Seeking out the views of teachers and pupils should become a mandatory requirement for contractors bidding to build new schools, advisers say.
Even young children can get involved in plans
School Works, a non-profit-making company which advises on the design of school buildings, says participation is key for practical, sustainable schools.
It cites the design of early years centres which have successfully involved children in planning projects.
School Works says this model must be extended to the building of schools.
The company highlights a study by Price Waterhouse Coopers which found some new city academies did not have appropriate facilities for staff and pupils.
"We're in danger of failing our children - not only now, but for generations to come - by designing and building schools which can't and won't function properly," said Ty Goddard.
"It's time for the government to place mandatory participation at the heart of every design, build or refurbishment contract in the education sector."
The company has compiled a report showing how 10 early years centres in England were designed with full participation from the future users of the building, including the toddlers themselves.
For example, children and parents at Sunbeam Children's Centre in Wakefield rejected the builders' choice of a magnolia colour scheme in favour of 14 different vibrant colours.
The tiles on the walls in the toilets include designs done by the children during a workshop with a professional artist.
And at the Everton Early Excellence Centre in Liverpool, children were given cameras to take photographs of their world.
Children were given cameras to capture a child's perspective
Dozens of pictures of adults' knees led to a carefully designed building with child height windows and door handles out of reach where appropriate.
"These case studies show that involving users, and most particularly children, in the design of their buildings can add great value to the process of creating new hubs within the community," the report says.
"In most cases the simple act of involving users in the design acted as a catalyst for wider participation in the centre and acted as a way of bringing communities together.
"Involving the community at this stage creates a very deep sense of ownership. We should create buildings with people."