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Lairdsland Primary School, Kirkintilloch by Walters & Cohen Architects

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Q&A with Angeline Robertson, partnerships director at Hub West Scotland, the private sector development partner in the joint venture which delivered Lairdsland Primary School in Kirkintilloch

What was the design intent of the project
The aim of the Scottish Schools for the Future programme is to provide schools that are good quality, well designed, sustainable and competitively priced across the country

In early 2012, and following a competitive tender, the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) invited two architects to separately design a reference primary school as part of a collaborative project with East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC). East Dunbartonshire Council’s preference was for the design by London architects Walters & Cohen. The reference designs were based on a project to replace the existing Lairdsland Primary School in Kirkintilloch, which was part of the Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme.

The design responds to the impact of the spatial requirements of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence. This required a variety of spaces. These included: formal learning areas, project based learning, small group spaces, display spaces, presentation spaces, specialist spaces and outdoor learning as well as spaces for sport and socialising.

To develop the brief the architects undertook a series of workshops with EDC stakeholders to select a final stage C design.

How did the current school building framework allow you to develop the design?
The value of good design is well documented and the associated benefits are wide and varied. The SFT is convinced that Scotland can, and must, deliver innovation in the design and build of spaces for children at a time when budgets are very tight. The SFT provides funding to local authorities to replace schools in their current portfolio that are below standard and cannot deliver the Curriculum for Excellence.

Funding is provided based on a ‘metric’ principle. Each pupil is given a predetermined m² of space (based on the size of the school); this is multiplied by the number of pupils and a set cost per m² for the build. The resultant cost then sets the Affordability Cap for the school. If the local authorities wish to spend more on the school then they must supplement the funding provided by the Scottish Government.

In 2010, the SFT set up a Scotland-wide initiative to deliver community infrastructure through an innovative partnership between the public and private sectors.

SFT’s concept was to bring local authorities, NHS boards, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue services and numerous public bodies together, divide them into geographical areas known as ‘territories’ and appoint private sector development partners to build new community facilities, such as schools and health centres. This service is delivered through five hub companies (hubCos) located in the South East, North, East Central, West and South West regions of Scotland.

Hub West Scotland (HWS) which covers the Greater Glasgow & Clyde territory was appointed in 2012 after the completion of the stage C agreed design to deliver the new Lairdsland School.

What were the main challenges?
There were some issues with the stage C cost plan identified early in the process and the some efficiency had to be driven into the design to make it affordable.

During the early design the building regulations also changed and sprinklers had to be accommodated within the existing design and budget. The design also relies on a fire engineered solution and there were some challenges with the local building control to achieve the design intent of the fire strategy.

The building is located adjacent to the ancient monument the Forth and Clyde Canal. An exclusion zone for the proximity of the building was enforced. There was a major sewer running diagonally across the site which also had to be avoided. This meant that due to both these factors the location of the building became very constrained within the site.

The site had a multitude of existing services, some of which had to be diverted and ground that was deeply contaminated with asbestos. All the site factors put a huge constraint on the budget to deliver the new school.

What does the project deliver?
The project has been a huge success and has been the catalyst for many other school designs. The idea is not to replicate Lairdsland, which responds to a very specific site, but to utilise the reference design principles to create scalable and adaptable designs bespoke to their own sites. HWS can now work with other local authorities in their area to provide feasibility studies for new schools. These will be based on real cost information, enabling the authorities to set accurate budgets against any future individual primary school projects, or a programme of projects.

The project proves that good innovative, efficient designs can be created within the constraints of a funding metric.


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