Child Care  



The Child Care space types, described herein, are the facilities required for child care services permitted within federal facilities. The intention of high quality federal child care is to allow employees to respond to their dual work and family responsibilities effectively to the benefit of both families and the government as employer. A licensed child care center is a facility, other than a private residence, approved and licensed by a state or other applicable local authority where a person, other than a relative or guardian, is compensated to provide care and supervision for 4 or more children under 7 years of age for less than 24 hours a day. A "small" center is one which is licensed for less than 60 children, while a "large" one is licensed for more than 94 children. Child Care space types include additional support and space sub-types, including toilets, food preparation and service, office space, and meeting space, as well as security features required in compliance with codes and regulations.

Adult observing a girl and a boy in a classroom setting

Space Attributes

Child Care spaces should be secure environments that provide a variety of learning experiences and meet the physical needs of the children. See WBDG Child Development Centers for more information on the unique attributes of spaces designed for child development and care. Typical features of Child Care space types include the list of applicable design objectives elements as outlined below. For a complete list and definitions of the design objectives within the context of whole building design, click on the titles below.


child in a wheelchair accessible swing

Accessible swing for wheelchair users.
Photo Credit:

Functional / Operational

  • Classrooms are the architecturally defined areas that contain each group of children. Classrooms may be separated by full partitions or by partial barriers that also allow controlled visual or acoustical connections to other groups.

  • Design spaces with a sensitivity to children's scale, including how they will use the space, what they will see, and what kind of experience they will have.

  • Classroom equipment and durable goods including cots and cribs, chairs and other seating devices, furniture, play equipment, academic equipment, presentation equipment, audiovisual equipment, computer equipment, food service, and hygiene equipment must be provided. Provide durable and cost-effective materials and details. This is vital when the designer considers the intensity of use that a center receives. Particular sensitivity should be paid to the life-cycle cost of materials.

  • Outdoor spaces may include play yard space, including fencing, canopy, sidewalk, ground cover, drainage, shade devices, play structures, and vegetation planting. See WBDG Playground Design and Equipment for more information.

Playground surfaced with poured-in-place rubber and rubber mats
playground with a mix of sand play area, hard surface zone, and gross motor skills area

Playground surfaced with poured-in-place rubber and rubber mats.

This playground offers a mix of sand play area, hard surface zone, and gross motor skills area.

Occupancy: Occupancy Group Classification is Educational Occupancy E as sub-occupancy with Business B2 Building Occupancy, with sprinklered construction. See also WBDG Secure / Safe—Fire Protection.


  • Office space in Child Care space types should be equipped with infrastructure to support telephone and data communication systems including space, power, and conduit and telephone and data communication equipment.

  • Consider providing on-site food service areas directly serving the daycare population and on-site laundry services and water services including hot water and water conditioners.

Secure / Safe

  • Whenever possible, design the space to prevent direct access to the child care area. Instead, create a secure main entrance which will be separated from the doors to individual child care rooms and spaces so that a person entering may need to go down a hallway or around a corner to get to a child care entrance.

  • Security equipment for Child Care space types may include access control, intrusion detection, and alarm systems. See also WBDG Secure / Safe—Security for Building Occupants and Assets.

  • Additional elevators and exit stairways may be required for Child Care spaces located on the 2nd level of buildings.

  • Ensure that there is adequate exterior lighting to allow safe exterior circulation and site security.


  • Provide ample natural light in all spaces where children will spend time, especially the classrooms.

  • Minimize energy use. Also consider placement of mechanical equipment to ensure energy efficiency as well as acoustic comfort and control.

  • Equipment, furnishings, and finishes must be non-toxic and not contain asbestos, lead, or other VOCs.

  • Equipment, furnishings and finishes should be cleaned and maintained using sustainable cleaning or improved maintenance practices.

  • Good indoor air quality must be provided.

  • See also WBDG Secure / Safe—Occupant Safety and Health

Example Program

The following building program is representative of Child Care center space types and is based on the ratios prescribed in the PBS-140 Child Care Center Design Guide. The center described below included provisions for 86 children.


Tenant Occupiable Areas
Qty. SF Each Space Req'd. Sum Actual SF Tenant Usable Factor Tenant USF
Staff and Parent Areas       1,140    
    Public Area            
    Vestibule 1 60 60      
    Reception 1 100 100      
    Staff Area            
    Director's Office 1 150 150      
    Assistant's Workstation 1 80 80      
    Sick Bay 1 80 80      
    Staff Lounge/Work 1 200 200      
    Parent/Staff Conference 2 100 200      
    Adult Toilet 2 60 120      
    Central Storage 1 150 150      
Service Areas       560    
    Laundry 1 100 100      
    Warming/Central Kitchen 1 300 300      
    Janitor's Closet 1 80 80      
    Telephone Closet 1 80 80      
Common Spaces       1,000    
    Multiple Purpose Space 1 800 800      
    Play Yard Storage 1 200 200      
Classrooms       7,200    
    Infant Classroom (8) 1 900 900      
    Younger Toddler Classroom (12) 2 1,060 2,120      
    Younger Toddler Restroom 2 40 80      
    Older Toddler Classroom (14) 1 1,060 1,060      
    Older Toddler Restroom 1 40 40      
    Preschool Classroom (20) 1 1,440 1,440      
    Preschool Restroom 1 60 60      
    After School Classroom (20) 1 1,440 1,440      
    After School Restroom 1 60 60      
Outside Areas            
    Staff Parking 18 300 5,400      
    Parent Drop Off/Parking 10 300 3,000      
    Entrance Porch 1 400 400      
    Play Yard Porches 4 400 1,600      
    Play Yards 4 1,500 6,000      
    Tenant Suite     9,900 9,900 1.17 11,612
Subtotal Tenant Usable Areas           11,612

Example Plans

The following diagram is representative of typical tenant plans.

Diagram of tenant plans for child care space type, ground plan

Example Construction Criteria

For GSA, the unit costs for child care space types are based on the construction quality and design features in the following table . This information is based on GSA's benchmark interpretation and could be different for other owners.

Relevant Codes and Standards

The following agencies and organizations have developed codes and standards affecting the design of child care centers. Note that the codes and standards are minimum requirements. Architects, engineers, and consultants should consider exceeding the applicable requirements whenever possible.

Additional Resources

Organizations and Associations


  • Architectural Graphic Standards, 12th Edition by American Institute of Architects, Dennis J. Hall. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016.
  • Children, Youth and Environments, CYE is a refereed journal and multidisciplinary, international network dedicated to improving the lives of young people. The journal targets researchers, policy makers, and professionals and is guided by a distinguished Editorial Advisory Board.