The existing school comprised a sprawling and outdated collection of separate blocks on a confined sloping site, with access from one boundary only due to the proximity of adjacent residential properties. The new school building was constructed on the footprint of the existing given a lack of available space on the site. Works were phased to allow a partial demolition and provision of temporary classrooms and the school remained in operation throughout the project.
A highly-efficient internal layout consolidated the school’s accommodation into a new three-storey superblock, consistent with the EFA baseline design. An impressive triple-height multi-functional Dining Space (available for community events and student exhibitions), Hall and Drama Studio sit centrally on plan with classrooms around the perimeter taking advantage of natural daylighting.
A simple palette of materials was used externally to express the building’s internal functions, whilst addressing maintenance requirements. Ground floor areas are clad in dark facing brickwork providing a resistant buffer for external circulation and social spaces, with rendered upper storeys featuring brightly coloured panels between windows which add a rhythm and interest to the composition.
Consolidation of the internal spaces enabled the extension of existing external hard play areas and the creation of new soft play space (something which the school had never had) on newly vacant areas of the site. Careful consideration was required in the landscape design as to how best to take advantage of this opportunity whilst integrating a retained existing Sports Hall, and negotiating the steep level change across the site to maintain disabled access throughout the scheme. A new landscaped plaza provides a focus for the Main Entrance and enhances the school’s presence in the local community, creating a sense of arrival and an important gathering and socialising space for pupils.
The building was constructed using a modular Structural Insulated Panel System (SIPS), prefabricated off-site allowing an accelerated construction programme and providing flexibility for future internal alterations or extension. Through adopting a ‘fabric first’ approach (comprising a highly-insulated structure with airtightness levels above Building Regulations requirements) alongside passive ventilation strategies and natural daylighting, the scheme is also very environmentally efficient.