Planning Active Learning Classrooms: Tips for Design & Construction Professionals

Planning Active Learning Classrooms: Tips for Design & Construction Professionals

Natural History Building

The success of specialized active learning classrooms requires architects, consultants, owners, users, and contractors to venture beyond their typical approach to communication during the project process.


Having designed many active learning classrooms that support peer-to-peer concepts, LCM has learned a few lessons. The first installment of Planning Active Learning Classrooms explored suggestions for facility and user groups. In this installment we elaborate on communication between design and construction professionals.

Packed Spaces

Traditional documents separate electrical, furniture, architectural, audio-visual, mechanical, etc. into different sheets. A dimensioned composite set of drawings (plans, elevations, reflected ceiling plans) is critical for client review and consultant coordination when building active learning classrooms. This set delineates all of the elements in one place, including screens, projectors, monitors, light switches, tables, chairs, whiteboards, and controls. In order for all elements to work successfully together, their locations need to be thought out in relation to one another.

Coordinated Drawings

It is not uncommon for composite drawings to be filed and forgotten after they are shown to the client but for active learning classrooms, the team needs to reference the drawings throughout the project. The Architect and consulting team need to commit to the layout in the composite drawings. The Architect will also need to review consultants’ documents prior to issue.

Writing Surfaces

These education spaces are about collaboration and creativity. Create whiteboards out of walls and furniture. There can never be too many writing surfaces

Floor and Table Boxes

One floor box may not provide the capacity for all the required connections in an active learning classroom. A second floor box requires a lot of space and is likely to be in an awkward place. Think carefully about the capacity and the relationship to furniture. Many large tables will not accommodate the box and the connections in a discreet location. Floor and table boxes are rarely flush. This can be an issue for furniture and accessibility. 

Challenge for Accessibility

Providing access between legs of large tables while supporting the top is challenging. Many times these are custom tables. Table boxes, AV, and power connections constrict space, which may significantly affect individuals with physical disabilities. Diagram the circulation space needed to reach the accessible workstations. Be certain that table boxes are within reach range.

Contractor Commitment

Successful completion of active learning classrooms requires buy-in and careful coordination by the contracting team too. It begins with framing and rough-in and continues through final installation and commissioning. Everyone needs to commit to the functioning of the space.


All the lessons learned from our experiences planning and designing active learning classrooms have a common theme – communication. There simply is never enough coordination and documentation when designing these highly collaborative and technical environments.

This post was written by Richard Lehner AIA, LEEP AP

The first installment of Planning Active Learning Classrooms explored suggestions for facility and user groups.

Planning Active Learning Classrooms: Tips for Facility & User Groups


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