“Over the past decade, increasing awareness of the long-term benefits of early childhood education has led to a growing industry distinct from other forms of child care in the United States”(Insight Center September 2016)


The early care and education field continues its decades-long expansion.  Until recently, these gains have been fueled by relatively steady enrollment growth, increasing female labor force participation, welfare reform-related expansion of federal child care subsidies, and other factors. While some of these trends may have leveled off, the field is experiencing a new phase of educationally-oriented expansion. Driven by a growing consensus about the economic and educational value of high-quality prekindergarten, most states now fund preschool programs and enrollment continues to expand.

The typologies of Early Education Centers take on many forms, they can be stand alone structures or be a part of a larger structure, be within urban or rural settings, and can be either large or small structures.  As the demand for early education development centers increases, more and more agencies, states, and municipalities are requiring that child development centers within their jurisdictions meet minimum facility and operating standards.  Among the organizations that have led the way toward the definition of comprehensive early education development centers criteria are the US General Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense.

While their parents work longer and longer hours seven out of ten American children under the age of six participate in some form of care outside the home.  Because many of them spend up to 12,500 hours in an early education child development center, most of the facilities must be designed to provide secure, nurturing and stimulating environments essential for the healthy development of children. 

HHFA is dedicated to promoting, understanding of how the design community can assist in the advancement of the design of these centers beyond the minimum standards set forth by agencies who have influence over the development of early education facilities throughout the nation.


In detailed studies by researchers who are experts in the field of child development, interactions between young children and their child care environment it is generally accepted that space and its arrangement have a far reaching influence on child development. 

For young children, in particular, the impact of the physical setting may be profound.  Many experts such as Thomas David and Carol Weinstein (1987) emphasize how important the built environment is to the developmental process and how it can be influenced by characteristics of the physical setting and the systematic knowledge about children and their interaction with the built environment can used to improve the design of children’s settings.  They all agree with Elizabeth Prescott that childhood places provide memories that continue to be significant throughout adult life.

David and Weinstein cited design recommendations in relation to ten developmental goals which include the following:

  1. Self esteem
  2. Security and comfort
  3. Self control
  4. Peer interaction and pro-social behavior
  5. Sex role identification
  6. Symbolic expression
  7. Logical thought putting things into relation
  8. Creativity and problem solving activity
  9. Attention span and task involvement
  10. Motor development

Links between design and philosophy provide a theoretical framework for understanding the more specific interactions that continue to be a focus for research activity, including interactions between the environment, child behavior and development, and teacher goals. Such links also serve as clues to ways of extending your knowledge of environmental influences into other aspects of design.  There is definitely more to classroom design than meets the eye. A pleasing appearance is of secondary importance to how a design functions in a given situation. Since the 1960s, researchers have identified links between the physical environment and the behavior of both children and teachers.  Design of effective early education development centers can be improved during the planning and programming phase by considering the following:

  1. Collaborate with administrators and teachers to develop a philosophy of education and instructional goals.
  2. Consider how a philosophy and goals relate to the space that is available and the activities that take place there.
  3. Assess the children who will use the facility and identify their particular developmental needs. Find out as much as you can about the nature of the space that is familiar to them in other settings and the kind of interactions they are accustomed to.
  4. If you are working with an existing site and/or structure, observe children and staff in that setting. Make notes about what appears to work well and what does not work well there. Look for checklists that may help you evaluate what you observe.
  5. Take advantage of as many available resources as possible. Become familiar with recommendations for the best possible use of space as well as regulatory requirements; visit other centers; and discuss proposed changes with others, including fellow staff and your builder or architect (if appropriate).
  6. Prepare the goals you have established and what you expect to happen there. Document your thoughts about how a classroom should be designed and the effects your changes should have.
  7. Reorganize your room and change your teacher behavior accordingly.
  8. Observe the effects of the changes proposed and decide whether those goals have been achieved.
  9. Make further changes based on the architect’s observations.
  10. Begin the cycle again by considering whether a client’s educational philosophy and goals are still appropriate in view of your current situation.

From the 1990s until present, research continues into how changes in the environment influence child development and what is learned in classroom settings. When observations of what happens in a particular environment are combined with knowledge of educational philosophy, the physical environment takes its place with other program elements as a full participant in early childhood curriculum. Although some alterations are more permanent than others, classroom programming, planning and design is ultimately a tool whose flexibility can be enhanced through planning and modeling.

