How Does K12 Architecture Affect Quality of Life?

K12 students spend much of their time inside a school building. But have you considered how the architecture of these schools are actively effecting each student’s quality of life?

In the wise words of Winston Churchill, “We shape our buildings and afterward our buildings shape us.”

The fact is that a child’s comfort, mood, and quality of life can fluctuate dramatically depending on the atmosphere of the school building they spend their time in.

While it can be easy to discount or even ignore completely the effect that architecture has on our day-to-day lives, we shouldn’t. Nearly every moment of every day is influenced by architecture. So if the goal is to have happier, healthier students then it seems reasonable that we pay a bit more attention to the design of our schools.

The Research

Thanks to many modern psychological studies, we now have a much greater scientific understanding of the types of environments K12 students prefer.

Some of these studies have attempted to measure participants’ physiological responses with apps that ask them about their emotional state throughout the day and in some cases, EEG headsets that measure brain activity relating to mood, stress, and state of mind.

Because of these studies and others like them, we now know for certain that K12 architecture does, in fact, affect mood and well-being. It has also been brought to light that specialized cells in the hippocampal region of our brains are attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit!

The implications that these studies have for K12 students can’t be understated! It should be said that many of these studies were performed on a small minority of our population in specific environments. But with that said, these studies do provide us with a firm introduction to a concept that applies to all people – including K12 students. One piece of research we can take away is that your psychology changes with your environment. Improve your environment, and you could improve the quality of your life.

Let’s Get Practical

So the science is in. School architecture effects student psychology. So how should architecture improve in light of that? The answer is actually pretty intuitive…

We all know the dreadful feeling of spending too much time in a dark, dull environment. It dampens your mood and leaves you feeling cold.

It’s also clear that the layout and size of a space has a considerable effect both physically and psychologically on your ability to undertake a given task.

In contrast, we’ve all experienced beautiful, inspirational spaces. Admiring and appreciating them with joy.

Apply these intuitive principles to K12 architectural designs and it’s no wonder why schools which lack aesthetically pleasing designs, have poor natural lighting and lack sufficient open space are firmly correlated with a strong negative effect on behavior and student morale. In these types of architectural designs, students feel confined, crowded, and uninspired.

Designing for function alone isn’t enough in the real world. We need more.

Designing Happier Lives

First and foremost, buildings and urban spaces should be designed around the people who are intended to use them. The relationship between humans and their environment contains aspects of social and psychological influences along with a physical impact. You can’t consider the relationship between people and space as a one-way street.

But the truth is that in the real world, creating the “perfect” space is an impossible, subjective balancing act between form and function. This is made harder by the fact that architects don’t have the luxury of creating prototypes outside of computers or physical models, and are restricted by laws and often tight budgets.

But by considering and making an effort to improve the effect that each design decision will likely have on those who’ll one day use the space, we can greatly improve the quality of life for all those who will work and study there.