6 Points to Optimise Area/ Cost Of A School Building

How to efficiently plan a school to make it cost effective?

The initial work of cost optimization of a building lies with the architect who design the building or campus. Value engineering starts with the choice of a good architect and careful attention to be given to preliminary design scheme as well as the detailed design scheme with material specification. As this is the stage of brand building or character building for your school. Making or constructing a new educational campus is rather an easier task while preparing a vision or growth plan for the organization is something everybody tends to neglect at the initial stages. While, this neglect can pose multiple challenges and extra costs in the later years of growth. The financial gains you receive from a good architect who can plan with a vision is much greater than you can count.

Here are six pointers to optimize the cost of your school building from infrastructure to operation:

  1. Preparation of Master Plan

This is the first and the most important step in the process of making a school building. Even if the site area is nominal, a master plan with a complete vision for a fully operational school is essential. This masterplan can be divided into phases of development, where fresh construction is never going to hinder the daily operations of the school. Also the master plan to be developed in accordance to the vision and mission of the school as per potentials of the land.

  1. Basic Module of a class room

A single classroom is the basic module of any school building. Hence deriving the size of the classroom based on the intended curriculum and their teaching methodologies is very crucial. In this era of changing educational needs, classroom layouts and furniture requirements need to be carefully worked out between the architects and the management. Based on the classroom sizes a structural grid is framed to optimise the number of columns and beam.

As per the Indian Standards a Nursery school classroom to be designed for 20- 25 students and for all the higher age groups a maximum of 40 students (to a maximum of 45 students in ICSE). And the minimum floor area requirement per student in a class is 2sq m in preschool, 1.11 sq m for primary and 1.26 sq m for Higher Secondary, while CBSE prescribes a minimum of 1 sq m of area per student in a school.

  1. Size of building blocks and orientation

The size of the building blocks (length & width) need to be calculated with a consideration of your standard classroom size or grid. The optimum sizes or shapes of the block, that can be well fitted into the site without wastage of any inch of site can be derived from the master plan or site plan prepared.

The blocks need to be planned in such a way that the sunlight reaches every corner of the building, especially if you plan for a doubly loaded corridor. The dark corridors never give a good ambience or positive energy to the learning spaces. For the climatic comfort of users, the building need to be oriented in such a way as to minimise the gain of harsh summer sun while receiving warm morning sun during the winters. There are softwares to analyse the building orientations for best performance of the building throughout the year.

  1. Integration of service and vertical circulation cores

The two essential parts of the building for the smooth operation, is the service core and circulation cores.  The service core consists of washrooms, electrical room, FHC, AHUs, and all the service shafts. While vertical circulation core is the area which accommodates staircases and lifts. These requires to be strategically placed keeping future expansion plans in mind. Else you will need to repeat the same unnecessary in the next block during expansion plans. Also your service line length might increase resulting in extra running cost of your pipelines.

Fixing the location of these service blocks need to be an integral part of the future expansion plans of the school. As per Indian standards a 0.2 sq m area per student need to be reserved for Washroom facilities in a school. The National Building Code gives guidelines as to how many number of washrooms are required as per number of girls, boys and staff which are mandatory to be followed for obtaining building approval. Meanwhile there are also, fire regulation standards regarding number of staircases and exit routes, prescribed by National Building Code which are mandatory parameters to be followed. The provision for making the building or converting the building (in later years) into a centrally air conditioned building needs to be incorporated into the building plans.

  1. Built quality and low maintenance

The built quality must ensure that the materials used has a low maintenance cost. The materials should be carefully chosen in such a way that they are easy to be cleaned and can withstand any man-handling by the students. The intension should not be, to use flashy or low cost materials, but instead quality materials or locally sourced materials that can be easily replaced if damaged.

