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Elmgreen School, Tulse Hill, London by Scott Brownrigg

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The glazed roof detail of Elmgreen School by Scott Brownrigg

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Clustering accommodation around a courtyard is an emerging trend in school design. Courtyards provide a community focus and classrooms can expand into the central space.

At Elmgreen School in Tulse Hill, London, Scott Brownrigg has taken inspiration from a market square and designed a glazed roof that provides a column-free and protected environment for year-round use.

The school is part of the London Borough of Lambeth’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, and is the first school in the UK to be developed in partnership with parents, alongside the headteacher, school governors and representatives of Lambeth Local Education Authority.

The consultation process for the ‘Parent Promoter School’ enabled local residents’ concerns to be addressed from the beginning, and the £20 million scheme received planning permission in just 11 weeks. It is due to open in August, accommodating 1,100 pupils of 11-18 years old. Below, Scott Brownrigg discusses its detailed design:

During early consultation with key stakeholders, a campus format was explored for Elmgreen School. But during a workshop on school typologies, it became apparent that a single-envelope building incorporating some of the qualities of a quadrangle was a better match.

This design concept was developed using the analogy of a medieval city where buildings are grouped around a central ‘market square’. But for the market square to be effective in the UK climate, a glass roof was proposed to transform it into a year-round external space.

The technical challenge was to create a large, tempered environment with a day-lit, clear-span roof. Overheating in summer and high carbon-dioxide levels will be avoided by using a number of techniques, including openable lights in the sawtooth roof controlled by the building management system (BMS), a large temperature gradient created by the multi-storey space, and low-level, ducted fresh air supplies.

Opening lights and permanent ventilation allow the space to be classified as external for the purposes of fire escape.Suspended radiant heating panels heat surfaces rather than space and provide comfort during the winter with minimal energy use. Rain noise over the large roof area is limited by the geometry of the roof and the use of laminated glass in double-glazed units.

Michael Olliff, architectural director, Scott Brownrigg

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