Government’s Priority Schools Building Programme seeks traditional designs with high spec
New facilities designed under the £2.4 billion Priority Schools Building Programme “won’t win any awards,” a government adviser warned last week.
Speaking at the British Council for School Environments conference, Mairi Johnson, deputy director for design at the Education Funding Agency, said the government was looking for traditional school designs, where classrooms can be reconfigured if necessary.
But Michal Cohen, director at Walters & Cohen, said that despite attitudes to traditional styles, it remained up to architects “to create fantastic spaces”.
“They don’t need to be iconic but they need to be good. Architects and designers care deeply about our schools and we will make the best with what we can,” added Cohen.
At the conference Johnson also revealed that the government wanted new school designs to prioritise high spec over area, and that bids would be judged on this basis during procurement.
“The output spec has been re-written from that of BSF,” she said. “The big changes are that we’re trying to prioritise efficient and effective environmental performance. [We’re] targeting ventilation, heating and acoustics.”
Parameters around these will be relaxed to make them easier to meet. For example, the acceptable temperature range for classrooms will not be measured against an absolute scale, but be judged in relation to the outside temperate.
“If it’s a bit hotter outside then it can be a bit hotter in the classroom,” explained Johnson. “It looks at thermal comfort rather than absolute temperatures.”
Michael Buchanan, head of education at Galliford Try, warned that this could lead to procurement that was only focused on cost. “If there’s no incentive to squeeze more area out of it, then the intention is to build schools more cheaply and the successful bids will be chosen on price,” he told BD.
Mairi Johnson said that baseline design packs were due to be sent out in July.
These contain information on output specification and area calculation tools, as well as plans and sections. Architects can use them as indicative designs, which don’t have to be replicated.
However, the government will use the baseline designs to speak to planners before procurement begins with a view to providing a better brief for designers.
1 October 2012 | Updated: 2 October 2012 9:19 am
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