Jun 13, 2019

Learning Environments as Studios for Integrated Design Education

By Anne Taylor, Ph.D.

In 1966, I took a walk on a sunny beach in Mexico with 12 children. I saw these young scavengers save shells in their t-shirts and throw others away and realized they were making critical aesthetic judgments. They loved beauty! I was looking for a dissertation topic and these 12 shell collectors inspired me. Here is how.

Prototype Learning Environment for Preschool

After a pilot study with 47 very dull, traditional classrooms in Arizona, 10 ASU architect students and I decided to design and build a prototype environment in the ASU College of Education. This was an experimental study using the developmental needs of 3-5-year-olds (Piaget) as design determinants for the ensuing environment. Programming also used concepts from subject matter disciplines imbedded into the learning environment. These were child scaled non-literal environments based on “soft pastel, soft textured, subdued sound”, “a geometric play area” and a “hard edged mirrored environment and sand and water play.”  There was a space frame table, lowerable into the central open space on a block and tackle pulley system (physics). Though stable in the experimental setting, the architecture students envisioned these modules as a series of portable environments that could be installed anywhere.

Research Results of an Experimental Setting

Except for a few dolls and trucks, all manipulatives were part of an architectonic multi-sensory embodied cognition organizing system. The locus of imagination was in the students’ “mind” with multi-sensory interaction of manipulatives. There was a control group in a traditional early childhood classroom in the College of Home Economics and we measured the same outcomes in both the experimental and control groups. The point of this experimental study was that the architecture students used design, curricular, and developmental needs (rights) of 3-5-year-olds as design determinants for each environment so that the environment became a teaching-learning manifestation of what was to be learned. Students and their instructors could turn “things into thoughts or ideas”.

Results from this study and a replication study with non-English speaking students revealed that the experimental environment showed increases in student language acquisition, accelerated movement from parallel to integrated play, advanced concept development, and creativity as measured by a scored portfolio assessment instrument.

Monte Vista-remodel of Two Old Classrooms
Ensuing research occurred with George Vlastos in two adjoining gutted classrooms at Monte Vista school in Albuquerque. The space outside had lain fallow for 50 years. A new landscape (including a solar greenhouse) and an outdoor deck were built. Students were more independent and teachers spent long hours after school writing individual lesson plans for students in a communication area (writing and literacy); science and math area; mirrored area for perception of self, theatrical makeup and costumes, drawing; sewing and weaving area; library and quiet zone; a weather station; coat storage area; deck to the outside. The green house was a student magnet for plant growth (botany) who nourished life outside of themselves. Nearly 17 years later, I received a call from one former kindergarten student, now in college, who was writing a paper on her unique experience in that early learning environment and how much it affected her life and learning.

Head Start Classroom of the Future
The Taylor-Vlastos Head Start classroom prototype combined “zones” with deployability. The values-driven design of portable environments was based on a fulcrum with a series of columns delivering electricity overhead through arched pipes. (Wireless technology could change the delivery system.) Foldout tables, which were nested, lowered out of trylon columns that could be rotated 359 degrees, transforming into deployable learning zones. A space frame “soft nest” was in the center from which all things emanated and returned. (This was compatible with the Isleta Native American pueblo of “plaza” where the experiment took place.) Students interacted with an induction cooktop, design studio with drop down light tables (a favorite), a media center with computers, headphones, and a DVD player, a mirrored zone for drawing, and creative dramatics. There was a building system and construction zone and one for growing plants. The contemporary and functional feeling of the environment interested children more than literal housekeeping corners in Head Start classrooms.

The Programming Process
The learning environments consulting expanded and involved students. Students in Stockton said, “Why are you designing us a new high school? We already have one with swimming pool, soccer and football field, fine arts center and more.” “Well,” we said, “what is it you want?” “We want a farm and an environmental study center on the San Joaquin Delta!”

The Taylor-Vlastos programming process, a grass-roots approach, a democratization of architecture, involves the philosophy of Ecosophy posited by Arne Næss from Norway. In the past, many educators as clients wrote predetermined programs for architects, with so many “teaching stations” leading to a double loaded corridor and predetermined square footage for traditional spaces. My method of programming spaces, turns Health and Safety (body), Functionality (mind), and Psychological and Aesthetic Satisfaction into Habitability sustainability. Though newer schools seem to be more colorful with wider hallways, newer furniture, the delivery system is basically still teacher centered.
Embodied Cognition Fostered by Design Education
Lately, my colleagues and I from School Zone Institute as well as the American Institute of Architects Albuquerque have been working in schools with volunteer architects that teach Architecture and Design to students K-5. 

