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Following recent guidelines released from the Government, it is now not possible to design schools with curves or glass walls. Instead modular designs are the way to go. This appears to be a bid to reduce spiralling costs of new buildings and standardise school design. While I understand that costs may override aesthetics, surely it’s a step backwards in architectural school design?
With the new ‘austerity’ designs, secondary schools will be on average 15% smaller than those built under the previous Building Schools for the Future (or BSF) scheme, with primaries being 5% smaller. The wide corridors and spacious atriums which aided circulation, pupil behaviour and flexible teaching spaces will have to be reduced in order to fit within these spacial constraints.
Schools are not just about learning the set subjects. Schools help promote thought beyond the classroom. I believe that design is paramount to this. Creativity, innovation, environment and respect – these are all nurtured in a school environment and are surely enhanced by better surroundings. If there are few ‘ideal’ spaces to bully a fellow student, it’s less likely to happen. If your building promotes a sense of wellbeing and pride, you are less likely to vandalise it.
I am reminded of the schools of the 1960’s and 70’s that were dark concrete boxes:
Not the most inviting and nurturing environments to be in. Oddly, these are what everyone has been trying to replace by building large, glass filled spacious buildings.
The RIBA have expressed their own concerns about the modular designs. Saying:
“The proposed ‘flat pack’ approach is inflexible and will deprive students and teachers of quality environments that are proven to support teaching and learning”
You can read more on this here: www.architecture.com
My own school was a Victorian building that had limited space for flexible teaching methods. The walls were all white with the obligatory tiled bottom section (which was painted white). The only ‘colour’ was the grey lino flooring or the vinyl covered chipboard desks.
Halfway through my school life, a new technology block was built. It would house the new subjects of CDT, sculpture and computing. The interior of this building had un-rendered brick walls and bright red textured vinyl floors. This was futuristic design – well, it seemed that way to a young teenager! It’s not surprising to me that I spent most of my time until the end of my school life in this building. It shaped and cultivated my choices in for college and subsequent career. I am quite sure that had this never been built and my CDT lessons were taught in the white and grey classrooms, I wouldn’t be here now.
Head teachers can opt out of the scheme but their schools must be built within the same budget as the modular ones. The architectural industry could see this as a new and different challenge though. Can they create the amazing designs they did before on a fraction of the budget? Is this a restriction on creativity or simply a new way of designing?
Ever wondered how some architectural practices manage to turn around their school design projects so quickly with a seemingly restrictive budget?
What if I told you that a number of these practices are out-sourcing the classroom space planning and layout to school planning specialists, allowing the practice the time to focus on the real design?
Every project comes with complexities and variations, there is no such thing as a “standard” school design project, and that’s why it’s so important to make sure your school space planning team understand the industry standards and expectations.
As a recommended service provider to architects, our latest case study saw the team working closely with Bouygues UK (BYUK) and HLM Architects. We provided architecural support services during the design and construction of the Queens Road School, Waltham Forest.
Tasked with simplifying the school plans and layouts, CADS Space Planning produced a single set of revised and coordinated FF&E drawings, together with the elevation drawings (C Sheets) of 117 rooms. Once elevated all fixed items were attributed with setting-out dimensions for use on-site by the contractors.
Our team are also Codebook pros, and we’ve helped BYUK to consolidate the education specific FF&E 2d block library used across their current projects.
You can download the full case study here: CADS Space Planning School Case Study_2011.
I’ve just come across this article on the Guardian website, and it makes interesting reading. Whilst the article is not particularly design focused, it provides food for thought regarding school design and planning, and how this appeals to the core consumers of the school environment – the pupils themselves.
It’s a frequently asked question – does creating a school design and learning environment that appeals to our pupils senses enhance their ability to learn and develop?
OK so a fanta fountain is obviously unrealistic, but we can analyse the literal to figure out a school design that really appeals to the students.
Let me know your thoughts….
Building Information Modelling is quickly becoming a buzz word in the planning, design and construction industry. We called on BIM expert, Colin Williams, for his take on the use of BIM for education projects. Here’s what he said:
We therefore need to get more out of existing stock, ensure new facilities provide the optimal physical environment for learning, and also ensure projects are energy efficient and environmentally friendly for life.
A key concern with projects in the changing education market is the need to evaluate the performance of facilities across a broad spectrum of areas. Schools need to deliver against stringent standards and specifications, whilst the design and review process must be practical, repeatable and scalable.
How can BIM help in education design & planning?
So why start using BIM now?
With the issuing of building performance mandates, the availability of financing for energy saving contracts and funds from government initiatives, now is the perfect time to convert estate records to BIM.
Using BIM to create evidence-based decisions regarding key refurbishment projects will enable you to act quickly, while addressing risk management concerns. Leveraging important building information, BIM allows us to deliver projects faster, more economically, and with maximum operational and environmental efficiencies.
It’s an exciting new stage in construction, planning and design!
Colin Williams is a guest blogger for CADS. His company Cadnet Ltd. Is engaged on a project to record and build over 100 higher education facilities as part of a pilot scheme to update the estates records of a leading UK university. You can find out more about Cadnet from their website: www.cadnet.ltd.uk.
We ran this showcase during the Building Schools Exhibition & Conference (BSEC) 2011 last week.
Let me know what you think!