The day care market in the U.S. is growing at a rate of roughly 8% per year, according to some estimates. Demand in the D.C. area is especially high, which means early-childhood education facilities in recent years have required greater creativity and planning to build safe, welcoming spaces for kids to enjoy.
Having years of experience with day care facility builds and renovations, the Pizzano team has a deep knowledge of the unique requirements of these facilities. From projects for Vinci and Blue Bird to a parking garage transformation for Tierra Encantada, every build is unique.
The Washington Business Journal recently featured an article, excerpted below, that shares key insights from the Pizzano team, outlining the essential factors for a successful day care construction project.
Know your audience
With these types of projects, it's important to remember throughout the process that adults are not the primary “end users” for day care centers. Fixtures need to not only be at child height, but they need to be easy for small hands to grip and use. Plumbing requirements at day care centers are more extensive than in other projects because each classroom requires its own bathroom(s), which means extra fixtures, permits, and water usage – which the Pizzano team helps mitigate by using additional features such as water sensors and tankless water heaters.
Outdoor spaces are an essential part of daycare projects, which means the necessity to work with additional trades to install playgrounds and other equipment. They bring their expertise to the numerous requirements, including those related to the size of the space itself. The state of Virginia, for example, requires at least 75 square feet of space per child for outdoor play areas.
Invest in quality floors
Easy-to-clean surfaces, such as antimicrobial floors and hand-washing stations, are also core requirements (because, as any parent knows, little kids get dirty). Floors made of sustainably sourced rubber or luxury vinyl tile (LVT) are durable materials especially suitable for tumble-prone kids. Carpets, however, are rarely the right choice for various reasons. Regardless of the material chosen, investing in the right flooring upfront pays off in the long run.
Commercial-grade kitchens are required to meet food safety laws for day cares that provide on-site meals – which is increasingly the case. At Tierra Encantada in Alexandria, the Pizzano team installed a full commercial kitchen to prepare daily breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
Make pickup/drop-off seamless
Builders need to also take into account the logistics outside of the facility. Drop-off and pickup areas must be designed to be seamless and safe. This involves understanding the flow of people at different times and adapting the parking lot accordingly. At Tierra Encantada, the team constructed a new lane as a dedicated pickup/drop-off space.
Budget extra time for permitting
Day care facilities are heavily regulated. Every step needs to be carefully considered, and permitting is stricter than for other businesses. One late inspection or reinspection can set off a cascade of delays that can quickly add up over time. Build in extra time to take the necessary steps for all the components of the build; facilities for children are not rubber-stamped.
Use an experienced team
Federal law requires states and territories to set and enforce child care licensing requirements, so laws that apply to various facilities will vary – it’s important to work with an experienced team that knows the rules and how to navigate them.
Security and supervision, in general, are essential considerations for daycares. Properly working locks, lighting and privacy features are required, as well as surveillance, to let families remain connected to their children via app-compatible video streams. Pizzano’s team has worked closely with skilled professionals to install these features.
As demand for child care shows no signs of slowing down, projects like these will be increasingly important, especially in dense urban areas where spaces for new builds will be harder to come by. The adaptive reuse of spaces – and the creativity they require – will become an essential skill set. Here’s to more great kid-friendly projects ahead.