K-12 Education Design

The Backdrop for Inspired Learning

The environment in which children learn can be just as impactful as what they’re taught and how. An environment conducive to learning addresses a number of factors — from access to daylight and indoor air quality to space planning, flexibility, safety, and security. A school building can be so much more than a room full of desks in a row, it can be a backdrop that influences children become successful adults.

Understanding the Educational Ecosystem

Within the world of education, teaching and learning take center stage, but influencing these functions is the overall educational ecosystem — what our designers call the “Ecology of Education.” Through this lens, we study how students interact with each other, teachers, and support staff and how these groups interact with and within their environments.

At Cushing Terrell, our design practice follows the motto: “Imagine… Create… Improve.” Our approach to the Ecology of Education is no different. We strive to: 1) imagine the possibilities for learning; 2) create intentional, sustainable, holistic environments; and 3) improve our knowledge through research, evaluation, and experience.

Delivering Student-Focused Design

The overall goal of education is to give young people the skills and knowledge to live well in the world and to prepare them to be successful adults. We support this goal by applying design strategies that help enable focus, retention, socialization, and collaboration.

To ensure we apply the best strategies in k-12 education design for each school, our design process begins and ends with research. This research includes getting to know the user groups and their needs and wants for a learning environment. Through this practice of listening and asking questions, we can help determine the right solutions, act as trusted advisors utilizing lessons learned, and round out our design process with post occupancy evaluations that look at how the learning environment is functioning in real life.

K-12 Education Design Services


  • Visioning Sessions/Design Charrettes
  • Facility Assessments
  • Pre-bond Planning
  • Long-range Capital Planning
  • Capacity and Utilization Assessments
  • In-Depth Programming and Space Planning
  • Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment
  • Test-Fits and Pricing Plans


  • Sustainable, Equitable Design
  • Building Performance/Energy Services
  • Experiential Graphic Design and Wayfinding
  • Placemaking and Brand Integration
  • Project Management
  • Construction Administration
  • Third-Party Certifications
  • Post-Occupancy Evaluation

Our Process



We dig deep into factors that contribute to student health, well-being, and safety; learn about your locality, culture, and specific needs; and identify all things that make your project unique.


We bring you — our client — to the table as we design, share, listen, and revise until the space planning, layout, systems, material selections, and fixture and furniture planning are just right.



We live for the sense of accomplishment and pride we share with our clients, their staff, and their students when it all comes together. You step inside your school, and your vision becomes reality!


The work doesn’t end when the doors open for learning. Through post occupancy evaluations, we review your space and the user experience as they evolve with time and use.

Bringing You the Best in…

Education Project Planning

Our team is experienced in the full range of project planning — from comprehensive master planning, pre-bond planning, and capital campaigns to facility assessments, programming, and space planning. Whether your project is large or small or something in between, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming, not to mention knowing how/where to obtain funding for your project. Cushing Terrell’s planning process has proven to be an energizing, engaging, informative, and effective way to guide and unite education clients and their communities in a common vision. Having completed 100-plus master plans, comprehensive plans, special district plans, and community outreach programs, we look forward to bringing this experience to your next project.


Safety & Security

Our education planners prioritize design solutions that encourage student collaboration, communication, and active learning while simultaneously utilizing the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Integrating CPTED principles helps ensure safe, secure spaces with features that include one controlled entrance, surveillance, access control, territorial reinforcement, and high visibility spaces. These are achieved in a way that also maintains a comfortable atmosphere and helps establish pride of place. Applying CPTED analysis in early planning and design allows us to identify where we can make changes to the physical and social environment that will reinforce positive behavior.


Healthy Materials Selections

We’re committed to healthy, sustainable environments. This means sourcing materials that support healthy indoor air quality, address social equity, and minimize environmental impacts. Our team takes special care to conduct in-depth research and utilize tools and resources to ensure projects are both environmentally and socially responsible. From greening our materials libraries and partnering with mindful MATERIALS, to joining Material Bank’s program for net-zero sampling and championing the elimination of forced labor in the building materials supply chain, our aim is to advance transparency, knowledge, and action when it comes to delivering projects in which occupants can be comfortable and clients can be proud.


IAQ Assessments & Solutions

Poor indoor air quality can result in fatigue, irritation, airborne illness dispersion, respiratory issues, and limited cognitive function. On the other hand, good indoor air quality can lead to higher rates of information consumption, improved learning, and quicker response times. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality is of particular concern given that most people spend 90% of their time indoors. Our multidisciplinary team brings together experience in HVAC, ventilation, and air purification systems; knowledge of healthy, responsible materials; and a custom School Resiliency Assessment tool to help ensure students, teachers, and staff within your space can breathe easy.

Design for Diverse Needs

Whereas other parts of a student’s life may feel out of their control, the ability to make decisions about how to interact with others at school — and within the environment itself — can offer a sense of freedom and power to the individual. Providing students with choice in terms of space types, for example, can foster emotional intelligence and support their ability to tend to their own emotional and learning needs.

People interact with the built environment in different ways and to be truly inclusive in our designs, it’s important to study and understand how individuals respond to stimuli to help alleviate potential distractions and irritants. This knowledge supports intentional school design that can result in calmer environments, more supportive spaces, improved attainment, and a lot less stress for students and staff.

Ready to get started?
Reach out to our team.

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