As the government looks to follow through with plans to increase the number of school places to the required 400,000 this year, project delivery specialists are increasingly having to ask themselves how they can make the most of what a school already has and come up with creative ways of utilising space to its full potential. Gideon Levene, head of Projects, explains.
“To get more out of an existing space in our schools and colleges, in-built flexibility is absolutely key. So, where space and budgets are both squeezed, the creation of multi-purpose areas – for example those that can quickly be turned from an assembly hall into a performance area or cyber-cafe are becoming popular.”
“As a result, we’re increasingly specifying and fitting out large, open plan areas with the capacity to host a variety of activities and events through a layout which can be altered quickly and easily. A key method of achieving this is specifying retractable seating, which can be set up temporarily as-and-when required. Ensuring these spaces are equipped with wireless technology to accommodate laptops and tablets, will deliver maximum accessibility and flexibility for them to be used as teaching spaces.”
“New demands in the market are also driving significant changes in the skills of contractors. We’re increasingly offering clients a turnkey service, which includes consulting and advising clients through every stage in the refurbishment process, from the specification of furniture through to the installation and set-up of ICT systems.”
“Our roles and skills have evolved in a bid to help all sectors, including education, to future proof their facilities by integrating new ICT systems into current buildings and reap the benefits.”
“Upgrading ICT in schools helps increase the number of flexible learning zones, and also provides the option for building management systems (BMS) to be installed, allowing estates teams to monitor and manage the running and efficiency of the buildings. Ultimately, this can save on heating and energy costs as it allows teams to track which areas of the school are in use at what times and switch off radiators and lighting accordingly.”
“Whether budgets increase in the long term remains to be seen, however the best practice that is being developed now to ensure all education buildings are used to their full potential can only be a good thing for the future of the sector’s built environment.”