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How can a commercial garden room help expanding schools?

James Willmott, Director and Co-Founder at Harrison James, discusses how to create extra classroom space

Posted by Lucinda Reid | July 21, 2017 | Facilities & buildings

When it comes to creating a new classroom space, many schools opt for pre-fabricated buildings ‘off the peg’ building designs, many of which are only designed to last five to 10 years. However, it is worth looking at a bespoke designed and built commercial building, which can be erected within six to eight weeks but also includes all of the features and utilities that you require to make the most of this extra space. From science laboratories to offices to classroom space, these buildings can be created to suit any purpose and fit any size and shape, enabling schools with listed buildings or awkwardly shaped pieces of land to install modern facilities. They allow a school to have a build that fits an exact brief, is energy efficient and which can last a lifetime.

Designing these buildings from scratch eliminates some of the problems encountered with converting existing buildings. While you may have a clear idea of what purpose you would like the building to fulfill, there may be a number of areas that you haven’t considered and there are a couple of basic administrative questions you should ask yourself before starting, including:

Can the building fulfill more than one purpose or house facilities that you may be lacking elsewhere?

Your pressing need may be for a new school gym, however, it could be beneficial to include toilets or showers as well. Alternatively, extra offices, staff room space or a sensory room for SEN pupils could be built alongside classrooms or residential space.

The purpose will also affect the interior design and materials used; for example if you are building science laboratories or an art and design space, it may be more important to create a workshop layout, with easy-to-clean flooring in case of spills and multiple sinks. Whereas an IT suite may require more power outlets, perhaps even built into the floor to avoid excessive cables or a music centre may need sound-proofing and smaller rooms for use as recording studios. 

How can I make the most of natural light?

With this type of building there is a temptation to use lots of glass for a modern and airy feel. While this can let in lots of light, it can cause problems when it comes to furnishing classrooms. With the use of tablets, computers and interactive screens in modern classrooms, it is worth considering that too many windows can cause glare and will also restrict wall space required for interactive whiteboards to be placed on. At the design stage it is worth discussing with your architect / designer the classroom layout and ensuring you have a workable space.

Windows can also trap heat and it may be that you require an air conditioning system to combat overheating in the summer months. Incorporating a number of opening windows into the building will help with ventilation. I’d also always recommend installing LED lights as they don’t get hot and increase classroom temperature, they are also far more efficient and last longer so will cut your energy bills and long-term maintenance costs.

How will the exterior fit within the school grounds?

This may be important if the new building will be sitting within parkland or alongside historic buildings. It may be that your existing buildings aren’t especially attractive and you have an opportunity to create a feature within the school grounds or it may be that they are a particular style, which you want the new building to complement. Here it is worth considering the materials used, we create a lot of wood cladded buildings, with cedar being a popular choice as it can look natural and modern.

For example, Harrison James recently worked with Handcross Park School in Sussex. The co-educational independent school teaches children aged from two to 13 and required a building for use as a bursary. We installed a bespoke Harrison James with a floor area of 117m2. The building is split into six offices, with a communal area and kitchen facilities. Clad in attractive red cedar wood, the new building fits alongside the look and feel of the existing buildings within the school grounds. The entire build cost approximately £150,000.

For more information, visit Harrison James’ website.  

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