We were selected in 2007 for the Hackney Education Framework set up to deliver primary schools for the Borough. This high profile and challenging project was won through competitive interview through the framework.
The brief for Lauriston was to redevelop the existing one form entry (1FE) school as a new 2FE primary school, on a tight urban site, whilst keeping the existing school in operation during the works.
Located as an ‘island’ block in the middle of the site, the existing single storey 1970s school significantly restricted the location of any new development. The challenge was to resolve the range of site complexities not just on a logistical level, but to create a future school that would be a cohesive, exemplary innovative learning environment.
A further key challenge was to create a school of more than twice the original built area, whilst also increasing the external playspace, on an extremely restricted urban site. Our innovative response to the brief, achieved this by raising the classroom block as a linear bridge structure relating to the canopies of the existing trees. The foundation stage younger classes are located on ground level for free flow access to outside play. This ‘treehouse’ school embodies the school’s aim for all classrooms to share an equality of learning environment, with high levels of natural daylight, ventilation and views to the existing trees. Raised classrooms create an undercroft playspace formed by the ‘ghost’ of the existing school that provides a large covered play area equivalent to an outside sports hall. Combined with roof decks at various levels, our three storey solution with its reduced footprint, not only increased the amount of external playspace on the site, but also the range and diversity of play, sport and outdoor learning experiences to successfully meet the original client brief.
Working in Occupied Premises:
As an operational school environment another key requirement of the brief was to minimise disruption to education during construction as the school remained in use throughout. Our team developed a successful delivery strategy through a combination of an innovative construction method and a detailed phasing approach that allowed construction and local demolition to be interlinked, in some areas akin to keyhole surgery. In order to minimise decant in terms of both cost and disruption we developed a solution that allowed the school to stay in their existing premises until the completion of sufficient new build to accommodate the existing 1FE school summarised as follows:
Phase 1 2007: ‘early win’ advance landscape works to ensure that all playground areas are used to maximum advantage when the area available is reduced during the construction process The landscape works were completed within the school summer holidays on time and on budget.
Phase 2 2008: enabling works including relocation of the existing Schoolkeeper’s house to release key area of the site for sufficient new build to accommodate the 1FE school., along with local areas of demolition.
Phase 3 2008-09: Substantive new build phase of the main school on the vacated schoolkeeper’s plot at the front of the site., to decant the existing 1FE school plus the first intake of 2FE in foundation stage.
Phase 4 2009-10: demolition of existing school followed by completion of new 2FE classrooms
Disruption to the current school was minimised through the extensive use of prefabricated elements that reduced both the overall site period and the noise and dust created during construction. In particular, the main structure of innovative, large, prefabricated KLH timber panels proved highly effective as a quick site assembly, which also provides a final internal environment of exposed timber surfaces that offer visual warmth and texture. All targets for noise and dust reduction were exceeded to the extent that more noise was generated by pupils coming out at playtime from the school side of the hoarding than from the construction side. The school have reported that they were extremely pleased with the lack of disruption and the ease of ‘living with the builders’.
Sustainability was a key objective of the original brief.
BREEAM Very Good rating was achieved using a broad range of solutions, including maximising natural daylight and ventilation; high levels of insulation to conserve energy; ground source heat pump to provide 20% of the schools energy requirements; water waste reduction; low impact, sustainable and recycled materials including the prefabricated timber panel system; cycling provision and enhanced ecology of the site. Importantly, the sustainability solutions were developed with the team to form part of the physical learning environment and to support an increased awareness of all users, including the pupils, as a curriculum tool. A key example of our innovative approach in this area is the classroom ventilation design which avoids mechanical ventilation despite the external noise levels: proprietary acoustic louvers were outside the budget, so we developed a pioneering low-tech solution based on a series of layered elements that combine to achieve a manually operated louver system that users can easily open to provide intake air when a CO2 detector lights up, with high level extract provided by ventilation chimneys in each room. This solution was awarded £350K grant funding from the Zero Carbon Fund, as an exemplar prototype that has been written up as a nationwide case study to be rolled out for other education projects, both new and refurbishment, and is currently being monitored to establish the performance over the first few years of use
The success in meeting the client brief has been acknowledged by all members of the client group, including the Hackney Project team and the school’s senior leadership team ad governors. We strongly believe that this is a result of our extensive consultation process from the outset to establish the detailed brief, combined with our collaborative working methods that ensure that the client remained engaged throughout each stage of the project, summarised as follows:
Stakeholder Group: From the outset we offered clear representation to all groups through a well structured stakeholder group. An initial workshop was set up with all stakeholders to establish clear joint aims for the project as a basis for the project brief, the design objectives and the outcomes required by all stakeholders.
