Education Infrastructure School Design Guidance Documents

Access information and downloadable resources for school property projects.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • Boards
  • Proprietors
  • Architects and Designers
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Project Manager
  • Design Consultants

Compliance with the DSNZ [PDF, 1.1 MB] is mandatory for Ministry-managed projects. It should be used by boards managing projects at their schools.

Using the Education Infrastructure School Design Documents

The Education Infrastructure School Design Guidance documents set out the Ministry’s requirements and guidelines for designing infrastructure on school sites. They respond directly to the many design issues and the lessons that have emerged from project reviews undertaken by the Ministry’s School Design team.

Using these documents will ensure that our schools are fit for purpose and flexible enough to be adapted to meet future needs. Designers must take a whole of life approach to cost and durability, and demonstrate that taxpayers are receiving value for money for any investment in school property.

The design guidance documents have been prepared by the Ministry with input from external architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, and educationalists who work closely with schools on projects nationwide. They include:

  • the Designing Schools in New Zealand Requirements and Guidelines (DSNZ) document
  • the Education Infrastructure Project Brief template
  • the Project and Site Constraints Table (PSCT) template
  • the Design Compliance Checklist (DCC ) available from November 2015.

 Diagram showing the hierarchy of the design guidance documents.

The national curriculum informs these guidelines which include:

  • the Designing Schools in New Zealand Requirements and Guidelines (DSNZ) document
  • the Education Infrastructure Project Brief template
  • the Project and Site Constraints Table (PSCT) template

A project design proposal includes master planning and project specific design. All designs are reviewed for compliance with Ministry design requirements,

Giving your feedback

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 the Ministry through Your feedback will help us to maintain these design guidance documents as a valuable resource for all of those involved in the design of our schools as effective learning environments.

Designing Schools in New Zealand - Requirements and Guidelines (DSNZ)

The DSNZ sets out for design teams the expectations for developing property projects for the Ministry of Education.

Compliance with the DSNZ is mandatory for Ministry projects. It should be used by boards managing projects at their schools.

The document has 2 parts.

Part A establishes an overview of the design delivery process and identifies programme objectives, compliance requirements, and design outputs and deliverables for school projects.

Part B establishes the design principles for working on school property. It forms the critical link between the National Curriculum and the design of environments that will support the learning outcomes to which the National Curriculum aspires. It sets out the Ministry’s expectations for designing both learning spaces and the broader school environment.

Education Infrastructure Project Brief template

The ‘Project Brief template’ is completed by both the Ministry and the school board, and is customised for each project.

The completed Project Brief sets out the initial briefing requirements. We provide it to the design teams working on the project. It comes in 2 sections:

Part A is the education brief, and is prepared by the board with assistance from the Ministry.

It sets out:

  • the aspirations for the project
  • key information about the character of the school
  • how the school operates
  • how the schools sees the link between pedagogy and learning space.

Part B is the property brief, prepared by the Ministry.

It sets out the specific requirements for the project, including:

  • high level information
  • project scope
  • roles and responsibilities
  • the funding sources for the project
  • project handover documentation required
  • compliance documents
  • project information
  • roll projections
  • project budget.

The project specific property brief is included in the package to designers when we seek submissions for consultant services.

Download a blank Project Brief template [DOC, 685 KB].

The Project Brief template has been developed for use on Ministry managed projects, but will also be useful for boards of trustees managing other projects at their schools.

Project and Site Constraints Table (PSCT)

The PSCT is used by the Ministry and design teams to outline and communicate key physical, cultural, financial, and amenity project constraints and opportunities and confirm how these have been, or are to be, met. The completed table should tell a story by communicating what the key site issues, constraints, and opportunities are and how these have influenced the design solution.

The information in the PSCT will help the people reviewing and signing off at various design stages have confidence that the key site issues have been identified and addressed, or will be addressed, in later development stages.

We expect that the PSCT will be continuously updated to reflect all known information. The PSCT must be used from the outset of all large Ministry managed infrastructure projects. It will also be useful for boards of trustees managing projects at their schools. 

Download the PSCT [PDF, 122 KB] and a PSCT example [PDF, 141 KB].

Structural and Geotechnical Requirements

Our Structural and Geotechnical Requirements provide guidance to reflect the special nature of schools and includes specific building performance criteria and design load requirements that designers must meet when they are designing schools. 

Design Compliance Checklists

Design Compliance Checklists (DCC) are quality assurance tools that support the Ministry's design compliance approval process.

Before using the DCC, read Designing Schools in New Zealand - Requirements and Guidelines (DSNZ) [PDF, 1.1 MB].

Download the DCC

What is in the DCC?

The checklists:

  • set out the mandatory requirements relevant for each design stage and provide guidelines in respect of other non-mandatory design features 
  • ensure that users address all the relevant design requirements with the degree of specificity appropriate to the design stage 
  • confirm space entitlements (gross and net floor area for both new and existing build).

Who is it for?

The checklists are a useful tool for project teams, designers, and contractors.

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