Seattle Public Schools

Design and Construction Process


School Design Advisory Team Overview

A School Design Advisory Team (SDAT) is formed when the planning process begins for a new school building or a major modernization project. Representatives from the schools participate to provide input to the design process.

To begin planning for each project, Seattle Public Schools hires an architectural firm. Architects and engineers lead the design efforts for all major construction projects. Seattle Public Schools has educational specifications (ed specs) that provide districtwide standards for school buildings and furnishings. These specifications are aligned with the district’s strategic plan, Seattle Excellence [link]. But every school is different, so it’s important for the architects and engineers to understand the school community and culture.

The district developed the SDAT process to provide o allow each school community to have input during the planning period for their school. For each project, representatives from a school participate in SDAT to provide a consistent and equitable process.

While each project is different, an SDAT typically includes:

  • School and district staff
  • Parents
  • Community members
  • Sometimes students

Working with the SDAT, the architects and engineers create a design that addresses the school’s needs and goals while meeting the district standards.

page from a presentation showing Kimball SDAT design goals
Example of design principles developed by an SDAT

SDAT members are expected provide a voice for the school and community during the pre-design phase. They are asked to give updates on the design process and gather any feedback from the school community.

The architectural design team leads the SDAT in workshops and tours. Over the three- to four-month process, the group identifies the vision, philosophy, and objectives of the school and community. They also provide a voice for the school and community during the pre-design phase.

SDAT discussions focus on understanding considerations such as:

  • “What makes the school special?,”
  • “Where do students like to gather?,”
  • “How does the school site influence the design?,”
  • “What is the learning culture and existing educational program?,”
  • “Who are the community partners?,” and
  • “How should the school feel when you walk in the door?”

The standard workshop includes a series of five meetings. Groups often require longer discussion periods. In those cases, there may be more meetings covering the same topics.

Meeting 1: Project orientation, which includes establishing roles and responsibilities and reviewing the district’s strategic plan and racial equity analysis tool.

Meeting 2: School tours to visit recently completed construction projects.

Meeting 3: Visioning and goal setting

Meeting 4: Conceptual design presentation from the architectural team. SDAT reviews and provides feedback.

Meeting 5: Revised conceptual design presentation from the architectural team. SDAT reviews and provides another iteration of community feedback.