Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Looking Up

There is nothing I like better than talking with the architects and administrators who are charged with designing, equipping and operating educational facilities. This past month has been a busy one, with our staff attending ASIS (focusing on safety and security), CEFPI (focusing on planning and design), Greenbuild (focusing on sustainability) and EdSpaces (focusing on furniture and equipment). It is events like these where we hear about trends in the industry and ideas for our stories.

Perhaps the best news I have is that the economy “has” improved in the last year and that money is once again being spent to improve the learning environment. About two years ago I started hearing stories of hope, but most of that was just wishful thinking. This time, it appears to be real!

When it comes to resources and staff, everyone had been forced to downsize. The only thing that continues to grow is enrollment. Two reasons: first is growth in the school-age population; second is the need for and educated workforce. The U.S. Census Bureau reports one birth every eight seconds and one international migrant every 40 seconds, for a net gain of one person every 13 seconds. College enrollment is projected to increase by 13 percent between fall 2011 and 2013. Plus, it has been reported that there will be 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020: 24 million openings from newly created jobs and 31 million openings due to retirements. Of these openings, 35 percent will require at least a bachelor’s degree, 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree.

More people and the need for more education can only mean one thing: a need for more and better facilities and making the best use of the facilities we have. What we will see develop in the next few years is a bigger focus on energy as we work to meet the AIA’s 2030 commitment to net-zero energy design. From a planning and design standpoint the talk is about safety and security, collaborative learning and flexible space. We will continue to see less focus on formal spaces and more of a focus on flexibility and informal group spaces. New furniture designs and advances in technology have made concepts like the flipped classroom and TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) become a reality.

My only reservation… this all sounds good and works well in new and modernized facilities. My challenge to you is making this work for not just for the few who will attend new state-of-the-art facilities, but also for all students in all facilities.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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