Property design standards and legal requirements

All school building projects must comply with legal and Ministry design standards and should follow best practice standards. Boards of trustees must make sure that any consultant or contractor they use for a project is aware of the standards.

Large projects will be reviewed by our Design Review Panel to ensure designs meet the national standards and guidelines. We also commission a post occupancy evaluation of all new builds and major school redevelopments to help improve future designs.

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.

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.

 

Legal requirement

Ministry requirement

Best practice

Accessibility design for people with special needs

 

Yes

 

Acoustics (Designing quality learning spaces)

 

Yes

Yes

Air quality (Designing quality learning spaces)

 

Yes

Yes

Assistive equipment (hoists)

 

 

Yes

Automatic doors

 

 

Yes

Bathroom and toilet design for people with special needs

 

 

Yes

Bilingual signs

 

 

Yes

Chromated copper arsenate treated timber

 

 

Yes

Education Infrastructure Design Guidance Documents

Yes

Yes

Yes 

Energy design

 

Yes

 

Fencing

Yes

 

Yes

Fire safety design

Yes

Yes

 

Floor coverings

 

 

Yes

Glass replacement

 

Yes

 

Heating, temperature and ventilation (Designing quality learning spaces)

 

Yes

Yes

Joinery and hardware

 

 

Yes

Learning spaces

 

 

Yes

Lifts in school buildings

Yes

Yes

 

Lighting (Designing quality learning spaces)

 

Yes

Yes

Roofing

 

 

Yes

Security design

 

Yes

 

Shade

 

 

Yes

Socket outlets and lighting circuits

 

Yes

 

Sprinkler systems in schools

 

Yes

 

Standard classroom block upgrade reference design

   

Yes

Structural and Geotechnical Guidelines

 

Yes

 

Toilets

Yes    

Translucent plastic sheeting

 

Yes

 

Weathertightness design

Yes

Yes

 

Legal requirements

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 (external link) .

Ministry requirements

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.

The Education Infrastructure Design Guidance Documents outline the Ministry's national guidelines for school property design. These documents give design teams working at schools a clear and consistent understanding of Ministry’s requirements, guidelines and high level processes.

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

Best practice standards

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.

Design review panel

The Design Review Panel (DRP) does 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 (external link) .

An overview of the review process [PDF, 1 MB]

Post occupancy evaluations

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.

Post occupancy evaluations (POE) of school building projects

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