Finally, as a result the research studies previously referenced there is a strong link between behavior and spatial design and layout. A classic study on the topic described it this way: “Tired or irritable teachers; apathetic, hyperactive or uninterested children; high noise level; large amounts of time spent in routine management; and excessive use of teacher-directed activity all have a high likelihood of being spatially induced.”  Poorly designed preschool classrooms can frustrate children, precipitating outbursts or aggressive behavior, or create an overly-stimulating environment where children find it difficult to engage in learning activities. On the other hand, a well-designed child care space facilitates a less stressful and more rewarding experience for both children and teachers.


Development of early childhood facilities policies need to address a variety of issues. These fall into three broad categories:

Financial barriers – Generating and increasing access to affordable capital.

Design and real estate development practices Addressing the limited design and real estate development knowledge and skills in the child care field and the lack of familiarity with early education facilities among architects and developers.

Policy and regulatory issues – Creating a supportive policy and regulatory environment for facilities development.

Financial barriers:

In developing early education facility policies, the most obvious challenge is to bridge the gap between the cost of quality facilities and the tough financial realities of delivering early care and education services. The challenge is on both sides of the financial ledger: revenue and expense. On the revenue side, with the exception of niche markets where operating margins are healthy, child care program income is typically meager, especially when compared with the full cost of delivering quality early education services. On the expense side of the ledger, the cost of constructing facilities designed specifically for young children is relatively high when compared with standard commercial space. Although costs can vary considerably from region to region, constructing, or acquiring and substantially rehabilitating a building costs can range between $10,000 and $30,000 per child.

In an environment where the imperative is to improve quality, meet more rigorous performance standards, and respond to higher expectations, costs (including facility costs) will increase, exacerbating this financing gap. As a result, the primary policy challenge is to fill the gap between the cost of building facilities and the lack of financial resources available to programs that need more or better physical space to serve additional children and meet emerging program quality standards.

Design and real estate development practices:

A second and less obvious challenge is the limited technical capacity to develop facilities. Developing an early childhood facility requires certain organizational capabilities, real estate development expertise, and specialized architectural knowledge. Yet most organizations delivering early care and education are small and leanly staffed: Even if motivated to do so, few would have either the experience or personnel for the time-consuming and frustrating complexities of site assembly and evaluation; real estate finance; regulatory and permitting processes; and design and construction oversight. If not addressed, this capacity gap can seriously hamper the child care field’s effective use of state-supplied facilities financing resources. Moreover, few professional architects have had experience with this unique building type. Therefore, the second policy challenge is to ensure the effective use of state financing assistance for early care facilities.

Policy and regulatory issues:

Finally, it is not enough for state facility policies to make possible the construction of isolated projects. The objective is to create a reliable system—an infrastructure—and a supportive policy and regulatory environment that enable the early education field to meet its physical capital needs. Thus, facility policies should address the full range of barriers—capital, technical and regulatory—that prevent the development of a sufficient supply of quality early care and education settings. The test of the system is its ability to operate at scale and on an ongoing basis, and in so doing, create a development model that can succeed in a broad range of situation


Research in the field of early childhood education has consistently shown that the first five years of life are of supreme significance in terms of cognitive and emotional development, lifelong physical health, and character-building. But it is only more recently that some of the wider social impacts of this research have been determined, and the results have implications which many are recognizing. Here is a brief guide to the value of early childhood education for America’s current and upcoming generations.  Refer to Exhibit 1A              


Historical Overview:

Early on a distinction was made between kindergartens and nurseries when they were established for educational purposes in the 19th century.  At that time kindergartens were established for educational purposes while nurseries provided daycare.  Not until the 1970’s did the definition broaden beyond the notion of ‘formal education’.  The major goals focused primarily on formal schooling. 

The major goals were identified as:

      - Care for children while primary care giver was working

      - Socialization

      - Cognitive stimulation

      - Intellectual development and preparation for primary school

      - Overall child development

The major problems were identified as:

      - An inadequate supply of facilities, nowhere yet available to everyone

      - Located primarily in urban and affluent communities     

      - Inadequate physical facilities

      - Unqualified and inadequately trained teachers and staff.

      - Inadequate availability to meet the needs of working parents.

Present Overview:

Recently we have seen the demand for early education facilities being driven by high and continued rising female labor force participation rates, the demand for childcare and the acknowledgement that a group experience is valuable for the impact of a child’s overall development as well as preparing them for primary education.

