Standards and Requirements for School Property Design
Access all Ministry standards and some relevant legal requirements for the planning and design of property projects.
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All school property projects must comply with our design standards and requirements, all relevant legal requirements and should follow best practice. School Boards must ensure that any consultant or contractor they use for a project is aware of these requirements.
- Summary table of design standards
- Purpose of design standards
- Scope and application
- Design Standards, Technical Requirements and Guidance
- Legal requirements
- Giving your feedback
This summary of design standards is a complete list of the design standards and guidance that we have published. The table also shows where there could be legal requirements to consider and where there are mandatory Ministry requirements.
Summary table key:
- webpage link
- webpage link with document downloads
Schools are valuable, long-lived social assets. They have given access to education, and inspiration, for generations of ākonga to learn and succeed. We must sustain and enhance the quality of schools for current and future generations. This requires us to be effective stewards of school property.
The purpose of our design standards is to ensure quality and consistent school property outcomes for the enduring benefit of all learners and their whanau, teachers, school leaders and local community. We do this by specifically focusing on standards where the New Zealand Building Code (Building Code) or other legislated requirements are silent or not fit-for-purpose for schools.
For new build projects our standards are mandatory. For maintenance and refurbishments, we encourage designers to meet our standards as near as reasonably practicable, provided there is a tangible benefit for learners or asset management.
More information about scoping maintenance and property upgrade projects can be found within our specific design standards and on our property maintenance webpages.
We have a suite of Property Design Standards, Technical Standards and Design Guidance to follow when planning property work at schools. We use the term ‘Design Standards’ to refer to the whole suite. We also have a range of Reference Designs to help with the planning and design of new spaces and design process requirements to follow when doing this. The differences are outlined below:
Design Standards – outline the design principles and spatial requirements that school designs must meet to ensure they align with wider Ministry objectives.
Technical Standards – focus on specific technical elements or aspects of school property and are usually requirements that aim to standardise outcomes for schools, or are above Building Code where necessary to ensure schools are fit-for-purpose.
Reference Designs – easily repeatable designs for teaching blocks and areas within a school that have specific requirements. For example, toilets, changing spaces and designs to support accessibility. They can be easily customised to suit school sites, educational needs, or existing buildings and have been shown to deliver good outcomes for learners and the Ministry as asset owners. Reference designs documents are often accompanied with best-practice design guidance.
Design Guidance – provides helpful insights to support fit-for-purpose learning environments and best practice for school property.
Design Assurance – we undertake independent, high-level reviews of school development projects at various design stages. Find more about our Design Assurance and Review processes on our webpage.
All building work at schools must comply with all relevant and current legislation including, but not limited to:
- Building Act 2004 (New Zealand Legislation website)(external link)
- Building regulations (the New Zealand Building Code) (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website)(external link)
- Resource Management Act 1991 (New Zealand Legislation website)(external link) and District Plans
- Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (New Zealand Legislation website)(external link)
- Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act (2017)(external link)
- All other statutory building requirements, standards and council bylaws.
The Building Code has 'compliance' documents that set out:
- Objectives, functional requirements and performance criteria for various elements of a building required to make a building safe for the people who use it and their neighbours.
- Acceptable and alternative solutions for designing and constructing buildings to comply with the Building Code.
For more information on Building Code compliance requirements, go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website(external link).
We want to constantly improve the content and usability of our documentation. If anything in these documents seems to be ambiguous, inaccurate or in conflict with other Ministry documents, you can contact us through School.Design@education.govt.nz. Your feedback will help us to maintain these design standards as a valuable resource for those involved in the design of our schools.
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