Design Principle 7: Think Renovation and Adaptive Reuse of Existing Buildings

Pattern 7.0: Creative Re-use of Existing Spaces
Because there is no funding for facilities, charter schools’ options are often to utilize existing vacant facilities or to lease a portion of an existing building. Both approaches reduce overall impact on the environment by minimizing construction waste and bringing life to an underutilized building. Setting a charter school within an existing community can also encourage the growth of the surrounding area and provide a stronger sense of community and a life-long, multi-generational learning environment. Charter schools can creatively convert underutilized community and industrial buildings often in historical neighborhoods, as in this Power House High, where the Sears Power Plant was repurposed as a charter high school. The re-use of existing spaces is the most sustainable option as they provide great alternatives to new construction and are an environmentally responsible choice because they take advantage of existing infrastructure.

Pattern 7.1: Challenge the Classroom as Building Block in Renovation/Reuse
When renovating an existing school or re-purposing a building with another original use, challenge the preeminence of the classroom as a school’s basic “building block.” Consider varied classroom size and type and formal and informal learning settings when looking at opportunities to renovate a repuposed an existing building. Be creative in design planning and celebrate the unique learning mission of the charter school in the spatial arrangement and detailed development of the building.

Pattern 7.2: Consider Non-Traditional Options for School Facilities
Encourage schools to explore options for using alternative civic, retail, institutional, and other non-traditional, adaptable spaces that offer opportunities for experiential learning. This supportive partnership of hybrid building types can be most advantageous for charter schools that do not have the ability to use existing school assets and built-in public funding.