There are studies that affirm the influence of kinesthetic exploration on embodied cognition.  Researchers found by adding kinesthetic experiences to visual and auditory impressions the quality of visual communication improved. This kind of embodied cognition is fostered by design education including drawings, models, and site analysis. Design education demands an environment and curriculum that motivates students to move around, use their large and fine motor skills. Design is the nexus for the integrated study of Science, Technology, Engineering Art/Architecture, Math (STEAM). 

The Classroom as a Studio
New models of integrated learning through design need studios connected to an adjacent “maker” lab. Everything in the studio should be on wheels. There is a supply depot in the center of the studio with printers, 3-D printers, paper cutters, pens, pencils, and more.  There is natural lighting from windows, known to increase learning. (Some teachers draw the blinds and use them for bulletin boards all year long.) If windows are placed east-west, students can track the sun on windows from season to season. There is no need for blinds. There are windows that can dim and open to the light automatically. There are drop down tables on one wall. Another wall is writable for solving math problems, drawing inventive concepts. Another wall is for pin up and presentation. Nearby stackable stools turn a presentation wall into a critique gallery. HVAC is exposed in the ceiling. The facilitator’s desk is a small station on wheels with a computer. Light tables are everywhere. There is a courtyard with a sink and a small garden for practicing landscape design by students. This is a child-centered studio where students are given power to do their own learning through design. This teacher, with goals for each child, is the monitor and facilitator of growth in traditional subjects plus Body, Mind, and Creative Spirit. This new studio gives power to children to do their own learning. 

Anne Taylor, Ph.D., Regents Professor Emerita at the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and planning as well as a distinguished professor for the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture has had a 50-year career characterized by scholarship, research and   futuristic thinking about innovative learning environments and the formation of a Design Education Program, now international and translated into five languages. Taylor’s focus on integrated design curricula and studios as classrooms has turned architecture into a lens through which today’s children can study and know the built, natural and cultural environment as the order in the universe. 

Jun 12, 2019

Top 10 Emerging Technologies in Construction

By Robert Koehler, AIA, NCARB, and Matt McGregor

For many construction professionals, the future is now. Technology offers myriad tools that the building industry was told would be available “someday.” That “now” is redefining processes, deliverables, accuracy, and communication. The best news is that education leaders are the recipients of those emerging benefits. Here are 10 technologies that will serve school districts that are renovating, repurposing, or starting new construction projects.

1. Virtual Reality
If you have ever completed a project and were unhappy with the results, help has arrived. Virtual reality bridges the visual gap and allows you to experience the space by “walking” into your design, observing materials, lighting, volume of space, and more. You can position objects in the space to sense what they will be like in reality. You’ll be able to see specific details, for example,
• What is the line of sight from the front office?
• Will students and guests find their way easily because the flow naturally makes sense?
• Does the anticipated arrangement of the room work for the number of students in the class?
But the possibilities don’t end there.

2. Augmented Reality
Not long ago, the only way architects and construction professionals could see their plans was on paper or in computer simulations. Now, those in the building industry and their clients can strap on a pair of hi-tech goggles containing sophisticated software and experience a holographic, interactive view of their concepts and layouts. This augmented reality (AR) — sometimes called mixed reality — combines vision with the real world, providing an accurate view of what the future could be. As thoughts, plans, and designs emerge and progress, districts and their architectural teams can see the designs come to life — virtually — and change the plans in mere minutes.
With AR you can overlay a digital model with real-world information. You can see where a duct or wall is supposed to be installed while “walking” the construction site. You can envision an entire building from various positions on the property, comparing angles and views. Virtual and augmented reality take the mystery out of the planning process, allowing stakeholders to see and understand what is possible, reducing frustration and rework, and ultimately creating better, more functional buildings.

3. Drones
Drones, quadcopters, and other unmanned aerial systems are no longer just expensive toys. The construction industry uses them in a variety of ways to produce timely information and useful “drone’s-eye views.” They’re being used to survey progress, to review site logistics and staging, and even to conduct quick safety audits. Additionally, it is now possible to inspect remote or difficult-to-reach areas like rooftop equipment, as well as to conduct digital surveys using special attachments like sensors, lasers, or scanners.