The safety of the children must be of utmost important inside a school building. Hence make sure that all the railing heights are 1.2 meters, no sharp corners or edges. Glass should be carefully used and must be toughened. Avoid unsafe nooks and corners in planning as they can encourage students to stay out of vision from teachers. An open plan which gives a through and through visual axis enhances the feel of togetherness and a safe environment.

  1. Energy Efficiency

Replenishing the energy needs of the building through renewable resources is a strategy that can be adopted right from the project inception to impeccable financial gains in the future operating costs. While the provision for the same need to incorporated right from the structure plan of the building. Provision for addition of solar energy panels and rainwater harvesting is the basic minimum value additions that can be incorporated without much of an added cost.

How to Select An Ideal Land For A School ?

  1. Minimum Area Requirement

As per the Indian Standards you can start a school in India if you have 2 acres of land parcel. The land requirement can change depending on where the land is located: urban or rural. Below is the minimum land requirement prescribed by CBSE. The same is available to download on the website of CBSE. www.cbse.nic

The land ownership must be under the name of the school or a trust/ society/company or else it should be leased for a minimum of 30 years to the trust by a governmental agency.

The minimum land required for obtaining the approval for a school (Class 1 to 12) within the Municipal limits of Capital city and Tier 1 Cities is 1 Acre.  But for schools from class 1 to X the approval is possible even in lesser areas upto 0.5 acre. While in other rural areas the minimum land requirement is 2 Acres for obtaining necessary affiliation. 

  1. Land Use

Before buying the land cross check the land use of the plot as per the Town Planning authority. If the land use says an agriculture of industrial plot, you will need to get the Change of Land Use (CLU) to for ‘education purpose’ after purchase. You will need to approach the land revenue office for the same and the process might take a time of three to six months. It is always advantageous to prepare a Master Plan before you apply for CLU as this would give you clarity on the building arrangements and maximum occupancy you can achieve and hence your investment vs. ROI. You can download the application form for Change of Land Use from here.

  1. Feasibility Study

Before deciding on buying the plot, you will need to do a demographic study of that particular locality to understand the population density, the people and their beliefs, education status and most importantly the paying capacities. India being a country of diversities the challenges in different localities would vary. Make sure that the land identified is one single piece as the affiliation does not permit two separate land parcels in the same vicinity. No public road, railway line, stream, canals or power lines should cut across the land. A 5 km radius of the site need to be thoroughly studied for the presence of any polluting factories or any activity that can later pose a threat to the functioning of a school. Also check for drains or any water bodies that can create a security concern for the safe movement of children within the site premises.

  1. Frontage and Accessibility

Make sure the selected land has sufficient frontage and easy accessibility from the main road or city. As these factors helps in image and brand building of the school. Even a smaller chunk of land towards the front for road access and the rest majority of land towards the back also helps. Though, ideally the school has to be in a silent and peaceful zone away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this might not work very well in the Indian towns, because of the lack of proper access roads and safety concerns of parents. 

  1. Suitability for Construction purposes

A validation of the suitability of land for construction purposes is inevitable. A site with favorable soil conditions would considerably reduce the foundation cost during the time of construction. In general, a site which is rectangular in shape is the best suited for utilizing every inch of land in the most effective manner. Irregular shaped sites can create corners and unsafe areas out of the visibility of the concerned authorities which can raise a security concern for children.

  1. Future expansion possibilities

Indian cities and towns are continuously growing or expanding, and the trend have been that people tend to move out of the congested city centres for better living conditions. Hence, the location of the site can be validated with respect to the growth possibilities of the cities. Verify if the site has future expansion possibilities of neighboring vacant lands which can be purchased as and when required. A master plan can be prepared in phases to plan for the future developments. A school can have 3 phases of expansion in its life time and beyond which you will need to purchase a new land for a new establishment.


A Planning Guide For Developing An Ideal School In India

As per the Census data, India has the largest proportion of population in the younger age groups in the world. 35.3% of the population of the country is in the age group 0-14 years at the Census 2001while 41% of the population account for less than 18 years of age. Educating all of them, needs huge infrastructure and facilities for the brighter future of the country. Hence every city, every village is to make sure that there are enough number of schools that provide quality education to their children.

