Designing schools

It’s important that the physical design of school spaces responds and aligns to the way teaching and learning takes place at each school. This section provides information and resources for school leaders thinking about improving their school environment, as well as requirements and guidelines to ensure schools are safe and fit for purpose.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Project Managers
  • Property Managers
  • Researchers

Designing learning environments

A learning environment is not just about property. It’s about the social, pedagogical, and physical elements in the whole school aligning and aiming for positive educational outcomes.

  • Social – the people in the environment and how they interact
  • Pedagogical – the teaching and learning practises
  • Physical – the property, technology and other resources

When learning environments are well designed they can contribute to success and wellbeing at school.

Designing learning environments (including the School Evaluation of the Physical Environment (SEPE) survey)

Case studies, research and other sources

Design standards and guidelines

'Designing Schools in New Zealand – Requirements and Guidelines (DSNZ)' is the key document among national guidelines for school property design. It contains advice prepared by the Ministry with input from educators, architects, engineers and quantity surveyors who work closely with schools. It is designed to give design teams a clear understanding of the Ministry’s requirements and guidelines.

Education Infrastructure Design Guidance Documents

When you are building or upgrading a school building you must comply with certain legal requirements, Ministry design standards and should follow best practice standards to ensure your school is safe and fit for purpose. It is your responsibility to ensure any consultant or contractor you use is aware of the standards. Direct your consultants and contractors to this section for more information.

The guidelines within this section will help ensure that school property projects are compliant with DSNZ and legal requirements. They include guidelines on accessibility design for people with special needs, designing quality indoor learning environments, weathertightness and durability, structural and geotechnical, fire safety and energy efficiency design.

Property design standards and legal requirements

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