With their ability to be quickly mobilized, to examine the perimeter of the job site, to identify the placement of equipment and vehicles, and to check on individuals, drones provide the additional data for surveillance and better decisions. They also improve employee safety and job site security.

4. Project Management and Communication Software
Current software now digitizes processes like estimating and bidding, while also facilitating communication among stakeholders. Using the latest digital tools reduces the risk of errors that can result in expensive and time-consuming backtracking during construction.

Software enables teams to collaborate in real time on files, task lists, schedules, notes, images, and drawings. Such apps and software suites allow supervisors, clients, and managers to chat, view personnel availability, stream video or web conferences, or even take control of another person’s computer to collaborate and maintain mutually agreed-on details.

Some examples of common apps and software products are Microsoft Teams, Slack, Procore, Viewpoint Vista, and Skype for Business. Many of these project management software products are cloud based, allowing anytime, anyplace access to project information by the design and construction team, as well as by the client — using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Greater transparency, via software, can often reduce friction and misunderstandings throughout the construction process.

5. Three-Dimensional Printing and Prefabrication
Uses for 3-D printing within the construction industry are growing every day. These systems can provide small-scale models for presentation and review, as well as entire parts for project installation. Three-dimensional printing of entire buildings is even being attempted through a concrete extrusion process.

Prefabrication allows for more precise installation of elements, which can be formed in large, integrated, and coordinated portions. These 3-D elements can be placed precisely using “total stations” — highly accurate GPS or laser positioning. The benefits include improved accuracy, reduced waste, increased safety, and less manpower.

6. Facilities Management Software
Enhanced software allows districts to use building information modeling (BIM) to track warranties, maintenance items, system use, security, room assignments, and more. This information helps districts stay on top of their largest assets and significant expense points. And now, the instant accessibility via mobile devices allows the maintenance department to make more timely and informed decisions.

7. Digital Plans and 3-D Content
Districts and construction personnel can access digital plans and 3-D content from the cloud through tablets and smartphones to gain real-time information for making decisions in the field.

When used properly, digital plans offer the following advantages during construction:
• The most current plans are always available.
• Updates are instantly shared, including construction bulletins, photos, addenda, and scope changes.
• District personnel, subcontractors, and suppliers can regularly access 3-D views in construction documents to communicate design intent, increasing communication effectiveness and proper delivery.
• Digital plans allow more use of color without expensive color printing. They can zoom in and out of objects and even digitally measure items or share comments on specific recommendations right on the plans.
• Digital plans display punch lists with items tagged for action directly on the plans.

8. QI Codes and Barcoded Items
Construction and project items may have QR codes or barcodes relating to an object ID in the BIM. Items are scanned as they are installed, which automatically updates the BIM to reflect progress. This capability allows more effective and efficient tracking during the construction project.

Moreover, the tracking can trigger additional purchases for the next stage of work for more effective scheduling. The tracking codes can also link to user manuals, warranty information, equipment invoices, and related historical correspondence.

9. Laser Scanning
Laser scanning captures an accurate representation of existing buildings and systems, which can then be modeled, or new objects “clashed” against for proper system coordination. This technology has a variety of uses and can allow the district to visualize existing conditions beyond the results of photos and taped measurements.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of laser scanning throughout the construction process is the ability to compare the installed progress with the digital model to evaluate accuracy, allowing for the adjustment of future prefabricated items before delivery and installation, while providing another accurate method of tracking the percentage of completion.

10. Automated Bricklaying
Automated installation of masonry significantly reduces labor cost. Some automated brick systems can lay 3,000 bricks a day, compared with a construction worker’s average of 500. With some systems, the conveyor belt, mortar pump, and robotic arm combine with a worker who feeds the bricks into the machine. A second worker smooths over any excess joint mortar.
As mason professionals retire, we can expect automated bricklaying to become more mainstream in a field that already sees a worker shortage.

Take the Next Steps
Becoming aware of technology’s effect on the construction industry can be a great first step as a district considers its next construction project. These 10 technologies will increasingly affect how that district plans, designs, constructs, and uses its buildings.

Robert Koehler and Matt McGregor are project architects at Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction Inc. in Appleton, WI. Hoffman has partnered with over 65 public school districts, along with private and charter schools. In addition to designing and building attractive and energy-efficient schools, their expertise includes facilities’ studies, site evaluations, master planning, referendum and fundraising campaigns. 

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 School Business Affairs magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.