Elevating Education | Design Approaches for Successful PreK-12 Learning Environments

Charlotte Nienhaus, AIA
December 21, 2023

Part 2: Architectural Design for Career and Technical Education (CTE) Spaces

In the last 20 years, ISG has seen high school CTE classrooms flux in function, programming, and priority. In that time, our architects have built an expertise that helps schools create CTE spaces that are modern, adaptable to ever-changing technology, and equip students with the knowledge they need to take the next steps toward their career goals. Read on to see how careful architectural consideration for recent CTE projects have brought hands-on learning to life for Minnesota schools.

Fairmont Area Schools Trade Building
Fairmont, MN

Fairmont Area Schools partnered with ISG’s design team to bolster their high school’s CTE program. Improvements included designing two new typical lab style classrooms and introducing an HVAC training shop, bringing college-level CTE credits into the school’s curriculum. A woodshop and large construction area were also designed. A uniquely outfitted hangar door, large enough to move a house out of the building, supports students working with Habitat for Humanity on large projects. To address other school safety needs, a storm shelter was incorporated into the construction area and shop spaces.

Architectural Considerations

With ISG’s cross-market resources, the expertise and product knowledge needed to use an airplane hangar door for the construction area was readily available. Creative design was necessary to brace the large opening and coordination with vendors and staff was essential to ensure the installation would work in the space and comply with the energy codes required of an educational setting. To ensure flexibility in curriculum, ISG prioritized creating larger ceiling heights to accommodate larger project types.

Using a listen-first approach and asking questions to conduct a full-picture analysis of project needs, ISG’s design staff facilitated discussions with teachers via user group meetings to focus in on their space needs. Regular meetings with the facility superintendents allowed ISG’s designers to understand the school’s big-picture needs and blend their expertise in architecture with the District’s educational and programming goals. This resulted in an enhanced CTE program that will serve students and the community for generations.

Expertise Takeaways

·        Cross-Market Resources

·        Creative Design

·        Coordination

·        Flexibility

·        Listen-First Approach

·        Full-Picture Analysis

Windom Schools CTE Building Addition
Windom, MN

When Windom Area Schools needed design assistance with renovations to existing agriculture, wood, and metal shops, ISG delivered a plan that encompassed 7,000 square feet of learning space. To address curriculum needs and prepare a future-ready workforce, an addition was completed to add space to the school’s agriculture, auto shop, metals, and welding programs.

Architectural Considerations

ISG assessed classroom locations along with teacher workspaces to design clear sightlines into CTE work areas. Windows were strategically positioned to support staff in supervising areas outside of the classroom where students would also be working. Glass overhead doors were designed and located to further support observation and supervision sightlines. Designs also brought natural light into the CTE spaces through shop windows to illuminate workstations and showcase projects.

ISG’s architects aim to help schools see how each project fits into the big picture of programming, curriculum, and district goals by asking the right questions to get a result that best meets their needs. For this project, ISG helped the school facilitate discussions with staff and stakeholders to learn their project visions and needs.

Expertise Takeaways

·        Clear Sightlines

·        Asking The Right Questions

·        Facilitating Discussion

Springfield Public School Renovations + Additions
Springfield, MN

Springfield Public School needed additional gym space and security updates at the main entrances to enhance curriculum and improve safety for approximately 600 Prek-12 students. To assist, ISG guided the District through the planning process and looked at options for a new gym addition.

Architectural Considerations

While discussing goals for the project, the District mentioned a growing need for shop space to serve the CTE curriculum. As ISG went through the process of listening to their needs, the District realized that the existing gym had the space and flexibility to be repurposed to address the desired CTE programming needs.

Reimagining the existing gym space to serve other curriculum needs allowed the District to focus on the addition of a gym that would better address their physical education and athletics needs. ISG phased construction so the new gym was ready for occupancy before renovations occurred to the existing spaces, which limited disruptions to classes and activities.

Expertise Takeaways

·        Strategic Space Reuse

·        Phased Scheduling to Minimize Disruption

In applying these architectural considerations, schools are preparing the future workforce with CTE spaces and curriculum that are a point of pride for students, faculty, staff, and community members. Contact me at Charlotte.Nienhaus@ISGInc.com to learn more about how ISG can help you create engaging and successful CTE spaces.

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Charlotte Nienhaus, AIA
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Charlotte Nienhaus, AIA

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