Building Backpacks, Building Schools
Swinerton Construction rejoined us as a drive leader during this year’s Back-to-School Drive, and their commitment to Bay Area education is woven into their work year-round. Their most recently completed project is Homestead’s Innovation Hub in Cupertino. Built for collaboration and interdisciplinary learning, the building includes computer labs, art classrooms, a makerspace, and a central common space. This might sound pretty different than a lot of the school spaces many of us grew up in, which reflects the evolution of educational needs over time. Catching up with Swinerton representatives, we were able to learn more about the construction and design process behind modern educational structures.
Swinerton has been involved in school construction for decades--how has building schools changed through the years?
Today’s facilities place a higher priority on flexibility and multiuse. This can be seen in the application of furniture design, where those components are more mobile, as well as technology. Buildings are more consciously outfitted to support present and future technologies in an increasingly digital world. In addition, more and more districts are considering closed campuses with single points of entry for the added security benefit.
What impact does architecture have on students' education?
Architecture creates the environment in which students learn. Particularly healthy to this environment is the amount of natural daylight students receive, which has been shown to be a key factor in both productivity and mental health. Furniture design is another critical element. Desks can be arranged to promote more active learning and better engage students. Additionally, with the emphasis on security, schools employ more visible and open campuses that keep sightlines open and can reduce student conflict.
What are some interesting challenges Swinerton has encountered when designing schools/educational spaces?
One of the more interesting challenges posed comes when construction takes place on an occupied campus. Safety is obviously of the first order, but additionally important is the need to eliminate distraction. It’s critical to manage noise levels as well as interaction between workers and students. The challenge comes in maintaining a sense of place and purpose despite the fact that things are constantly changing.
What are some design considerations that need to be made in order to ensure accessibility to different students?
One of the primary goals of accessibility is not just the improved function of a building, but the sense of belonging that function gives to students. Path-of-travel design and how it affects campus circulation are vital considerations to maintain, but accessibility now also encompasses the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms. These improvements can help ameliorate previous stigmas and provide a healthier learning environment.
Do you collaborate with teachers and faculty to see what needs their different populations might have?
Our team understands that the most critical element of a successful project is establishing a culture of collaboration, teamwork, communication, and commitment. During collaboration sessions, our team works with teachers, faculty, other end users, including the Design Team.
We're incredibly grateful to Swinerton Construction for their persistent support of Bay Area education. Whether they're building backpacks, libraries, or tech hubs, Swinerton is there for the students of today.