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Trauma-Informed Design in K-12 schools

What is Trauma-Informed Design?e-Builder Enterprise for K-12

A design method made popular out of necessity by the COVID-19 pandemic, trauma-informed design within the K-12 school environment is a design approach that encourages builders and designers to create safe, welcoming, and healing learning environments for students who have experienced trauma.

Importance of Trauma-Informed Design Due to the Pandemic

Before the pandemic, it is estimated that the majority of children in K-12 schools had experienced at least one traumatic event, with 1 in 6 students reporting six or more exposures to trauma. The trauma could be related to accidents, peer pressure, bullying, or family-related issues. With additional mental health stressors due to active shooter threats, and global events, it would be expected that these numbers have increased over the last two years.

Children who have experienced trauma are more likely to struggle in school, have decreased attendance, face behavioral or emotional problems, and have increased difficulty learning.

Before the pandemic, it is estimated that the majority of children in K-12 schools had experienced at least one traumatic event, with 1 in 6 students reporting 6 or more exposures to trauma.

By designing and building schools to acknowledge the varying needs of traumatized children, trauma-informed design partnered with trauma-informed care can support these students to make them feel safe and seen while simultaneously helping their healing process.

School Construction

K-12 KidsK-12 School Construction

Trauma-Informed Design Choices: Designed to Heal

Including trauma-informed design in the construction project plans might be a new concept for capital improvement project owners or school systems in charge of designing or renovating schools.

In the K-12 environment, trauma-informed design stresses flexibility and adaptability of room layouts in the following ways:

  • Connection to nature
  • Open spaces
  • Natural lighting
  • Areas of refuge

With trauma-informed design, “layers of space” are integrated into the building’s architectural plans, allowing various spaces for students to decide whether to have involvement with their peers or individual space, small to medium gatherings for group discussion, and larger areas for classroom or group engagement.


  • Intentionally laying out electrical and plumbing into the outer walls and incorporating moveable walls for space adaptability;
  • Designing rooms and hallways to be open and bright without harsh and triggering fluorescent lighting;
  • Setting up entrances where students can be warmly greeted by staff; and
  • Areas of refuge, such as corners or balconies where students can retreat if they feel the need to be alone or with a limited number of students.

What are the Unique Challenges of Building Schools?

When it comes to K-12 institutions, e-Builder is intimately familiar with common problems that can arise during the design, build, and maintenance of a school. With e-Builder’s school construction management software, school districts or institution capital project managers have a solid cloud-based PMIS to support collaboration, visibility, and increased productivity.


The school construction PMIS ensures collaboration between stakeholders, such as the school system and consultants, or builders and designers, and allows them to work side by side with access to the same, and always up-to-date, information.

In a construction project including trauma-informed design, designers and builders must closely work together to ensure the builders are properly interpreting the plans of the designer, and e-Builder’s cloud-based system allows for easy collaboration between these stakeholders.


Whatever the size of a school district’s budget, e-Builder provides the transparency needed between stakeholders and the watchful eyes of taxpayers, which is paramount when it comes to the construction of public schools.

With e-Builder’s cloud-based PMIS, the school budget can be closely monitored with real-time data. This allows financial managers and operations directors to make informed decisions with budget forecasts as well as control costs from a project’s inception.


As is common in the construction industry, project timelines are a critical component of the job planning process. When a school district is unable to deliver a project on time or experiences major project delays, it often results in broken trust between the public and the school system.

e-Builder Enterprise can be used to have a higher degree of control and understanding of the project construction schedule, keeping the projects on time or placing contingencies where appropriate.

School Hallway

Partner with e-Builder for School Construction Management

Trimble e-Builder has partnered with school systems across the country to centralize documentation and provide a cloud-based solution for project management. Owners and managers with projects in the K-12 industry have experienced 3x improvement in productivity, and up to 4% cost savings upon including e-Builder in their design processes. Read more below about how e-Builder has supported public school systems with their capital program initiatives.