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08 Sep 2015
The challenge of building ‘sufficient, cost effective, great schools at pace’ was set by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and the James Review in 2010 to address the limited availability for government investment in the ageing school estates across the UK. However, from the beginning people questioned if achieving this without compromising design and construction quality was at odds with providing the tailored approach to education the UK aspires to.
I don’t think this has to be the case. I believe we can reconcile our need for cost effective, but tailored schools through standardised solutions that combine modern, beautiful, bespoke designs with the flexibility and scalability we need to deliver world class education, now and in the future.
Today, the words ‘standardised designs’, combined with reduced budgets, increasingly prescriptive performance criteria and shorter design programmes, still send a chill down the spines of architects. Some critics find the standardised approach inflexible, and feel it could deprive students and teachers of quality environments that support teaching and learning.
But at the same time, our need to deliver schools quickly and at lower cost has, if anything, increased since 2010, so how can we make standardised design a welcome, viable solution?
In partnership with Laing O’Rourke, Atkins has developed an approach to standardised design that promotes more efficient schools without compromising on quality. Some examples of where we’ve done this that I’m most proud of are below.
Lime Tree Primary Academy – A creative and bespoke design for a ‘forest’ school with a highly specialised environment that prioritises outdoor learning and direct engagement with nature.
Yorkshire Priority Schools Building Programme – Flexible designs that facilitate links between departments and encourage cross curricular activity within an efficient building form suited to constrained sites
Dean Trust Ardwick – Prototype school characterised by a generous ‘street’ that provides a central focus to the school and distinct ‘fingers’ of accommodation that create identifiable curriculum areas incorporating areas for informal learning and exhibition.
Schools like these show that prefabricated technologies can work educationally, socially and environmentally, and will ultimately change how people perceive standardised design.
But we need to continue to push the boundaries of standardised design, and I think we can do this in five ways:
So that’s how I see us moving standardised design forward – what do you think? Can standardised schools be the solution to our schools capacity issue? What can we learn from schools like Lime Tree?
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts so please leave comments or questions below.
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