own sets of standards. Although it has limited regulatory authority over a state’s educational standards, it exerts it’s influence through the guidelines schools must follow to receive grants or other forms of funding. State educational agencies and the U.S. Department of Education have the potential of impacting future educational facilities in a positive way. However, most lack the funding or the expertise to update their policies to reflect the changing landscape of education. In many cases, the policies in place limit or hinder the design of new educational facilities, or the updating of existing ones. The Advocacy Sub-Committee of AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education seeks to impact this conversation by understanding the policies on the books across the country and proposing new standards that put student’s needs first and seek to create educational environments for all students to thrive. 

Partner with allied organizations on policy that links pedagogy to the design of teaching & learning spaces

There are a number of public and private, national organizations in education. Many of these organizations are focused on promoting one particular aspect of experiences in our schools and colleges. Some are focused on educators, others on teaching & learning, and others on facilities. There is often little to no collaboration among these organizations and their siloed nature has led to redundancy in efforts and missed opportunities for building the critical mass necessary to advance the connection between pedagogy & design. The Advocacy Sub-Committee of AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education seeks to impact this conversation by cataloging and connecting with allied organizations to advocate for policies that recognize the value of the contribution the built environment can have on positive student outcomes.

Raise awareness for the importance of design in support of teaching & learning with federal, state & local legislators & school district leadership.

Research shows that environment matters in support of teaching and learning. The old industrial model upon which many of our schools were built is no longer valid for the skillsets needed for success in this Global Knowledge Economy which have been expanded to include: collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, curiosity and citizenship, among others Additionally, learning is more personalized and hands-on. Nurturing these skillsets requires a broader range of instructional methodologies and consequently a range of spaces in order to be effective. How might we best prepare all legislators and school district leadership to understand the need for change in order to better position them in their advocacy efforts around great schools? The Advocacy Sub-Committee of AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education will work to communicate the “Why” to legislators and school district leadership to equip them with the necessary tools in order to strengthen and increase the consistency across our core messages magnifying our impact.

Ensure schools are recognized as key contributors to social infrastructure to obtain necessary funding for improvements

Our schools have traditionally been highly accessible, vital focal points in our communities. As recognized anchors in compact, walkable neighborhoods –schools have not only provided a reassuring institutional presence but have also offered rich resources promoting cultural, recreational, social and sometimes religious activities. More contemporary planning practices have sometimes isolated newer schools from their surrounding communities, raising issues of maintenance, security and access. How they are integrated into the surrounding context, accessed after hours and opened up for the use of various interest groups becomes of critical importance as we seek to optimize the use of tax dollars and make the most of our public facilities. In spite of the challenges of managing and financing shared use facilities, there are numerous success stories across the United Stated where joint use facilities, such as libraries, auditoria and recreational fields provide enhanced benefits for the community. 

The CAE’s Advocacy Sub-Committee seeks to showcase best case examples of schools and other educational facilities that, through community partnerships, joint management, flex scheduling, pooled financing and creative space planning provide more than the sum of the individual programs and contributors. We seek to demonstrate how schools contribute to the health of our social infrastructure through the effective planning and sharing of physical resources by means of effective, innovative community partnerships.

School Safety & Security

School safety and security has been in the national spotlight in recent weeks due to yet another tragic incident on a school campus. As architects, we are being asked to develop designs that provide for bullet-proof glass, secure entry vestibules, surveillance camera systems, etc. These can be beneficial to deter an active shooter and can also aid in providing deterrents for bullying and other unfavorable behavior, but they are not the exclusive answer. In addition to providing enhanced security measures, we also need to look at research on provisions of “soft design” as well. We need a national dialogue that validates the importance of creating stronger, more connected school communities focused on development and identification of soft skills in students to reduce the incidence of isolation, depression, bullying and discrimination in our schools. The design of schools can and should be an active partner in this conversation. Through transparency, adjacency and creation of warm, welcoming environments, architects can provide the physical spaces to nurture these activities. The Advocacy Sub-Committee of AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education needs to be a leader in this discussion as part of a comprehensive approach to the issue of school safety. Through research, dialogue and documenting solutions, we need to serve as facilitators to bring about holistic approaches to ensure our schools continue to be safe havens for learning, connection and exploration for our nation’s children.

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