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Rules exclude open-plan schools

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Foster and Partners' acclaimed Bexley Business Academy in Kent would have gone unbuilt under recently introduced school construction rules.

The building - shortlisted for the Stirling Prize - which is credited with a sudden improvement in the school's results, would have failed to pass Building Control if it had come up against the stringent new acoustic rules.

The regulations - found in Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) - will also cause havoc with current plans for 'open-plan' schools dotted throughout Britain.

Experts have told the AJ that many of the current trends in education design are no longer available to architects because of the strict new rules.

Laurence Higgins, a director at Bexley engineer Buro Happold and an authority on acoustics, said BB93 was causing real problems for education designers.

'If we had Bexley on the drawing board now then there is no way that it would get through Building Control, ' he said. 'And this goes for all models of openplan schools.

'It has caused a real restriction on design because it has drawn an acoustics line in the sand, ' he added. 'It is a matter of 'cross this line and you have failed'.

'This has caused a serious constriction in the architectural options, ' he added.

Additionally, the new rules are understood to be triggering cost hikes on projects. Originally, government officials said the changed regulations would be responsible for a 1 per cent increase in construction costs, but it is understood that they often add up to 5 per cent.

Quantity surveyors have warned that these hikes are often only recognised late in the construction process, regularly triggering cuts on other elements of the project.

Richard Godden, an education specialist at Anshen Dyer, agreed that there are design problems with BB93.

'These new rules are militating against circulation and break-out spaces, ' he said. 'And these are the very things a lot of people are doing at the moment.

'There are certainly major limitations on the way we design, ' Godden added.

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