School buildings without limits

Gareth Barber, Managing Director of The Stable Company, reveals their latest project in the independent school sector

Could you tell us more about The Stable Company?

I founded The Stable Company in 2002 – we began by creating timber buildings for the equestrian sector. Despite crafting our reputation with these beautiful, much-loved stables and barns, demand for timber buildings has since taken us into a range of sectors – including education. This means we’ve been busy creating anything from timber classroom blocks, school gyms and teaching rooms to storage spaces. However, regardless of what we’re building, our team of specialists endeavour to take advantage of everything that timber has to offer. 

Gareth Barber

Could you explain how you work with independent schools?

We recently completed work on a new teaching facility for Marymount International School, an independent school in Kingston upon Thames. I think this project is a great example of how we like to work with independent schools.

Marymount wanted to turn a disused area of their beautiful campus, set in the heart of the Surrey countryside, into much-needed additional teaching space. A building catering to the needs of those with disabilities was crucial.

Our clients, particularly independent schools, greatly value being able to see their potential project brought to life, so we produced 3D computer-generated sketches to discuss initial ideas. This was then accompanied by a detailed specification document and costings.

Occupying a 20.65m x 7.25m space, the build provides six internal rooms, with a pitched roof, as well as being clad in Western red cedar and heavy duty Thermowood weatherboard. A decked area on the outside of the building helps with accessibility and the slope of the site, with contrasting dark grey sliding folding doors and windows completing the structure.

Marymount took advantage of The Stable Company’s ‘Complete Care’ package – meaning we handled everything from planning permission through to the handover of the keys to the build. The main build was constructed and strip footings inspected within one week, with the main structure finished within three weeks. Afterwards, Marymount School was free to install furniture and complete the external landscaping. 

The result was a stunning timber build complementing the school’s beautiful private estate. The new classroom has been informally named ‘The Garden Rooms’, reflecting, according to school bursar Alan Fernandes, their “bright and airy nature which is conducive to teaching and learning”.

In your experience, how have the demands of independent schools changed in recent years?

As with Marymount, the independent schools we work with greatly value being able to stick with one manufacturer, rather than having to rely on working with multiple parties.

As well as prudence with the purse-strings whilst providing additional teaching space, minimising teacher and pupil stress is also a growing concern for many independent schools. Luckily, the message has been getting out there that being in natural surroundings, such as timber, has a calming effect, in addition to promoting creative thinking and discussion.

The need to ‘get outside’ and escape the classroom provides a welcome break to pupils and staff; this is also something independent schools have been long keen to encourage. Some builds we have completed have sliding doors to allow a seamless transition between inside and out, facilitating outside learning objectives.

How do you see The Stable Company growing and developing in the future?

The education sector is already searching for new ways to address the conundrum of growing pupil numbers and spatial requirements yet tightening budgets. I’m hopeful that The Stable Company will continue to meet this demand, further expanding our education portfolio. It’s great that more and more schools are appreciating timber’s super-powers, as we like to call them. 

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