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Schools: Make or mend?

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The event Schools: make or mend? cleared up why school refurbishments usually end up as new build

Fifty people gathered in late November 2012 at Nicolas Hare Architects’ offices in Islington, to find out whether it is better to retrofit or create new build schools. Speakers included Nicholas Hare, Jeremy Wagge, design director at Skanska, Richard Monksmith, mechanical engineer at Hoare Lea, and Richard Wheal, associate director at Arup, in an event hosted by Russel Hayden, architect of the practice.

Nicholas Hare analysed Victorian schools, which he defined as thermal and accoustic ‘survivals’ able to adapt throughout time while providing optimal internal environments. On the other hand, he said, post-war school constructions pursue economy in materials, hampering to upgrade a fabric designed for the original use.

Jeremy Wagge called to avoid wasting money with temporary facilities, emphasising that time is cost. Refurbishments are expected to meet the same performance as new builds, which can be hard to achieve in reality, he said.

Richard Monksmith addressed energy and carbon usage. CarbonBuzz states that actual buildings consume 63% more energy compared to the design stage while emitting twice as much carbon. Embodied energy only reresents 10% of the lifecycle of a building, however, new builds can reach up to 30%. He asked whether we should retrofit buildings or learning conditions find precedence.

Energy usage in schools

source: Hoare Lea
CarbonBuzz states actual buildings consume 63% more energy than the design stage



Life cycle analysis

So controversial embodied energy can reach up to 30% of a building’s LCA. Source: Hoare Lea

Finally, Richard Wheal asked whether we have enough schools, since births have increased by almost 20% from 2002. Research determined well-fed, safe and valued children as well as improved environmental conditions, reduces distractions and missed school days. Richard also provided a range of handy tools to assess the environmental impact of any product over its lifetime so as GaBi4, SimaPro and WRATE. School buildings need to have a safe, flexible infrastructure to allow learning conditions, otherwise it is definitely better to demolish and create a new build!

The panel concluded that long term is often ignored which makes buildings not to last the time they were designed for, generating an economical impact. In order to encourage learning conditions, school buildings must be flexible, adaptable and as long-lived as possible.

See more Nicholas Hare Architects’ projects in AJBuildingsLibrary.

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