Government should amend its building bulletins to take the new post-Covid world for schools into account and encourage the maximum use of covered outdoor space.
That was one of the messages contained in ‘Learning Lessons
’, a webinar from NLA which looked at a series of different schools projects, drawing principles and best practice from each.
The call to update the building bulletins came from Rachel Moulton, senior architect at HKS, who said she would ‘absolutely love’ to see ‘outdated’ guidance get a freshen up, and that, as a general principle, those involved in school design should first ensure there is enough funding for their schemes.
‘We need to make sure that we don’t have schools with no external space, because there are some in London which have absolutely nowhere externally for them to go’, she said. Ultimately the answer was clear: ‘it’s circulation, it’s ventilation, it’s external spaces and making sure we can maintain a good learning environment’.
There is no minimum area for outdoor play areas, agreed Hannelore Deraeve of Maccreanor Lavington, who had shown her practice’s work for Kingsgate School in Camden, which emphasises a connection to the outside for its pupils, circulation space that works hard as ‘active’ spaces and outdoor play areas including a play deck. ‘I think this just starts to pose the question what the boundaries or the physical boundaries of the classroom actually are’, she said.
And Helen Roberts of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, presenting the practice’s designs for Rotherhithe Primary School that also put a big focus on outdoor spaces for learning agreed that it was key to future scenarios. ‘With a commitment to the idea that landscape was going to be critical to this project, we conceived the replacement school as school in a garden’, she said. ‘We can no longer neglect the potential of outdoor spaces, particularly for learning’, she added, noting the effects of Covid including a reminder of the benefits of simply stepping outside, providing a rich and stimulating learning experience beyond PE and running around at lunchtime.
‘Too often, new urban schools suffer compromise on both the area and the quality of the outdoor space and it’s often justified by sites being too constrained or meagre landscape budgets’, said Roberts. ‘Thankfully, this hasn’t prevailed here’.
Other speakers at the event included Bidwells’ Neil Cole, presenting the St Paul’s School project designed with Jestico + Whiles, where ‘the intention throughout is that creative learning is on show. And finally, Graham Day of Elementa showed the challenges of producing UK’s first net zero school – Hackbridge Primary School. Although the Passivhaus scheme cost around 20% extra (and also saw its main contractor go out of business near completion), will provide ‘significant’ cost-savings over the long term, including through photovoltaics on every last millimetre of the green roof.