Designing Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand (DSNZ) Standards

The Designing Schools in Aotearoa New Zealand (DSNZ) is the principal document in our suite of design standards for state schools. Access the latest version of this 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

The DSNZ sets the expectations for school property projects and supports the Ministry’s broader educational and sustainable property objectives.

About the DSNZ

Vision and context

The purpose of the 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 inspiration, for generations of ākonga to learn and succeed.

The Ministry of Education’s 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

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

Adherence to the Ministry’s design principles and standards is mandatory for all new work on state school property that learners may use. This applies regardless of who owns the property or funds a project. That means compliance with the DSNZ is mandatory for Ministry projects. The DSNZ must be used by boards managing projects at their schools.

Download the DSNZ

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

Designing Schools in Aotearoa NZ (DSNZ) Standards – Version 2.0 2022

DSNZ (V2.0 2022) [PDF, 3.9 MB]

Mandatory for all new projects (including school-led) from 1 August 2022 as well as for existing projects that have not yet started concept/preliminary design (for school-led/minor works projects) or completed their Masterplan (for moderate & major works projects) by 1 September 2022

Designing Schools in NZ (DSNZ) Version 1.0 2015

DSNZ (V1.0 2015) [PDF, 1.1 MB]

Previous version for reference only.

Using the DSNZ

How the DSNZ Standards fit in with broader Ministry Design Requirements

The 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.

DSNZ Structure

The document has 3 parts.

Part 1 Design Principles for School Property  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  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. This section 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  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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