Design Standards

Intent & Instructions

SMCCCD provides this information to establish design and construction consistency, operational efficiency and maintainability, while ensuring first class teaching and learning facilities. These standards represent the best value for expenditure and are aligned with the San Mateo County Community College District's long range goals.

Design Standards (DS) are directives and information for the design consultant. Please incorporate the information provided into the construction specifications for the contractor.

Construction Specifications (CS) are provided, in some instances, where we've identified a document that we believe conveys the intent of the design standard. The design consultant must customize the construction specification to the particular project being designed.

File naming convention - Design Standards and/or Construction Specifications are populated within the appropriate division or section of this website. The file names communicate the document's content as follows:

division_section_section_title_type ("DS" denotes Design Standard, "CS" denotes Construction Specification)_version number_year_month_day
example: 14_20_00_Elevators_DS_V1_2007_03_01

These Design Standards and Construction Specifications are intended to serve as a tool for design professionals, construction managers, planners, and other participants in capital improvement efforts. They clarify direction and streamline project execution.

  • They represent the District's "strong preference" and should be applied, when possible, without compromising the creativity and/or ownership of the overall design. Each design standard document includes direction on whether equivalent substitutes are acceptable.
  • They do not diminish or eliminate the standard of care owed by a consultant to SMCCCD or relieve, in any manner whatsoever, a consultant from any professional responsibility, duty or due diligence required toward the work.

SMCCCD has transitioned its systems from the 1995 Construction Specifications Institute 16 division, Masterformat ™ numbering system to the 2004 Construction Specifications Institute 50 division, Masterformat ™ numbering system. Design professionals preparing specifications for SMCCCD are required to use the 2004 Construction Specifications Institute 50 division, Masterformat ™ numbering system effective October 1, 2006.

Deviations From Design Standards

The information within this document does not address every conceivable condition or owner decision point. Rather, it attempts to provide solutions where experience has indicated that problems commonly arise or a standard is appropriate.

  • In the absence of a written design standard, the consultant will present options during the schematic design or design development phases to SMCCCD so that we can make an informed decision and provide design direction.
  • In cases where the consultant, end user or college administrator determines that the written design standard is not appropriate for the project, and wishes to deviate from the standards, they must seek approval prior to deviating from the written standard.

How decisions about deviations from design standards are reviewed

There are times when a space type is unique or rare to SMCCCD's space inventory (e.g., an art gallery, a bookstore, a food servery, a fitness center, a concession stand, an aquatic center, a network operations center) and SMCCCD's typical design standards will not provide adequate guidance on design aspects such as siting, sizing, fit up and finishes. For example, the floor finish in an art gallery could be the College's standard carpet but with a nonstandard border to raise the architectural specialness of the facility.

In those instances, the design decisions must be reviewed to a higher degree of scrutiny, usually by a larger number of interested parties. The review and decision making process will vary by necessity depending on the nature of the facility, but generally will be required to undergo a process that includes the following elements:

  • Review by Construction Planning Department to understand justification for digression from existing design standards. Have as many design standards as possible been incorporated into the proposed design in order to achieve the intent of design and construction consistency, operational efficiency and maintainability, ensuring first class teaching and learning facilities, bringing the best value for expenditure and alignment with the San Mateo County Community College District's long range goals?
  • Review by Construction Planning Department to ensure that design variances will be compatible with existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, telecommunications, structural, architectural, life safety, building automated controls, security, finish and furniture systems.
  • Review by Construction Planning Department to confirm that design variances will be serviceable by in-house maintenance personnel or outsourced service vendors.
  • Review by College President's Office, District Chancellor's office, District Auxiliary Services Director, Board of Trustees, and any other interested and affected entities.
  • On a case by case basis, when a design standard deviation is under consideration, the Construction Planning Department's project manager will establish and communicate a process and timeline for consideration and review

Updates to Design Standards

These Standards are dynamic and are updated as needed to reflect SMCCCD's needs. A Revisions Table is included in the design standard entitled "A Smart Person Would START HERE"; please refer to it to ensure that you are working with the most current version of each design standard or construction specification. As revisions and additions are made, a notification will be emailed to the appropriate parties to ensure projects reflect the most current information available.

For more information about these design standards and construction specifications, please contact Facilities at

Click here for the Design Standards/Construction Specs Download Page