Schools as Places
Community pool located in school
There are a range of issues relating to schools which sets them apart from other building types such as houses and offices.
Schools are used on a much more temporal basis, generally being open from 8.30am to 4.30pm for 5 days a week whilst during the holiday periods they are closed completely. Therefore a school building, if not used for any other activities, may only be in operation for 17% of the time. This means that school buildings are traditionally not used efficiently. This applies to the use of space during term time and the use of the building out of school time including after normal school hours and also during holiday periods. There are a number of activities that can be carried out in schools that are community based or even business based, to ensure that the school building and its grounds are more effectively used, on a daily and yearly basis including shared leisure facilities, ICT suite hire and as a GP base.
Schools are characterised by high density occupation of space. This can cause difficulties in achieving healthy and comfortable environmental conditions. Use of rooms is also sporadic. Not all classrooms are used at all times and some facilities such as sports halls can be designed for multi use such as exams but therefore need to have conditions controlled accordingly. Temperatures within a sports hall where physical activity is taking place do not need to be as high as if pupils are sat down taking exams for long periods of time, these lead to inefficient buildings, if not designed and serviced well.
School estates have expanded over a period of time and therefore comprise a mix of building types with different characteristics that need to be dealt with carefully with regards to refurbishment.
Computer room with library
School buildings have become more complex with the need for additional spaces for laboratories, vocational training such as workshops, music spaces and more recently heavy reliance on ICT.
The older the school the greater the number of building types are likely to be present which is likely to raise different issues to be dealt with, for example, in relation to the environmental performance and energy use. In such cases refurbishment will need to allow for a mix of measures appropriate to the particular building types.
Schools spaces both inside and out need to be flexible to fit the changing methods of teaching and learning. The traditional method of teaching at the desk has over recent times become much more interactive and physical requiring more flexible spaces. This needs to be incorporated in future school design allowing for any further progression in teaching methods.
Schools often have extensive grounds which can provide for many opportunities including sports. High demands have been put on these spaces in recent times with a huge increase in the need for parking spaces by school staff and increasing value of the land puts pressure on local authorities to sell part of the land for development including housing. A school building and its grounds should be valued as they can be used as an educator, demonstrating sustainable design and biodiversity, food production whilst ensuring fitness and health.