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Schools: What is the impact of austerity?

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[#GREATSCHOOLS] Our experience has taught us to focus on the enduring aspects of a school building, says Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ Helen Roberts

We are currently running two detailed post occupancy evaluation studies on groups of schools that we have completed over the last five years. One is funded by the AHRC with Oxford University , and another though the UCL doctorate programme. Neither of them are completed yet so we are not in a position to publish any conclusions but the learning process for us has been continuous over ten years of school design and with the current dramatic shrinking in building budgets our minds have been focussed on what provides best value. So for instance most of the recent schools we have completed , like William Perkin school in Ealing have a small footprint and minimal external wall area but strive to get light into deep plan spaces though generous lightwells and end–of-corridor view windows.

We have a longstanding relationship with Kier Construction and have refined some key details that we are applying across a batched programme of three new schools, where standardisation of details was a requirement of the EFA.

In particular, our experience has taught us to focus on the enduring aspects of a school building that will contribute most to the quality of people’s daily experience:

  • Bringing daylight in to circulation spaces, allowing views out and through and animating the space, especially where corridors are unavoidable
  • Designing classroom windows that are as large as possible, with an opaque opening panel fulfilling the natural ventilation requirement, to ensure that drawn blinds don’t otherwise impede fresh air flow through open windows
  • Designing crisp and simple brickwork elevations without the unnecessary complexity of introducing other materials
  • Planning WCs that are open to the circulation space for optimum passive supervision whilst still giving privacy
  • Ensuing that M&E controls are simple and allow occupants to control the space very easily


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