Through regular meetings this group provided opportunities for multiple stakeholders to jointly review issues and also for the design team to benefit from the range of views and expertise available on the ground. Although different stakeholders aims conflicted on some aspects at the initial stage, this group was a successful forum for identifying the range of issues which we then clearly analysed to demonstrate the benefits and restrictions of each, to establish how closely each option would fit within the constraints of time and cost. This clear analysis of options along with our findings from initial consultation were reviewed with stakeholders at early sessions to establish
As an example of the success of this process we jointly assessed the impact of different physical typologies for the new school at the outset, so that the negative and positive impact of various options could be carefully considered before being adopted as the basis for the design solution. The two key solutions for the site massing were compared to highlight the various issues involved:
• the ‘compact school’ that aimed to accommodate a new 2FE building on the available area of site to be released by relocating the schoolkeeper’s house. The key benefit was that this could be constructed in a single phase, evaluated against the key disadvantages of compromised orientation which would reduce natural daylight and ventilation of the classrooms;
• compared with the ‘extended school’ model which ran the full length of the site to ensure that each classroom benefited from an equally good naturally daylit and ventilated environment, but required phased construction to complete areas located on the existing school footprint. This solution was adopted having considered and compared the full range of issues.
Another example is how Meadowcroft Griffin worked closely with the client group from the outset to develop a ‘core scheme’ and a long term masterplan in parallel, to achieve cost benefits by considering the long term vision and need for future proofing. This allowed all stakeholders to plan towards the longer term vision whilst ensuring that the core scheme can be delivered on time and on budget, and means that ambitious solutions are not ruled out because they do not fit the restrictions of the current project, and abortive work is avoided by developing each project within an understanding of the longer term objectives. This approach has proved successful over many of our education projects where budgets and time are limited but the client’s vision can be vast. We find that project creep is more easily managed when stakeholders are aware that further change may be achieved through a later phase.
School and Community: we developed a successful combination of structured consultation including a formal pre-planning community exhibition, along with a less formal participation strategy designed to reach the widest audience including hard to reach groups and children, based on a ‘we will come to meet you’ approach. This meant we joined in with a wide range of events already planned in each groups own setting. As a local community school we found that setting up stall at the school summer and winter fairs as well as jumble sales was an extremely successful way to engage with as many people as possible. In this way hard-to-reach groups were found to be more likely to participate, including parents who would make the effort to come to the school event but may have had difficulties attending a specific consultation event or simply not be motivated to attend. Within the school itself we spent a lot of time ‘living in the school’ by sitting in on day-to-day sessions such as school playtime to allow children and staff to come and discuss the project with us, combined with opportunities to observe the school in use.
Curriculum: a range of consultation methods were developed by Meadowcroft Griffin to ensure that the project was a learning resource for both the pupils and staff at the school including:
Curriculum Workshops: we explored aspects relating to the project such as sustainability, recycled materials, playgrounds, accessibility, classroom arrangements, cloaks, sport.
Start Up Projects: ‘sustainability now’ engaged pupils in implementing sustainability projects from the outset of the design stage rather than waiting for the new school to be built two years later. These included increased school recycling, fitting cycle racks, deciding locations for water butts to existing rain water pipes that are used for watering school planting, and setting up a wormery.
Workshops: we mocked up elements of the proposed new school at 1:1 and test drove these with the children and staff to establish how well they would work and consider any modifications that could be incorporated. These included the shared resource spaces which were changed in response to this process and the cloak rooms.
Process of Change: We carried out a series of events to help build momentum towards understanding the processes of change. One approach that has been very successful is to explore the history of the existing school site.
Vision Holes through Hoarding: key locations were agreed for Perspex panels from both the school side and the external street. Openings were positioned in pairs at adult and child height to encourage group or paired viewing and discussion of the construction process.
School Reporters: a group of the Year 6 pupils who will leave the school before the new Lauriston is completed are acting as news reporters. Regular site visits were arranged to follow the construction process and to pass it on to their peers.
Multi-disciplinary design team:
Our role was as architects and lead consultant for a multi disciplinary team that included structural engineer Price and Myers, mechanical and electrical engineers Atelier Ten, cost consultants, CDM Co-ordinators, acoustician, fire engineers and, arboroculturist.. Through shared experience and close day to day working our clients benefit from this collective team resource. Particular evidence of these benefits includes:
Price and Myers structural design for the prefabricated cross laminated timber structure, including the detailed construction design where Price and Myers worked in close collaboration with the suppliers KLH
Atelier Ten’s environmental expertise and in particular the development of the innovative passive ventilation for the classrooms which was awarded grant funding.