Shoe-free schools can improve children's learning

- It may sound trite to talk about floors and the ability to sit on the floor when it comes to developing school buildings. But the choice to build a shoeless school affects a range of other decisions during the construction process - which can ultimately lead to improved learning opportunities for students.

So says Cage Copher, a knowledge environment architect at FOJAB. He is keen to bring more attention to shoe-free schools - and the consequences of building shoe-free.

Experience with school building development from start to finish has made Cage understand how important the decisions are at the beginning of the process, and which decisions have an exponential effect on the end goal. The decision to be a shoeless school is one of them.

Of course, leaving shoes at the entrance reduces the noise level, but it also has other positive effects that affect the use of classrooms.

- We know, and it is confirmed by research, that we work better, study better, learn more when the room is comfortable. Sound, light, air quality and temperature affect not only adults in offices but also the learning ability of children in schools," says Cage:

- After many years of experience in designing passive houses, I know how important temperature is. It's not just about the air in the rooms - the temperature of the surfaces can actually be more important. A thermal bridge to a beam can create a cold floor. An under-insulated window frame can make a wall chilly. Thermal bridges affect how we use spaces because they affect how comfortable the spaces are. A classroom can become less useful because of cold surfaces.

In a shoeless learning environment, the floor must have a comfortable temperature. This means that thermal bridges need to be removed, and the floor and foundation insulated. A decision to build shoeless environments can thus provide well thought-out details that create a more even indoor climate.

- The choice to use the floor to sit on creates a domino effect that results in a better building. "Of course, I'm not saying that the school has to be shoeless to prevent cold bridges. But it makes it more likely to happen," says Cage.

A shoeless environment is also easier to keep clean. There is less wear and tear. Rooms can be decorated with higher quality materials, with fabric, carpets and wood. Simply put, it can be nicer. With textile carpets, students can sit on the floor, opening up new places to study. The rooms have more possibilities, more safe spaces that give students both more flexibility and a sense of control and ownership - essential factors for children's learning capacity.

- As an architect of knowledge environments, it is important for me to understand the pedagogy that is carried out in the buildings. It's not my role to think about pedagogy, but I want to understand it so that it can be supported by the architecture and interior design.

Should schools be shoeless?

- I can't answer that. I draw both kinds. But I know that if the floor is hard, dirty and cold, we won't sit there. And then we miss out on the best place to sit.