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School District of Philadelphia Educational Specifications and Design Guidelines

Shepherding Systemic Change


The School District of Philadelphia

Project Location

Philadelphia, PA


323 Facilities


198,645 students

Driven by an urgent commitment to shepherd systemic change, we partnered with The School District of Philadelphia to create a framework to guide new construction and renovation of district schools. The newly defined framework encompasses educational specifications, design guidelines, and technical specifications and represents a groundbreaking shift in how the district, as well as its administration, principals, teachers, staff, and students, view their built environments. These new standards reflect a clear vision for planning, designing, and constructing urban schools of the future – facilities that align with the district’s commitment to educate and graduate generations of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and change makers.

The process used to develop SDP’s educational specifications and design standards was driven by a strong desire to create equity across the district. It spanned more than seven months and involved a total of eight site visits, seven core group meetings, and 33 focus group meetings. By engaging in workshops, activities, and visioning with academic leaders, educators, students, and others, stakeholders garnered a better understanding of the relationship between learning and the built environment. Armed with this new-found knowledge, participants rethought the district’s standards in a way that meets the needs of today and are also forward-thinking.


In the Media

Essentials Magazine

Here to There: A Journal to Excellence and Equity in Philadelphia

Troy Glover’s piece in Essentials magazine shows how systemic change in planning, design, and construction results in equitable environments for students.

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