Entry Title: " Durham Primary Schools"
redboxdesign group
, United Kingdom
Category: Professional, Public
Designer(s): redboxdesign group

Entry Description:

Scheme Description
As part of a lasting architectural legacy redboxdesign group has recently completed the UKs most sustainable schools and in the process will help to create a next generation of young people who will carry the sustainability message with them for life.
The schools at Brandon and Esh Winning in County Durham are neither showoff architectural monuments, a major failing of many of the schools built under the BSF initiative of the last government, nor are they adorned with obvious environmental gimmicks.
They are cleverly designed in a discreet and understated way to ensure the ethos of sustainability runs through not just the buildings but also the communities they serve. Natural ventilation, solar shading, abundance of natural light together with internal courtyards all combine to provide a dedicated and considered learning environment.
There are no high-maintenance gadgets or grandiose embellishments, just simple sustainability, such as robust construction using long-life materials, imaginative design solutions to create excellent learning environments and smart use of environmental technology, for example free heating and cooling from the ground by the use of earth tubes.
The outcome is an astonishing 90 per cent reduction in carbon footprint compared to 2002 Building Regulations!
The Brief
The brief from Durham County Council was to create the most sustainable schools in the UK and that is about more than just the fabric of the school it presented an opportunity for the children and their parents to learn about all aspects of sustainability - from the sourcing of food for school meals, to the way that children travel to school.
The schools are intended to be used by the wider community, both after hours and through the day, but they are clearly zoned and secure with publicly accessible areas separated from the day-to-day use of the school.
Its not just about a sustainable build but also the on-going costs of use and of course life-cycle considerations which have been woven into the design development to make head teachers lives easy and budgets more manageable for years to come vital in these penny-saving pound-conscious times.
Modular Flexibility
Created around a modular regime the designs are themselves recyclable and could be replicated on any site within the UK. Coming complete with a flexible internal planning scheme the model can also be easily adapted to suit differing and evolving learning methods.
By reusing the designs on future school projects, further efficiencies and economies will be developed to drive costs down and quality up, without compromising any of the key elements or main agenda of sustainability.
The buildings are designed to reflect the core values of the institutions they serve - such as being welcoming, nurturing, caring, safe and happy places as well as redboxs own never-out-of-fashion mantra - quality, practicality and sustainability.
They are low key, comfortable, and easy for children to understand and navigate. They are not complex, but carefully considered and interesting. Interiors are designed to focus on the childrens work, and internal colours are neutral to allow their work to dominate.
James report significance
The recent James Report into Review of Education Capital highlights a number of issues with previous procurement and design focus which redbox has already sought to address, prior to the reports publication.
Whilst sustainability is high on the agenda, a considered approach to overall project procurement has influenced the designs from an early stage.
Sustainability is more inherent in the design than gimmicky additions, often a get-out clause for schemes seeking to increase sustainability points. Items such as green roofs, which can be expensive to maintain and become a burden rather than helpful on schools maintenance budgets.
The design allows a kit of parts and design approach which can be adapted to different sites and environmental settings, illustrated in the subtle differences the two schemes.
The design is not a flat pack, one size fits all approach. The redbox approach still allows for increases in standardised drawings and specifications for continuous improvements.
Quality and value can drive the approach to further school designs, drive costs down and quality up, without compromising any of the key elements.
Core values
The buildings are not designed as architectural monuments. We have drawn our inspiration from the core values defined by the schools themselves:
Preparing, developing, achieving
Welcoming, nurturing, caring, safe, happy
Team work, inclusive
The first Outstanding BREEAM schools in the country
90% carbon reduction compared to 2002 Building Regulations standards
Renewable energy sources which, when combined with feed-in tariff and renewable heating incentive mean that the school will not pay for normal energy use and will in fact be paid for exporting surplus energy back to the grid.
Robust construction long life materials brick, block, plaster, engineered timber windows, fibre-cement panels.
Simple sustainability to give an excellent learning environment, including:
classroom windows shaded with canopies to avoid overheating, whilst also provide covered external learning areas
internal courtyards to provide natural ventilation to deep spaces and quiet private external learning spaces
natural and mechanical ventilation monitored and controlled using sensors to maintain low levels of CO2 to ensure that children are alert
north light roof glazing to avoid glare and achieve high even lighting levels to classrooms to avoid the use of artificial lighting
Easy to use practical or self regulating technology, including high thermal mass construction and earth tubes to temper ventilation air to keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter
No gimmicks. No green roofs that will require specialised maintenance in years to come. The buildings are not designed to look especially sustainable they just are.
Flexible building forms which can be used formulaically and adapted to any site
Flexible internal planning which can be easily adapted to suit a variety of learning methods, and as methods change
A community resource, but clearly zoned and secure with publicly accessible and community areas separated from the day to day use of the school

About the Company:


* 2012 Green Dot Awards - 2nd Place Winner - Public Category