Sensory-friendly design enters the classroom

Sensory-friendly design enters the classroom
Posted on 10/11/2018
Karner Blue classroom

Several newly-built schools in Minnesota’s Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916 set the gold standard for sensory-friendly design. At the elementary and high schools outside St. Paul, architects and designers worked with teachers to create a healthy environment for students with special needs.

“We paid a lot of attention to materials for a healing, learning environment that is warm and welcoming,” said Hanna Kuehl, senior interior designer at BWBR, an architecture firm that worked on the school district’s projects.

At the district’s Karner Blue and Pankalo education centers, which opened in 2014 and 2017 respectively for kindergarten through eighth grade students in special education, hallways are shortened and curved to discourage running. Venting ducts run through the hallway ceilings instead of in classrooms and are larger than average to help diffuse the force of air and potential noise. There are breakout rooms for one-on-one therapy sessions or quiet reflection.

The results have been positive, Kuehl indicated. Early data show that behavioral issues are down, academic achievement is up and students are transitioning back to their neighborhood schools more quickly. Learn more.