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Daycare Design
From Remodeling to Full Scale Construction
By: Michael Castello

Most states have requirements that apply to the construction and safety of daycare facilities. There are broad differences between family home and center based standards. A family home daycare business usually involves a standing residential dwelling that offers conventional furnishings and the comforts of home while providing safety and educational elements to it's environment. By contrast, a daycare center facility would fall under different guidelines in it's design and complexity. Both family and center type daycare businesses can improve the quality in their construction and remodeling when a professional daycare designer is utilized. Redesigning a daycare can offer new energy with lighting, colors and spaces that provide a less stressful and more educational environment for children and caregivers.

Garrison Keillor, of Fortis Lamas Architects, states "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. We create space that encourages participants to play with others, play with space and explore. Design is instinctual." While design creativity can leave a lot to the imagination there are criteria that provide guidance in this area:

• Creating a floor plan and environment that comfortably accommodates the needs of well qualified staff in order to attract and retain them.
• Supporting the staffs' care of children by creating environments that allow them to focus their efforts on the care and nurture of children. The design should provide features which encourage strong, positive relationships between staff and children. It is highly functional.
• Facilitating family involvement in the center, particularly with the child's caregivers.
• Responding to local conditions, climate, and regional preferences in the design, while also considering the goals of the parents.
• Creating an environment with a high level of commitment in providing appropriate, well thought-out and beautiful environments for the children.
• Designing "through the eyes of a child," with a resulting sensitivity to children's scale, including how they will use the space, what they will see, and what kind of experience they will have.
• Providing an intriguing environment, yet one devoid of overpowering colors, features and literal "themes." The designer should avoid such literalness because it inhibits the child's ability to imagine a series of alternate meanings to objects and features.
• Sizing the classroom to accommodate the recommended group size and staff to child supervision ratios. The design should efficiently use space and incorporate ease of the supervisor together with features such as strategically situated storage.
• Providing durable and cost effective materials and details. This is vital when the designer considers the intensity of use that a center receives. The designer must be particularly sensitive to the life cycle cost of materials.
• Establishing a distinctly child-oriented environment. The impression created by the design should be the antithesis of a typical institutional setting. In other words, the center should "feel like home" for the child.

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Keillor adds "Our methodology and process involves collaboration with designers and architects who bring alternative thinking to our projects."

Top Daycare Design Firm Creates First “Green” Child Care
Fortis Lamas Architects has combined its staff’s personal interests in responsible ecology and its expertise in childcare design to create the first “Green” child care center in New Brunswick, Canada. Co-founder Orlando Lamas states, "Our goal has always been to create designed environments for children instead of the decorated boxes that they are typically warehoused in, and now we have the opportunity to give them design in an environmentally responsible way. The building will be an educational tool for kids and parents, showing them how we can all tread lightly on the earth."

Fortis Lamas Architects works with clients to determine all the ways their centers can be more environment friendly, while leaving the level of green visibility and transparency up to each individual client. "We call them daycares with eco-flair," says Lamas. "It’s our job to find innovative, earth-conscious solutions and offer them to our clients. We recognize that not every recommendation may fit a center’s program or budget, so we provide the opportunity for our clients to determine just how green they want a program to be," comments co-founder Callin Fortis. There are plenty of environmentally responsible options available when it comes to child care and many of them don’t cost more than the standard options.

DAYCARE: nature
connectivity- natural elements- open circulation, scale, contrast, whimsical

DAYCARE: light
light views- inside/outside circulation- shared spaces, minimal

DAYCARE: volumes
color building blocks- public/private spaces- volumes, spatial, rhythm

DAYCARE: movement
geometry colors, views, circulation movement, natural light, organic

DAYCARE: green
open plan- play green, shared spaces, textures, natural light

RETAIL: scale
playful public/private spaces- scale over the top, posh, whimsical

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"FLA is committed to producing stimulating environments that encourage community, laughter and a sense of belonging." says Keillor," Collectively, the sum results in power far greater than its parts. As thoughtful an environment a happy child can make. Children provide the architect and designer the opportunity to provide organized whimsy while tailoring the space in scale to the child. It is the big things that create the experience and the little things that create the memory. We create memories."

Professional experience and planning can make the difference when children may be in a center up to 12,500 hours if they start as an infant and continue until school age. Because children spend so much time at daycare, the design of their spaces is especially critical. Knowledge in what these these age groups need will provide for their needs as they advance. For example, kindergarten classrooms will have a layout similar to the pre-school classroom except provide separate, accessible boys and girls toilet facilities with partitioning for privacy if more then one is provided. Local licensing requirements must be met. Note that in some states, separate toilet facilities are required for children 48 months and older. It is the designer's responsibility to ascertain local requirements.

Young Toddlers are in the process of gaining independence, advancing in their feeding, toileting, and dressing skills. Furnishings and equipment need to be scaled for this age group to encourage growth toward independence. Older toddlers may nap only once a day on cots or mats which are stored while not in use, while younger toddlers may nap more often and need a crib in a quiet area. Most care functions take place in the classroom with the teacher's assistance.

Older Toddlers are busy experiencing their environment, developing essential motor skills as they take part in active play. They are mastering walking, and are beginning to develop running, jumping, and climbing skills. Toddler rooms need to provide stimulating opportunities for active crawling, pushing wheeled toys, climbing in and out of play components, cruising, (movement through space to view and select from a variety of activities), as well as beginning to walk, and climbing up and down stairs. Toddlers tend to move about very quickly, often in groups rather than individually, and the design must allow for this group action.

Pre-school children arrive at the classroom with their parents and, after storing their outdoor clothing and personal items, they begin their day in the center. The pre-school classroom needs large, bright, unrestricted spaces, as well as intimate, quiet areas with soft materials. These children usually need a nap or quiet time. This normally occurs in the classroom space on cots or mats that are stored when not in use. Mealtime is an opportunity for social interaction as the children and their teachers gather around tables in the classroom to eat snacks and lunch.

School-age children come to the center for before/after-school care and, holiday and summer programs. Their needs differ from pre-school children, and the area of the center devoted to them should reflect those differences, including the need for separate male and female toilet facilities. This group can have as many as 20 to 24 children with 2 teachers. Their classroom, and ideally even its entrance, should be somewhat apart from the other classrooms. The area should include appropriately scaled furnishings and equipment, and a slightly more sophisticated "clubhouse" atmosphere. School-age children spend their time in the center involved in developmentally appropriate activities. They may eat or snack, do homework, enjoy audiovisual entertainment, play games, and participate in active games and outdoor sports. Children coming to the center from a full-day school program need space that is homelike and comfortable, that provides areas for both quiet activities and more active play.

If you would like more information on how a daycare designer can help you home or center. Please fill out the form below.

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Daycare.com would like to thank the U.S. General Services Administration for help with this information in striving to make daycare and childcare a more productive and efficient service.

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