Post Occupancy Design Evaluation at School for the Disabled

Last year, Vicki Stoecklin, our Education and Child Development Director, worked on design documents for a large school for the disabled, the Liggett Trail Education Center, that serves children ages 3 to 21 with a wide variety of needs and abilities. It was exciting to visit the school this fall after a full year of client occupancy. Extra care was taken in choosing finish materials, paints, carpeting, flooring, furniture and acoustic materials that would better support the health of children with a variety of disabilities and health needs. This included using building acoustic guidelines for children who are speech-language and/or hearing impaired.

Speech and language pathologists reported that therapy was so much easier and quieter in their new oversized therapy rooms with special acoustics. They were amazed at how much difference it makes when you control unwanted noise in the environment. The principal reported that returning parents and children often remark how quiet the new building is compared to the old one, which was housed in a former junior high facility.

The Liggett Trail Education Center houses 10 early childhood special education classes for children 3 to 5. Like many school districts, this area has experienced a significant growth in the number of children with autism and autism-related disorders. Classroom aesthetics focus on a neutral, under-stimulating environment. To achieve this goal, new coordinating wooden furniture was purchased, neutral shades were used in the classrooms and halls, and teachers set goals to create a less visually stimulating environment. Teachers report fewer incidents of extreme behavior in the new building, compared to the number that occurred in the old one. Teachers feel the new, neutral and healthier environment seems to positively affect children's behavior. I think that the lack of chemical emissions and toxic off-gassing has also affected children's behavior in a positive way. You can see a slideshow of the project on our Web site: