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    Agency Performance

Educational Specifications

What are Ed Specs?

Ed Specs are the guiding standards used by educators and design professionals to describe an educational program and facility. They identify design features, including spatial sizes, quantities, spatial relationships, and other design or programming elements that impact learning and teaching. When properly aligned with the District’s mission, the Ed Specs enhance educational and community outcomes by creating clear standards in line with desired outcomes.

The Ed Specs will serve as a benchmark for future school renovations and new construction projects. They describe the essential components of a school facility and explain how the school campus will support the academic programs and vision of the school’s leadership. 

The National School Boards Association describes the purpose of Ed Specs as follows:

The purpose of educational specifications (“Ed Specs”) is to define the programmatic, functional, spatial, and environmental requirements of the educational facility, whether new or remodeled, in written and graphic form for review, clarification, and agreement as to scope of work and design requirements by the architect, engineer, and other professionals working on the building design.

Ed Specs are primarily intended for use by architects and project planners. However, they also serve as an important tool for communicating the District standards to all project stakeholders, including:

Students, parents, and families
Faculty and administrators
Civic leaders and community members
Project design and construction partners

The Ed Specs provide the framework for proposed spaces while leaving architects ample flexibility for creativity and design options. In this way, the Ed Specs define expectations among project stakeholders but do not limit creativity. 

The Ed Specs also provide equity and consistency in space programming by communicating the District’s standards and design considerations. They establish the size and capacity of standard elementary, middle, and high schools, along with pre-kindergarten through eighth grade educational campuses. The Ed Specs are not intended to be the sole source for establishing the quality of finishes, classroom features, and facility systems. Designers will utilize the Ed Specs supplemented by the latest design standards developed by DCPS and the Department of General Services (DGS) and will participate in coordination meetings with DCPS, DGS Facilities, and other stakeholders throughout the design process. The Ed Specs are a living document that will continue to develop and evolve as programmatic needs change. 

What is the role of Ed Specs throughout a project?

Ed Specs serve a valuable role in every phase of planning and implementation. The role of an Ed Spec during each phase of a project is explained below. 

Defining District-Wide Versus Site-Specific Ed Specs

This document serves as the district-wide Ed Specs, which apply to existing building renovations, new school facilities, and new additions to existing buildings. They serve as a planning guide that provides baseline program requirements and are a benchmark for the success of future projects. The district-wide Ed Specs should be the template used to build out future site-specific Ed Specs. 

Site-specific Ed Specs tailor the district-wide Ed Specs’ program space requirements to meet local program needs. They are generated in advance of all major capital projects and created by refining the district-wide Ed Specs for the specific academic program and student popula-tion of the current project. 

Project Planning Phase

During the planning phase of a project, the district-wide Ed Specs will inform the scope of work and budget, and guide the development of the site-specific Ed Specs. The site-specific Ed Specs should be included in project procurements to provide interested vendors with clear and con-sistent communication regarding the intent of a project and to allow them to prepare well-informed responses that meet actual project needs. 

In future new project construction, the total building square footage should not exceed the amount indicated in the district-wide Ed Specs unless existing conditions, site configuration, or community-specific pro-gramming needs present an extenuating circumstance. Renovations to existing facilities should be guided by the Ed Specs as much as possi-ble. Square footage deviations of +/–10 percent are acceptable, particu-larly in the case of renovating an existing structure. Deviations of greater than 10 percent must be submitted to the appropriate DCPS leadership and academic content staff for input and approval.
While unique site locations, existing buildings, and academic programs may require adaptations, modifications to the program and space re-quirements beyond the scope of this document may only occur with DCPS’ leadership approval. 

Project Implementation Phase

During the implementation (or construction) phase of the project, the Ed Specs should be used for quality control, allowing DCPS to measure project deliverables against the stated benchmarks and standards. Site-specific drafts shall be clearly dated and shall track project milestones as accurately as possible. Design deliverables and construction comple-tion will be compared with the standards and goals established by the Ed Specs to ensure these guidelines are being met. Additionally, the Ed Specs will help provide the foundation for project decisions during imple-mentation, as responses can be measured against their compliance with the Ed Specs.

Project Turnover and Occupancy 

Following the completion of the project, an updated version of the site-specific Ed Specs programs depicting the ‘as built’ facility will be issued to DCPS’ local school leadership and central office staff, along with labeled floor plans and room inventory (as defined by the Design and Project Team’s Agreement with the District). This document will serve as a user-friendly document that allows people outside of the design and construction professions — particularly staff, administrators and other building occupants — to understand the building and the intent of its spaces. 

Prototype Ed Specs: