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RIBA comments on austerity school plans

Sian
Thursday 04 Oct 2012

Government offers cookie-cutter designs for future schools across the United Kingdom


The UK Government has released designs for a series of flat-pack schools in an effort to save money in the education sector. Termed ‘baseline designs’, the concepts are said to be attainable within set costs and area allowances, and are available on the education.gov.uk website. All designs meet the required specifications in the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP), an initiative that has replaced the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme which was scrapped during budget cuts.

All of the new schools within the PSBP - 261 in total - are to fall in line with the parameters set out in the guidelines below, although external areas are not subject to set restrictions. To ensure that the designs fit within tight budgets, the government’s plans dictate: using orthogonal forms with no curves or ‘faceted’ curves; maximising stacking where possible; no glazed curtain walling or ETFE roofs; low cost envelope materials, such as render or metal panel, above ground floor window head height; optimisation of window areas as a percentage of classroom external wall area; no external roof terraces.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has spoken out against the announcement, imploring the government to rethink some of the restrictions. With concerns that the guidelines will ‘deprive students and teachers of quality environments that are proven to support teaching and learning’, RIBA President Angela Brady said: “Our students, teachers, and local communities deserve great schools - environments that are beneficial to the best quality teaching and learning. In these times of austerity of course we need to cut our cloth on all spending, however the Government’s proposals for the design and construction of future schools are far too restrictive with too much focus on short term savings. Improvements must be made to the proposals to make sure that the schools we build now will suit the future generations of children that will learn in them, and deliver what the community needs in the longer term.”

Two- or three-storey building for 1,200 pupils (age 11-16) in ‘superblock’ form
This concept suggests a basic education building as a single volume incorporating all necessary teaching spaces and supporting amenities, with the option for a separate block for sports (this could be an existing building). All teaching rooms are 7.8m deep and are lit through voids which enable daylight to penetrate at the rear of the space. Corridors are also to be lit in this fashion. The main dining facilities with a hall for drama or assemblies would be situated at the core of the building with teaching spaces wrapped around.

Two- or three-storey building for 1,200 pupils (age 11-16) in ‘finger-block’ form
Again, this design offers a teaching complex for 1,200 students aged 11-16 but with more capability to adapt to site constraints. The finger-block style is comprised of a series of suites or ‘kit of parts’ where departments are grouped together with a strengthened sense of identity in separate wings. Similar to the ‘superblock’ design, this concept ensures that all teaching rooms are 7.8m deep and are lit through voids which enable daylight to penetrate at the rear of the space. Corridors are also to be lit in this fashion

Two-storey building for 420 pupils (nursery-age 11)
Offering teaching facilities for 420 pupils and a 26-place nursery, this final concept is limited to two storeys. Smaller rooms are suggested here at 7.2m deep with large amounts of natural daylighting and have adjoining toilets for the youngest children to enable better staff supervision. With scope for future extensions, the classroom and administration areas have the option of being housed in separate volume from the main hall, and separate access points are included to reduce congestion at the beginning of the day. Ventilation chimneys in the central zone ensure good ventilation of the ground floor, drawing air through the classrooms and up to roof level.

Key Facts:

Architecture
United Kingdom
Education

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