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Educational Specifications


  • To describe the need and rationale for the project in sufficient detail that the voting public can understand and support it.
  • To serve as the guiding document for the entire project by describing the educational program (goals, activities and space needs) in sufficient detail that design professionals can translate the program into a building which meets those needs.
  • To provide sufficient information so that the Department of Education can evaluate the necessity for the project and the appropriateness of the design to the proposed curriculum and activities and ensure that NH State Minimum Standards are being met or exceeded.

Template for Development

The following questions if answered thoughtfully and completely are designed to provide sufficient information so that a local school district can develop a set of educational specifications for a new school that will fulfill the expectations above. It is acknowledged that not all building projects are of sufficient extent or complexity to require a full set of specifications. Therefore the questions below have been divided into related sections such that those relevant to any project can be readily identified.

For new schools it is expected that all questions will be answered. For projects that do not have any permanent effect on the school site, Section IV can be omitted. For projects, which do not affect school program offerings in any way, Section II can be omitted, as well as certain questions in Section III, if not applicable to a particular situation. Examples of projects which may not affect the school program or the site, include roof replacements, windows replacement, HVAC upgrades, code requirements, etc. Finally, if a school district has a school board approved capital development or improvement plan, which adequately addresses any of the following questions, a copy may be included with relevant page numbers referenced to specific questions.

Questions to be Answered by the Education Specifications Document

Section I Need/Rationale/Process

  • What are the situations the proposed project will address? Examples: enrollment growth, building code violations, program changes, energy efficiency, leaking roof, poor air quality, etc.
  • What alternatives were considered to the solution chosen? Examples: addition/renovation vs. new school, delay project for a year, do project in phases vs. all at once, etc.
  • What methodology was employed to arrive at the proposed solution? Examples: needs assessment, enrollment projections, community survey, building committee report, architect/engineering study, etc.
  • What are the characteristics of the community or region the project is proposed to serve? Examples:community advantages and constraints, unique features, socioeconomic characteristics, physical characteristics, parental expectations, site availability, property wealth, important community beliefs, etc.

Section II The People and Program to be Housed

  • What is the design capacity for this project? How was it determined? How many years are expected before enrollment reaches the design capacity? Is there a different design capacity for educational and core spaces? Explain.
  • What is the expected opening enrollment?
  • What is the organizational pattern of grade levels? Will it change as a result of this project? Will the number of transitions be reduced?
  • What is the expected average class size?
  • What utilization rate is planned? Recommended rates are 95% for elementary schools, 90% for middle schools, and 85% for high schools.
  • What are the activity areas that will be needed to serve the people to be housed? Examples: instructional areas (regular classrooms, science labs, physical education areas, art, music, etc.); administrative areas (offices for administrators, guidance, health and special services, etc.); and service areas (media center, food service, storage, custodial, etc.).
  • What co-curricular activities and/or community uses are planned?
  • What are the characteristics and requirements of each of the activity areas listed in f and g above?
    • Goals, objectives or purpose.
    • Planned Usage: activities to occur; the number and nature of the users, including staff, anticipated group sizes if they are expected to vary, dual purposes spaces, etc.
    • Relationships: identify the spatial relationships among and between programs and between the instructional spaces and the administrative and support spaces. (Often a diagram is helpful here.) Identify any instructional, administrative or support relationships that affect site design and development.
    • Environmental Requirements: identify for each activity space any special visual, HVAC, acoustical, aesthetic, technological or security needs. Also identify any special electrical utility, plumbing, storage, display, or support requirements.
    • Special Furniture and Equipment Needs: particularly case-work and equipment that may require modifications to the general design.
    • Instructional Space Requirements: identify net square feet for each space.

Section III General Building Considerations

  • How will the building provide for future needs and flexibility for program changes or additions?
  • What is the plan for community use of the facilities? How will the building accommodate these plans?
  • What special provisions will be made to ensure the health and safety of the building's occupants?
  • What building-wide security requirements are planned? What effect will they have on community use of the building?
  • What building-wide communication and technology requirements are proposed?
  • What is the extent to which the building will be "green"? Or that it will be at least energy efficient and low maintenance? Sustainable? High Performance?
  • What will be the characteristics of the maintenance plan? Will it be based on life cycle analysis? Will there be provisions for commissioning and for the training of maintenance personnel? Will total cost of ownership be considered? Will the project cause a need for additional maintenance staff.
  • What provisions will be made for building access, based on the activity area groupings, pedestrian and vehicle traffic patterns, community usage, handicapped accessibility and site constraints?

Section IV Site Considerations

  • Does site meet minimum state requirements for size? If not, how will all program requirements be met?
  • How well does the proposed site allow for realization of the educational plan? Include advantages and constraints.
  • How well does the site address other issues:
    • Economy of purchase.
    • Accessibility, circulation and parking.
    • Centrality and proximity to other schools.
    • Topography and development costs
    • Availability of services and utilities.
    • Concurrence with town planning and zoning.
    • Concurrence with the State smart growth policy per RSA 9-B
  • Describe the site development plan and how it relates to A and B above.

New Hampshire Department of Education
101 Pleasant Street | Concord, NH | 03301-3494
Telephone: (603) 271-3494 | TDD Access: Relay NH 711