Watch our webinar in collaboration with SIG Design & Technology and Vandersanden, which explores best practice design and innovation for education buildings.
After a period when too many children have been forced to spend too long indoors, it was striking how often the idea of external space came up during the webinar ‘School report: best practice and innovation in designing education buildings’. Other important areas were the students’ sense of identity and engagement with the wider community.
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Refectory at Ibstock Place School, London, designed by Maccreanor Lavington (ph:Jack Hobhouse)
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Claire Barton, a partner at Haverstock, talked about Forest Bridge School in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The two-storey building serves young people with autism and is rooted in applied behavioural analysis (ABA), a type of therapy that aims to improve communication skills.
Speakers from left to right: Stafford Critchlow, Sarah Jefferson, Ian Dryden, Claire Barton, and Tom Waddicor
Barton said that there were several specific concerns. Because of the large age range, it was important to give the students a sense of progression through the school towards adulthood. And, because children with autism can sometimes find life overwhelming, it was essential that there were places to which they could retreat, both indoors and outside. The architect also had to contend with the reduced space standards imposed by Building Bulletin 104. This tends to limit circulation, resulting in double-loaded corridors that enjoy little daylight.
Haverstock’s Forest Bridge School in Maidenhead, Berkshire
“We wanted to bring in as much daylight as possible,” said Barton. This has been achieved by designing the school around a courtyard, with circulation running along the edge. Secondary facilities occupy pods set in the courtyard opposite the corridor. The courtyard will also be used for outdoor dining and has an amphitheatre for performances. In addition, every classroom has a dedicated external space.
Covered link at Maccreanor Lavington’s Kingsgate School in London (ph: Tim Crocker)
Tom Waddicor, associate at Maccreanor Lavington, talked about two London schools: Kingsgate Infant School, and Ibstock Place School. Commissioned by the London Borough of Camden, Kingsgate Infant School is part of a larger masterplan and, unusually, a completely new building. Waddicor saw the school’s position next to a railway line as an advantage not a drawback, choosing to make the building serve as shield in order to protect the outdoor space.
Maccreanor Lavington’s Ibstock Place School in London (ph: Jack Hobhouse)
The architect was also concerned with identity, which he said, is not just about how the school is seen, but the pupils’ sense of self. This is something the practice addressed in a very different project, a new dining hall serving more than 200 pupils and staff at Ibstock Place School. “The school, which caters for students from nursery to sixth form, already had a strong sense of identity, and we didn’t want to compete”, said Waddicor. He explained that the entire campus is ‘landscape driven’ and that the building’s cloistered layout helps to keep the interior quiet, while also facilitating small, informal interactions.
Example of brick efflorescence
Two of the speakers explored ways of addressing tight school budgets and ensuring education institutions get value for money. Sarah Jefferson, UK technical advisor at Vandersanden, explained the different types of efflorescence that can occur on bricks, as well as the methods for avoidance and mitigation. With causal factors, such as rain difficult to avoid, and remedies often complex and not always easy to implement, her company offers an alternative. Its pre-coated bricks allow façades to become water repellent, while still allowing the bricks to breathe like a Gore-Tex raincoat. There should be no significant change in appearance, assured Jefferson, and the approach will prevent unsightly staining later on that will either be an ugly irritant or incur significant remediation charges.
Vandersanden bricks were specified for Wilkinson Eyre’s City Law School, London (ph: Simon Turner)
Dealing with buildings once they are complete was also the concern of Ian Dryden, national specification manager – bituminous membranes at SIG Design Technology. He talked about working with multi-academy trusts to get school condition allocation (SCA) money that is given for a period of four years. With this money and expert help it is, he said, possible to plan roof maintenance in a rational manner.
SIGnature bituminous membrane from SIG Design & Technology at St John’s School, Bishop Auckland (ph: Terence Smith)
SIG uses a traffic-light system, first addressing complete failure and then moving on to roofs that are in trouble, but where rapid action can avert serious problems later. “Schools are not experts,” said Dryden. “They have a very reactive approach. Frequently this means that when they have a leak, they will simply go to a local contractor who will patch up the roof with a short-term solution.
What we are proposing is that we are the experts in roofing, so work with us. We will grade the roof areas, use our expertise to get the right solutions, and work with accredited suppliers. If we can manage the estate for the trust, the trust wins, we win, and the pupils win.” Architects, he said, could take a similar approach to the overall maintenance of schools.
The Fry Building, School of Mathematics, University of Bristol, by Wilkinson Eyre (ph: Craig Auckland)
The final speaker was Stafford Critchlow, director of Wilkinson Eyre. He showed some of the practice’s work on higher-education buildings. Every project looked different, but there was a common theme of integration with the community and the value of outdoor space, in addition to creating places where students can study and interact in an optimal manner.
Intelligent design of education buildings is still possible, these presentations showed, even within existing constraints. And, when done well, it results in places that are not only good for learning, but valuable for everybody.