Educational Commissioning: Harnessing the Power of Teacher Hacks



  • Primary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities
  • AIA CEU: 1. 0 LU
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning


Are you commissioning all the systems you should be? We’re all familiar with commissioning related to the efficiency and functionality of a building’s HVAC / energy management system: we set up a basis of design, work during the design process to meet those goals, and then, when construction is complete, train the staff on how the building works, measure whether the system is functioning properly, and fine tune it as needed until it meets the design requirements. We’d like to encourage more design teams and clients to fully embrace the concept of Educational Commissioning—that is fine tuning the building for its performance as an educational environment. We see that as having the same steps as “regular” commissioning: observing current teacher “hacks” (all those upside down buckets with seat cushions, laundry baskets turned into cozy reading seats, weekend paint jobs, and dad-built backpack carts that teachers add to classrooms to better accommodate the activities they’re engaging students in) to understand the rationale behind them, refining the basis of design, and then working during the design process to support those teaching methodologies. But too many design teams (and school district administrators) stop there. The components that would make educational facility design a true product of co-creation—training the staff on how the building features work, measuring whether the educational elements are functioning as desired, and then fine tuning them as needed until they meet the design requirements—get shortchanged, leaving teachers to hack even brand new facilities. Through examples from school districts and teachers, we will share how implementing the fine tuning and feedback loop changes the design process from a linear model to a circular co-creation model, which helps harnesses the power of the hack to improve facility design and enhance educational outcomes.

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Define the Educational Commissioning process

OBJ #2  Understand how commissioning design and furniture solutions bring value to the overall design of educational facilities

OBJ #3  Share real world examples of teacher hacks translated into architectural design that have improved educational outcome

OBJ #4  Learn tools for improved and more-informed user engagement

Cassandra Bennett Porter, Director of Elementary/K-8, San Juan Unified School district

Aaron Buehring, Director of Educational Enivironments, Lionakis