In today’s world, preschool programs serve another compelling function: early education. Where economic necessity, welfare reform, and women’s increasing participation in the workforce fueled child care’s growth during the last half of the twentieth century, science and economics are stoking its successor: high-quality early education programs. Relying on empirical evidence of its developmental benefits for children and on analyses that point to substantial economic gains for society from an “invest early” strategy, families, educators, policymakers, and business leaders are driving the current movement to improve the quality of preschool programs and subsidize them so more 3- and 4-year-olds can attend. Early education has also become a staple reform strategy for underperforming schools. For all these reasons, early education has moved toward the center of the public policy stage in states across the country.

Future Overview:

In the future, Investment in the physical capital needs of this growing industry is part of the process of building a system of quality early care and education. Local, state, and federal facility policies are in their infancy. However, stimulated by the national trend toward expanded state-supported preschool education and the emphasis on elevating program quality, early facility development efforts,  will continue to be  adapted state by state and nationally. These measures, along with new state administrative structures and better-funded professional development systems, are forming an emerging infrastructure that will gradually change the face of the fragmented and unevenly resourced array of publicly supported child care and early education programs. That system will be incomplete without public policies and investments that result in facilities purposefully designed to support quality programming and to house a growing number of young children who need and deserve the very best services

Copyright 2017 by HH Fremer Architects

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Programming+ : An Enhancement to Traditional Architectural Programming

Recently, Fremer Architects submitted a proposal to the County of Los Angeles for strategic master planning for the Department of Public Social Services. It was unique project in that the user had performed a facilities consolidation report based on Business Process Re-engineering, which the winning architect would use as a basis for a master space program.  Interestingly, the Department of Social Services was facing an upcoming increase in demand of client interaction due to impending major health insurance laws, yet the result was a decrease in footprint of the department. We began thinking, why can’t architects be involved in Business Process Re-Engineering?

Business Process Re-engineering is a concept that was first defined in the early 1990’s. Two Boston-area management consultants, Michael Hammer and James Champy advised businesses on how to cut costs and improve quality in a time of impending technological advances. The idea has seven main principles: (1) Organize around outcomes, not tasks, (2) Identify all processes and prioritize them in order of urgency, (3) Integrate information processing work into the real work that produces information, (4) Treat geographically dispersed resources as if they were centralized, (5) Link parallel activities in the workflow instead of just integrating their results, (6) Put the decision point where the work is performed, and (7) Capture information once and at the source. (Rouse, “Business Process Reengineering (BPR) definition”) To us, Business Process Re-engineering sounds like a good supplement to the traditional programming services offered by architects.

Programming is the process of defining the architectural problem, which must be completed before the design process commences. Most architects are familiar with the programming process to the point that some consider it their specialty. One firm, Caudill, Rowlett, and Scott, pioneered a scientific process for programming, that was the topic of the book “Problem Seeking” written by their employee William Peña. The five steps are: (1) Establish Goals, (2) Collect and Analyze Facts, (3) Uncover and Test Concepts, (4) Determine Needs, and (5) State the Problem. The “Establish Goals” phase exists to find an over-arching goal to set the tone of the project. In other words, the idea is to find a theme for analyzing the data, as there are many options that can become of it. An analogy would be “the sum is greater than the parts.” By collecting and analyzing facts, the architect learns about the character of an existing facility. Once facts are collected, concepts should be stated. They are not definitive architectural plans, as they are usually diagrams or non-graphic concepts. The final step before stating the problem is to determine needs. The type of needs that are determined are the practicalities of the project, including construction cost and time.

One downside to programming is it has the tendency to base an architectural problem on results from the past. Today, entities and organizations change so quickly, that the processes used even ten years ago are drastically different than the processes used today. 

What if architects study their clients’ organizational procedures, and discover alternatives to the current processes of a client? If these alternatives alter their finances, the result would be a drastically different program for the building. One example of this is the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, who initiated a company-wide program called SMART Working, which resulted in a 38 percentage reduction in building square footage. (“How Can SMART Working Help a Company Save Money?”) At one of their locations, they moved to a new building 25 percent of the size of the original, by employing a “hoteling” concept in the new building. The concept of “hoteling” eliminates any permanent work space for any employee, and replaces it with temporary stations that employees can work and/or meet at in a variety of settings, ranging from very public tables to more private conference rooms. (“Cost Efficient, Open-space Office Designs: Ditching Desks - and Privacy”)

