Designing quality learning spaces in schools

As a board of trustees, when you are upgrading your school’s learning spaces, you must comply with Designing Quality Learning Spaces (DQLS) guidelines as part of creating Innovative Learning Environments (previously called Modern Learning Environments). This includes meeting the Ministry’s standards for acoustics, heating and ventilation, and lighting.

Creating quality learning spaces

It is important that learning spaces are healthy and comfortable for students to spend many hours inside. The most important elements of the environment to consider are air quality, heating, lighting and acoustics.

Because these elements are so important, we have developed the Designing Quality Learning Spaces (DQLS) guidelines in partnership with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).

The DQLS guidelines set out the Ministry’s standards that learning spaces must meet when they are being upgraded, and advice on how to achieve these.

Meeting the standards in the DQLS guidelines

When you are undertaking new projects or upgrading your school buildings, you need to make sure that your internal learning space design complies with the standards set out in the DQLS guidelines.

Download and use these guidelines to become familiar with the minimum design standards expected by the Ministry, and to brief consultants and tradespeople on your requirements when planning upgrades.


DQLS – Acoustics version 2.0 of the acoustics guideline was released in September 2016 and is a substantial update on the 2007 guide. The key changes are:

  • Ministry requirements are now clearly marked as ‘mandatory’ or ‘recommendation’. We highly recommend you use the DQLS – Acoustics version 2.0 from September 2016 and will become mandatory for all projects starting after 1 January 2017.
  • The technical requirements have been updated to reflect changes since 2007 in the way teaching spaces are used and designed.
  • The target audience for this document is designers who are involved in the design and specification of school buildings, such as architects, acousticians, and service engineers.

Download the DQLS- Acoustics version 2.0 (September 2016) [PDF, 4.7 MB]

DQLS 2007

The DQLS guidelines issued in2007 include:

These documents are a useful guideline for building quality internal environments. They are currently being updated.

New Zealand Standards

Standards New Zealand has also released some technical standards for quality internal environments. These can be useful for extra practical guidance on how to achieve and measure the concepts outlined in the DQLS guidelines. You don’t have to comply with the New Zealand Standards; however, we recommend that you follow them.

Some useful New Zealand Standards are:

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback