THE LIGHTWAVE BLOG

A place to review and voice opinion and
insight on the development of environments

20 May, 2013

Cost Effective Education Spaces

When looking for a school to send our kids there is always a multitude of factors that we consider.  Location, cost, curriculum, facilities, clientele, overall school presentation and more all contribute to the decision.  The quality of education facilities may not necessarily reflect the quality of the education provided, but they can go a long way to enhancing and supporting the learning experience.

"If you understand the quality achievable for the budget you can design accordingly" Also note the spill over space from the building that create places of "Social Exchange" and consequently valuable learning environments

The BER works rolled out in recent years provided much needed upgrades and new buildings to long neglected schools .  The challenge of these improvements was delivering quality product on strict budgets and limited timeframes.

Lightwave was proud to be involved in a number of successful projects and understand the importance of delivering budget driven product on strict time limes.  It is often said in the construction industry that you can have quality, budget or on time delivery but never all three.  What Lightwave have discovered, particularly through the education work we complete, is that it might be more accurate is to say ‘if you understand the quality achievable for the budget then you can design accordingly’.  With this philosophy and coupled with time conscious project managers and builders intent on delivering quality product, then it is possible to achieve all three.
With the transition of Year 7 into the Junior Secondary stage in high schools by 2015, there is yet another opportunity to improve school facilities across the state.  The complications surrounding the introduction of a whole new stream into existing school facilities however is a much more complex task than the BER improvements and with much greater risk.  All high schools will need to provide new classrooms that support best practice and adequate specialists spaces to cater for the increased student numbers.  The broader complication surrounding this insertion from a design perspective is, ‘How do these new facilities integrate into the existing physical network and timetabling operations?’

More often than not schools today are the product of a series of minor additions and extensions cobbled together whenever money is available.  The result is often a confused mish mash of elements that stretch all services to capacity and fail to promote an integrated whole.  It is critical when designing new spaces that we try to address these often short term needs while considering inevitable future expansions.

State funding has been provided to assist schools with this new construction, but of course with every high school in Queensland requiring extra facilities in a financial climate that is stretched at all ends, there must be an efficient design and delivery to stretch the limited funds across the state.

With 1634 schools throughout Queensland and around $328m of funding for the initial implementation, this equates to around $5m per school.  Considering that the allocation of this money has been split across state, catholic and independent school systems on an as needs basis, some schools will need to make their funding stretch further than others.

With finite funds, the challenge to architects will be to ensure new works contribute positively to the school infrastructure and operations while providing high quality stimulating learning environments.   Furthermore the requirement of schools to provide specialist rooms such as science, drama, art, music, manual technology and  more are critical to attracting students that demand a variety of approaches, technologies and services.  It is vitally important however to understand that schools are not just buildings but are social environments that contribute more to our children’s education than the buildings alone.  As architects we must be aware of the relationship between the teaching spaces and the social spaces and use this to enhance the overall learning experience.

When designing the physical insertion to accommodate these broad spectrum ideologies it helps to break down the complexities into layers:

  • Design teaching spaces that allow for flexibility of pedagogical approaches:  There is growing demand for learning spaces to facilitate a variety of teaching and learning methods within standard GLA and FLA spaces.
  • Understand how these spaces relate to each other within the building.  Identify what spaces may be enhanced by relationships to other activities to provide flexibility of timetabling and function.
  • Integrate new buildings into the existing school network.  By understanding the school operations, it may be possible to use the new works to enhance the legibility  of the school and assist with giving it identity.

Understand the spaces between the buildings.  Schools are primarily social spaces and what we do with the external areas is critical to providing stimulating and nurturing environments.  It is essential to understand the space left over by a building and use the building form.

The space between these GLA's and the Home Economics Kitchens creates a valuable Alfrescoe Entertaining area. The school uses this area for entertaining and events to foster links with Private Enterprise.

Written by Chris Collier

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