Designing schools in Aotearoa New Zealand (DSNZ) standards

Designing schools in Aotearoa New Zealand (DSNZ) sets the expectations for school property projects. Access the latest version of the DSNZ document on this page.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Architects and designers
  • Engineers
  • Project managers
  • Contractors and service providers
  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Principals and tumuaki
  • Property managers

About designing schools in Aotearoa New Zealand

Vision and context

The purpose of Designing Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand (DSNZ) is to help the Ministry with its kaitiakitanga/stewardship role. This involves ensuring quality school property outcomes for the enduring benefit of all learners and their whānau, teachers and school leaders, and local communities.

Schools are valuable, long-lived assets that have given access to education and are inspiration for generations of ākonga to learn and succeed.

Our purpose is to shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes. We must sustain and enhance the quality of our school property as a part of delivering on this commitment.

Document purpose and scope of application

DSNZ sets out the Ministry’s expectations to design teams and people involved in the planning and design of schools.

  • It is mandatory for all new work on state school property that learners may use to adhere to Ministry design principles and standards.
  • This applies regardless of who owns the property or funds a project.
  • DSNZ must be used by boards managing projects at their schools.

Make sure you are using the latest version of DSNZ by directly downloading the document from the link below.

Amendments to the DSNZ

The following amendments apply to the DSNZ: 

Using DSNZ

How DSNZ standards fit in with broader Ministry design requirements

DSNZ is the principal document in our suite of design standard and guideline documents.

The full suite of standards and guideline documents can be accessed from our property design standards and legal requirements webpage.

Standards and requirements for school property design

DSNZ structure

The document has 3 parts.

Part 1: Design principles for school property 

This section provides the overarching priorities for school property and informs our detailed design standards and guidelines outlined throughout the document.

Part 2: Spatial planning for school property 

This section focuses on the design of a school sites as a key aspect of creating a quality learning environment and school-wide learning opportunities for ākonga.

It covers the consideration of placement of buildings, infrastructure and the design of outdoor spaces as fundamental to achieving our overall school property objectives.

Part 3: Technical standards for school property  

This section focuses on the functional and performance standards for the physical elements that make up a school site or building and clarifies our priorities for educational assets.

Design teams must refer to our wider suite of technical standards while reading this section to gain a clear understanding of Ministry standards.

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