As architects, we can be part of the conversation with owners in “re-engineering” their business due to our ability to think analytically, critically, and spatially. It doesn’t mean we have to take over the process, just be part of it. In that method, the architect in the room can provide direct feedback to business processes being debated and discussed, rather than waiting to translate business processes into diagrams and eventually building plans. Coincidentally, this act of involving the architect in this brainstorming phase of the project can be considered “re-engineering” itself as an example of the principal “linking parallel activities.“


Works Cited

“Cost Efficient, Open-space Office Designs: Ditching Desks — and Privacy.” Knowledge@Wharton. The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 19 June, 2013. Web. 12 January, 2016    <http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/cost-efficient-open-space-office-designs-ditching-desks-and-privacy/>

“How Can SMART Working Help a Company Save Money?” GlaxoSmithKline Research Triangle Park Consolidation and Workplace Guidelines. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.

Rouse, Margaret. “Business Process Reengineering (BPR) Definition.” SearchCIO. 1 June 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2016. <http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/business-process-reengineering>.

Energy Savings through Lighting Control

Recently, Lutron Electronics presented an enlightening (…sorry…) seminar in our office on lighting controls and their benefits in creating a more sustainable working environment.

The US accounts for roughly 4.4% of the world’s population according to the US Census Bureau (source), but we account for 20% of the world’s energy consumption. We spend nearly a fifth of that just to operate commercial buildings (so this statistic doesn’t even include the energy we spend on our cities’ infrastructure, our homes, or our industries). A full 28% of the energy used in commercial buildings is spent on lighting.  Now if we do a little more math, based on the stereotypical 9-5 commercial work-day (which we know we're moving away from, but humor us for a minute), that means that our nation alone spends 1% of the entire world’s energy just to be able to see clearly during the day.

According to Lutron, controlling overall lighting levels through tuning and trimming – i.e., adjusting the maximum lighting output of each light fixture and bulb, as well as adjusting fixture output based on its location in a building (e.g., proximity to a window) – can reduce lighting energy use by up to 25%. Trimming can also extend the life of each bulb – all light sources suffer from lumen reduction over time, so light levels tuned and trimmed lower initially can be raised over time without the perception of light loss. Adding occupancy sensors and individual controls can decrease lighting energy usage even further.

Understandably, most clients need to know how this affects the bottom line. While installing trimmers, tuners, occupancy sensors, and individual controls will lead to energy cost savings over time, we understand that the start-up costs for the equipment can appear daunting. Consider, however, the secondary benefits: studies by the Rocky Mountain Institute (a non-profit dedicated to market-based sustainability solutions) show that profits from increasing employee productivity simply by providing individual lighting control can pay off the expense of installing those control systems in less than a year (source). In addition, every 3 watts in lighting energy-use savings decreases a building’s heating load enough to result in a 1 watt HVAC energy-use saving.

These statistics are by no means exhaustive, and as technology improves, so will the associated energy savings. Passive day-lighting and shading strategies can already significantly decrease building energy use, so imagine what else can be achieved with just a little extra commitment to installing active-sustainable features.

Have you had success in decreasing your energy costs through active (and passive) sustainability strategies?  Have you specifically had success through tuning, trimming, and lighting control? Please let us know in the comments – we look forward to hearing from you.

In Progress: OVMC Day Care Center

Construction of OVMC Day Care Center is nearly complete!

Before PUB, the general contractor, buttons everything up, we want to share a couple photos of the work in progress.

A view from the south shows the Epicore decking prior to the Reynobond cladding application.

An articulated concrete block wall greets visitors approaching from the parking area.  Landscaping and lighting have also since been installed in the planter to the right.

We’ll update you with more photos once construction is finished.  For now, you can click here to read more about the project.  Stay tuned…

Hello Again…!

Welcome to the redesigned HH Fremer Architects website!

HHFA is excited to launch our website update, and excited to update you about what we currently have on the boards.  We’ll be using this journal to show you what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how it’s progressing.

But we don’t want this website to only be about us.  Architecture extends well beyond the architect, and even the best photographs cannot tell the full story of every project, every client, and every design challenge.

We want this website to be about all of us – the design community, and the greater communities that designers serve.  Thus, we’ll also be using this journal to tell you about what inspires us in hopes that we can inspire you.  More than that, we want this journal to be yours as well – a collective sketchbook, if you will.  We want to hear what you think, see what you aspire towards, and know how design can and should affect your lives.

Send us your questions, leave us your comments, and let us know what topics you’d like to explore with us.  Let's step into tomorrow together.