This information is a guide to the development process of the actual childcare premise. This will include determining your organizational capacity, sourcing site or premises, suitability of location, sourcing an architect and construction contractor, quality design issues, planning permission & fire safety issues and lastly, managing the complete process. It is not an exhaustive guide and anyone considering developing a childcare service should ensure that they have the appropriate support from relevant agencies and professionals.
The following documents should be considered essential reading in assisting you with understanding planning permission, fire safety and design requirements:
Analysing your capacity to take on the development of a service should occur early in the planning process. The level of capacity required will depend on the size and type your service. Obviously, the need will be different for a small sessional playschool than for a large full day childcare service. If the service is large scale, the development process is best managed by a development team that will consist of individuals that meet regularly and possess the technical skills necessary to cover all aspects of the process. But even if the service is small scale, as much professional advice and support as possible should be sought in order to prevent costly mistakes.
The following is a list of roles that should be covered by the project development team:
- Project Manager
- Solicitor/Legal Advisor
- Financial Officer
- Real Estate agent/broker
- Marketing Consultant
- Childcare Co-ordinator
- Architect/Design Consultant
- Quantity Surveyor – budget assessment
- Planning Officer
- Civil Engineer – site assessment, services needs, structural recommendations
Again this is dependent on factors previously mentioned above, such as the scale of the project, your own knowledge, skills and experience relevant to the project. But at all times, as much professional expertise and advice as possible should be sought and the relevant governing bodies and support organisations contacted.
Suitable Location of Childcare Facility
Points to consider:
- Site Assessment: Overall feasibility regarding adjoining land use, drainage, available services, parking, traffic and possible objections from neighbours.
- The Location: the demographic information available, childcare needs, the existing and projected population, housing and commercial growth in the area and future expansion for facilities for children aged 0-14 years.
- The Site: Ability to accommodate number of places in your business plan including the outdoor play area, future use of adjoining lands, ground levels in relation to connecting to local services, what does the local planning department consider appropriate for the site, soil testing for contaminates, nature of soil for foundations .e.g. rocky site could lead to expensive construction costs, boundaries and fences, orientation of site to maximise the use of natural light, shelter for outdoor play area , natural positive features, size of site in relation to childcare regulations, shape of site, single storey or two storey structures – if two storey younger children must be accommodated on ground floor level.
- Services: For a new site investigate water supply, septic tank requirements, and sufficiency of local services.
- Parking and Traffic Flow: Traffic flow to the childcare development, parking for visitors and staff, vehicular access for parents for short term parking to facilitate collection and delivery, additional traffic generated by the facility to the area, design of entrance and exit routes with due regard to safety.
- Estates: Planning authorities require the provision of childcare facilities for new housing areas and it is recognized that commercial and domestic developments need to make provision for childcare facilities.
Community childcare services
You may choose to use an existing community building for example a community hall or scouts den. The same preschool regulations apply and services must comply with these regulations. Services must ensure that fire, health & safety requirements meet with the standards outlined and that insurance in respect of the service is fully covered. Community Services may wish to contact local authorities for information and support in sourcing available premises or for possible sites for development.
If securing a new site or changing the terms of an existing tenancy is part of the project, the development team should consider the site control options before committing to just one. For example, if you decide to purchase a site, it may not be feasible to buy the site outright. There may be unresolved issues relating to the project feasibility such as planning permission requirements or securing necessary purchase funding.
While searching for the right site the following site control alternatives should be considered:
- An option to purchase.
- A conditional purchase contract.
- A joint venture with the existing owner or with another. organisation/individual that shares a similar purpose
Design of Childcare Facility
In most cases it will be necessary to avail of the services of an architect that will help translate your concept into a physical design that will meet the project goals, budget constraints and public approval requirements. When designing the project, an architect should consider both required and recommended elements of design. Visiting similar facilities and talking with other child care providers to identify successful designs, as well as mistakes to avoid, can be extremely helpful.
Securing a Contractor
- Solicit and review at least three bids from qualified contractors (check with funders on specific requirements).
- Check license, references, qualifications and insurance.
- Negotiate a contract that includes a scope of work, a work schedule, a payment schedule, a cancellation policy, and agreement over what happens if there are costs overruns or delay. Also specify a payment type, either lump sum or guaranteed maximum price. Asking a solicitor to draw up a construction contract will help avoid any mishaps during the development phase.
It is crucial that the building and its environment are suitably designed in such detail as to enhance the child’s growth and development. It is vital that the designer has a clear understanding of the way the building will be used, what age groups are being catered for and the needs of children on a practical level. Successful design depends on successful dialogue between you, the client and the architect. Colour is a central aspect of centre based childcare design as is a child friendly building incorporating practical spaces for learning opportunities.
The basic layout (dependent on type of service) should have the following:
- The Entrance
- Reception Area
- Access for the Disabled
- Parents’ Room
- Manager’s Office
- Circulation Areas
- Children’s Rooms
- Storage Space for Children’s Personal Belongings
- Sleep Areas
- Children’s Toilets
- Changing Area
- Visitor’s Toilets
- Staff Toilets
- Staff Room
- Laundry/Utility Area
- Outdoor Play Area
All services, either large scale or small scale must design the facility in accordance with childcare and other governing regulations. Although, a small sessional service will not require all of the above, attention needs to given to, children’s rooms, kitchenette area, storage, children’s toilet, staff toilets, security, and outdoor play area. Although space may be limited in small sessional services so consideration also needs to given to administration needs, staff and parent meetings needs.
Have you considered an Eco Design?
You may wish to consider an Ecological Build which incorporates a practical learning environment with the added bonus of sustainability. Using buildings such as these for a childcare facility enhances the learning environment through the use of natural light, the heat of the sun, the sounds of nature and wildlife. The use of the Building as a living system helps children to learn about their environment and renewable sources as well as renewable wind and solar power and water recovery. An ecological excellence approach places a strong emphasis on living with the planet for future generations and the use of non-toxic materials.
The following minimum standards are recommended for all childcare facilities.
Facilities must comply with the Fire Safety Code and Part M of the Building Regulations (Access for adults and children with disabilities) and the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016
Adult: Child Ratios
These ratios are important for determining the size of the facility, open space, traffic levels and parking requirements etc.
These recommendations relate to clear floor space per child. Clear floor space means that area available for children’s work, play and movement should not include furniture, surplus to the requirements of the child or permanent fixtures. They do not include areas such as kitchens, toilets, sleeping, storage and other ancillary areas. Adequate and suitable facilities for indoor and outdoor play are recommended. The care of babies should be confined to ground floor only.