Design standards for school property

All school building projects must comply with legal and Ministry design standards and should follow best practice standards. As a board of trustees, you must make sure that any consultant or contractor you use for your project is aware of the standards. Refer them to this page for more information. Large projects of $3 million or more will be reviewed by our Design Review Panel.

Benefits of following design standards

When you are building or upgrading a school building, you must comply with certain design standards. The reason for mandatory design standards is to:

  • keep the building safe and fit for purpose
  • provide the best physical environment for people using the school
  • get the best long-term value for money from the new system or building
  • protect the Government’s investment in school buildings.

Meeting your responsibilities to follow the standards

Much of the information in the standards is very technical. As a board of trustees, you are not expected to understand all of it. However, you do need to make sure any consultant or contractor you use is aware of the standards.

Direct your consultants and contractors to this page for more information.

Three kinds of design standards

The 3 kinds of design standards that you must consider in a building project are:

  • legal requirements
  • Ministry requirements
  • best practice standards.

Legal requirements for a building project

All building work at schools must comply with:

The Building Code has ‘compliance’ documents that set out:

  • acceptable methods for designing and constructing buildings
  • performance specifications, which are the legal standards required to make a building safe for the people who use it and their neighbours.

Designers can use other design solutions. However, the standard they achieve must be the same as or higher than the performance specifications.

For more information and to download copies of the compliance documents, go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.

Ministry requirements for a building project

Building work must meet our Ministry design standards. We have some mandatory requirements specifically for school buildings. In some cases, these standards are higher than the legal requirements. This acknowledges the unique nature of schools and the extra wear and tear on school buildings due to large numbers of people using them.

A key document detailing mandatory Ministry design standards is the Structural and Geotechnical Guidelines for School Design.

Best practice standards for a building project

Not all the Ministry standards are mandatory. Some are ‘best practice’, which we recommend you follow to:

  • extend the life of the buildings
  • make them more comfortable for the people using them.

Post occupancy evaluations help improve future school designs

We commission a post occupancy evaluation (POE) of all new builds and major school redevelopments. These evaluations help us improve future designs of schools. Reading past POE's can be helpful before starting a new build or major redevelopment at your school.

Summary of design standards

This table lists the design standards that apply to a school building project. It shows whether they are a legal requirement, Ministry requirement, best practice standard or a mixture of these.

Summary of standards for a school building project

 

Legal requirement

Ministry requirement

Best practice

Accessibility design for people with special needs

 

Yes

 

Acoustics

 

Yes

Yes

Air quality

 

Yes

Yes

Assistive equipment (hoists)

 

 

Yes

Automatic doors

 

 

Yes

Bathrooms

 

 

Yes

Bilingual signs

 

 

Yes

Chromated copper arsenate treated timber

 

 

Yes

Education Infrastructure Design Guidance Documents

Yes

Yes

Yes 

Energy design

 

Yes

 

Flexible Learning Spaces

 

Yes

 

Fencing

Yes

 

Yes

Fire safety design

Yes

Yes

 

Floor coverings

 

 

Yes

Glass replacement

 

Yes

 

Heating, temperature and ventilation

 

Yes

Yes

Joinery and hardware

 

 

Yes

Learning spaces

 

 

Yes

Lifts in school buildings

Yes

Yes

 

Lighting

 

Yes

Yes

Roofing

 

 

Yes

Security design

 

Yes

 

Shade

 

 

Yes

Socket outlets and lighting circuits

 

Yes

 

Sprinkler systems in schools

 

Yes

 

Structural and Geotechnical Guidelines

 

Yes

 

Toilets

Yes    

Translucent plastic sheeting

 

Yes

 

Weathertightness design

Yes

Yes

 

Having designs reviewed by the Design Review Panel

We have set up the Design Review Panel (DRP) to do independent, high-level reviews of school development projects at various design stages.

This affects all new schools and schools doing significant redevelopments where the project will cost $3 million or more.

The DRP will assist in the process of ensuring that design teams are basing their work on the national standards and guidelines for school property design.

Panel members will do a high-level ‘snapshot’ appraisal of the design and use their extensive industry experience to raise questions and make suggestions.

As reviews are high-level, the focus is on consistency of approach towards school design looking at architecture/general building, geotechnical constraints/opportunities, structure, building services, and civil and infrastructure.

If you want to know more about the DRP, contact your property advisor. A summary factsheet can be found under ‘Further Information’, below.

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