Establishing schools, equally in urban and rural areas has always been a challenging and priority task for all the governments. But still we can’t say with 100 percent surety that all the children of India are getting access to a good education. With the new education policy, the sector is to witness a drastic change in terms of quality education and physical infrastructure to support the creative and multi-disciplinary learning from early ages.

Planning for a school starts with 3 planning approaches:

  1. Strategic Planning

A strategic planning forms the basis of your school as to why your school exist(purpose) and where do it want to reach in the future(aim) and how do you plan to get there (how). This is basically a frame work as to how the teachers and students are expected to behave and work towards a common defined goal. This also helps to build up the uniqueness or USP of your school. A strategic planning can also include the understanding of your target group of people, their education, paying capacities, exposure, background etc. All these factors help you to draw a financial planning both long term and short term for the operations of the school. Milestones of progress can be defined right from the inception; this would help you to implement periodical improvement strategies. All these plans must focus towards improving the student experience at the school and producing better students every year, as they are going to be the ambassadors of your school, in through years to come. Student progression in terms of pre-primary to primary and secondary to higher secondary needs to be well taken care of. With the current changing scenario of education and new education policy every school should work towards giving them the right exposure to higher education opportunities and training them for employment. The planning should focus on building up children who can quickly adapt to the fast changing job scenarios and global ecosystem.

  1. Curriculum Planning

Once you have your strategy ready, focus on developing your curriculum to suit the student requirements and vision for the school. Curriculum must be planned specifically for each age group of children as per the Indian standards. The key to curriculum building is about recruiting the best and the brightest teachers of the country, a good teacher with a vision can ignite hundreds of minds. Updating your syllabus or curriculum every 2 or 3 years with new knowledge, based on emerging technologies and latest innovations need to be stitched into the curriculum for continuous improvements. There are different syllabuses or curriculum a school can follow in India like a state, CBSE, ICSE etc. The choice of the curriculum must be planned right from the beginning as each of the curriculum demands specific infrastructure requirements. In India if you are planning for a CBSE school the best way to start would be to run the school with a state syllabus for 2 years to obtain an NOC and apply for a CBSE affiliation.

  1. Infrastructural Planning- to give a unique user experience 

Land & Building: And last but not the least, the infrastructural planning, which starts right from buying land (which is registered under the name of a society or trust) to construction of required buildings. A school infrastructure needs to have a fully developed land with a playground and necessary buildings with all the required services to obtain necessary affiliations. The planning for the campus and building is crucial in making a brand name and a smooth progression into the next level of education competing with the ever growing competitors.



Rules & Byelaws for Building: The Indian standards give an outline of the area requirements for the schools. These are not mandatory rules but are the guidelines. While there are few rules on the minimum requirements that are set by the affiliation bodies and National Building code, for example size of class rooms and number of toilets.

As per the Indian Standards a Nursery school classroom to be designed for 20- 25 students and for all the higher age groups a maximum of 40 students (to a maximum of 45 students in ICSE). And the minimum floor area requirement per student in a class is 2sq m in preschool, 1.11 sq m for primary and 1.26 sq m for Higher Secondary, while CBSE prescribes a minimum of 1 sqm of area per student in a school. As per Indian standards a 0.2 sq m area per student need to be reserved for Washroom facilities. The National Building Codes gives guidelines as to how many number of washrooms are required as per number of girls, boys and staff which are mandatory to be followed for obtaining building approval. Meanwhile there are fire regulation standards, also prescribed by National Building Code which are mandatory parameters to be followed.

While following all of this, it depends crucially on your architect how well he is able to arrange your building blocks to get maximum efficiency or space utilisation yet giving a unique user experience to support the overall growth of the school.

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