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Edward Cullinan Architects' top ten tips for sustainable school design

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This month’s sustainability talk focused on future-proofing primary schools

The latest in ECA’s informative series of talks investigated school design, a subject in which the practice has considerable expertise. Robin Nicholson chaired the DfE’s Zero Carbon Task Force in 2010; full report here.

Old Schools vs. New Schools
Edward Cullinan Architects, 10th July 2012

- Carol Costello (Edward Cullinan Architects)
- Andrew Cripps (AECOM)
- Roderic Bunn (BSRIA)

The three presentations were followed by a lively discussion on the way forward in sustainable school design, from which ten key points were drawn.


1. Make clients aware the energy usage of appliances is factored into the building’s energy performance rating
New research into electrical power usage has put into question the role of architects in offering post-occupancy advice. To obtain the best DEC rating, suggest your client uses low-energy or power saving equipment.

2. Energy calculations are an art not a science
Until predictions fully encompass context sensitivity, architects should be willing to argue the case for design intuition over statistics per m².

3. Aim for realistic over fantastical modelling
School buildings are using as much energy as they did 20 years ago, often with night energy usage exceeding 100kW. Making realisable predictions is the first step in achieving them.


Rosendale Primary School, Edward Cullinan Architects as an example of low energy design

4. Recognise the importance of the caretaker
Community spirit in the management of the school impacts upon the ownership of environments, and therefore the success of the building.

5. Legibility is the key to success
“We ignore the merits of old schools at our peril” suggests Bunn, “we should respect old school design and simple, legible layouts”.

6. Controls must be simply designed for both pupils and staff
Case studies of schools such as Rosendale Primary (Edward Cullinan Architects), suggest we should be favouring clear design: people don’t understand unlabelled automation.


ECA’s Rosendale Primary School: context and environmental issues were considered from first stages of design

7. Design for maintenance
Schools that have stood the test of time are easy and cheap to maintain, design this in.

8. Pay attention to orientation
Design for natural light, being conscious of glare and orientation. ‘We should be looking at daylight and thermal mass - but now analysis is predicating the way designs go’’. Sarah Wigglesworth

9. Choose the right procurement method
Be aware that design & build contracts can undermine integrated design solutions.
‘We need to go back to basics. Procurement, setup and ethics drive us in different directions. Are we being driven towards measurement?’ Sarah Wigglesworth

10. Remember schools are central to their communities and are used for many different activities
Schools are much more than their built fabric, they are central to the community in which they serve.


AEOM’s Andrew Cripps speaks on energy monitoring

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