Re-thinking the way students are learning and how classes are being taught, including increased use of technology, has impacted space requirements and building design. Contemporary teaching methods require adaptable spaces that can support and change with the curriculum and ensure students learn in environments where they can truly thrive. These new technology enabled classrooms must also flexibly accommodate the changing numbers of student enrolments. Since 2017, major upgrades to schools across Victoria and New South Wales have seen the introduction of modular buildings to both respond to the creation of flexible teaching spaces and meet student demand. The sustainable and innovatively designed structures have a comparable lifespan to bricks and mortar and construction can be completed in a matter of weeks, cutting up to half the time required for a traditional build.
Pottsville Beach Public school in New South Wales recently added 13 new modular buildings as part of the upgrade. As the project manager, APP worked collaboratively to implement the flexible and varied spaces. The structures can be adapted to accommodate various learning modes and technology and have been designed to prepare learners for the future workforce.
Another example of innovative flexible design can be seen at Brigidine College, Indooroopilly. APP is project managing the upgrade, which includes three levels of teaching and learning spaces, satellite staff facilities and student amenities. Naturally-ventilated corridors, with louvred glazing, allow airflow across the building. In addition, a solar photovoltaic roof provides energy to the building. The clever use of space and eco-design has created a modern facility that better supports the needs of students and teachers.
Key design influences
Obviously, there are a number of design influences affecting how a school is planned. Some of them are listed below:
- Service need
- Broadly understanding the area and context and the implications of this
- Neighbouring schools and feeder schools
- The school vision
- Learning modes and activities
- Cross disciplinary curriculum versus subject speciality
- Organisational and operational influences
All of these aspects have a spatial implication and can sometimes be difficult to understand and interpret. Education Facility Planners can sometimes help educators and designers engage with the various stakeholders to bring a much-needed ‘big picture’ outlook to the project and help the team think broadly about the needs of students and teachers and balance functional requirements with spatial layouts.
Responding to a higher density footprint
Population growth across Sydney and regional areas mean growth in student numbers. With a massive 21% increase in the student population predicted by 2031, school facilities need to cater to this change.
Many upgrades to schools are reflecting the need for more efficient use of existing land and we are seeing increase in height and vertical schools as part of the response. This year, APP is project managing a $19M upgrade to Gilroy Catholic College in Castle Hill which will increase the total student population to 1,380 on the same footprint of land.
The redeveloped Arthur Phillip High School is an example of this being the first prototype high rise school for New South Wales. It will have capacity to accommodate 2,000 secondary students and will facilitate future-focused learning with modern indoor and outdoor landscaped spaces. This facility is a response to metropolitan Sydney's increasing residential density.
Population growth has also seen cities and towns become denser. Savvier layout design and use of spaces are becoming increasingly important factors in urban planning. One effective way to handle population growth is the use of multi-functional facilities.
Identifying the communities' needs and taking a collaborative approach to planning and building, we can see cities and towns becoming smarter and more efficient with space. Joint initiatives such as school libraries, sports fields and halls that double as facilities for the wider community is an excellent example of this.
As population needs continue to evolve, the realisation is that today’s approach may be different from how space is used in the future. Flexibility in design is essential if we are to manage future change across a range of requirements:
- allowing classrooms to adapt to new curriculum
- future proofing design to accommodate growth and to harness innovative technology
- ongoing community consultation to explore joint use facilities that balance school and community needs, and
- collaborating with neighbouring schools to see how space may be optimised for the area.
It is an exciting time for the building industry as well as the education sector. The requirements for school facilities are changing as the population grows, technology advances and teaching and learning styles evolve. To successfully deliver the needs of our students, we must continue to be forward-thinking, adaptable and collaborative in our approach.
If you would like more information specific to your situation, please contact me.