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Architects have 'serious concerns' over school standard designs

The Royal Institute of British Architects has issued a statement citing ‘serious concerns’ over the government’s ‘flat-pack’ approach to schools.

The Department for Education published standard designs based on primary and secondary schools yesterday, a move it wants to see save around £700m in construction based on the average spend on the axed £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme.

However the RIBA has called on the Education Funding Agency to clarify which parts of the baseline design are intended to be indicative or recommended as opposed to mandatory.

Among a series of recommendations it argues that clients and schools “receive expert advice from qualified and experienced design professionals on the quality and functionality of any contractor’s proposals” using the baseline design.

EFA director of capital Mike Green insisted yesterday that architects would be involved in “every scheme” as contractors gear up to pitch school solutions using the standardised designs as a starting point.

Contractors will be able to come up with alternative solutions, once they save a minimum of 30 per cent, as set out in the EFA guidelines.

RIBA president Angela Brady said: “In these times of austerity of course we need to cut our cloth on all spending, however the government’s proposals for the design and construction of future schools are far too restrictive with too much focus on short term savings.

“Improvements must be made to the proposals to make sure that the schools we build now will suit the future generations of children that will learn in them, and deliver what the community needs in the longer term.”

The RIBA has stated it has five key concerns over the government’s approach to baseline designs for schools:

  • A failure to create functional spaces for excellent teaching;
  • Not ensuring discipline and student wellbeing;
  • Ignoring the safeguarding of environmental comfort;
  • Disregarding statutory requirements for accessibility and inclusion;
  • Not delivering long-term sustainability and value;

It cites concerns such as the low energy environmental strategy as being welcome but its success as being predicated on “optimal conditions that may be difficult to achieve in reality”.

The RIBA states that “relatively minor changes in orientation, internal finishes, or structural systems will significantly affect lighting, ventilation, heat gain and acoustics” which will adversely impact on teaching and learning.

It also criticised the “lack of engagement between sufficiently experienced design teams, educationalists and end users” as being a risk to the inimum requirements being delivered without consideration of the particular needs of each school community. I


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