Happy, Healthy Children Benefit From Better Buildings
John Whalley, Managing Director of leading fenestration partner to the education sector Nationwide Windows & Doors, discusses how a common-sense approach to refurbishment, good specification and well thought out design really can have a positive effect on the UK’s learning environment.
Promised investment in school buildings and refurbishment has been at the forefront of most recent election campaigns, and regardless of what actually transpires on the political front, a clear focus on investment into our educational facilities is definitely moving up the agenda. What is now more important than ever, is to ensure this money is spent on buildings and spaces that are fit for purpose, built to last and in which safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments are created.
The learning environment
Academic research rates temperature, heating and air quality as the most important individual elements for student achievement and there is other strong, consistent evidence that extremes of environmental factors (e.g. poor ventilation or excessive noise) can have negative effects on students and teachers.
The largest ever survey of the state of school buildings in the UK made for unsettling reading. Published at the end of 2016, The Royal Institute of British Architects’ Better Spaces for Learning incorporated analysis of primary and secondary schools, a nationwide poll of teachers and extensive engagement with schools building experts. Worryingly, 1 in 5 teachers said they’ve considered quitting because of the ‘wretched conditions’ of the school buildings in which they have to teach. The report also estimated that over-engineered schools incorporating design features and technology that only consultants know how to work, costs the sector £150 million per year. The report concludes that both of these issues can be addressed easily if new schools are better designed upfront and refurbished in a common-sense way. And teachers agree - over 90% of those surveyed in the report believe well-built and sensibly designed schools improve pupil behaviour and educational outcomes.
Simplicity is key to good design and the ease to manage, repair, operate and maintain, ensures a building will operate efficiently and effectively. Integrated design balanced with a ‘fabric first’ approach will seek to provide these performance aspects passively, meaning there is a less intensive demand for mechanical ventilation, electrics and controls.
Whether new build or refurbishment, specifying and installing the right doors and windows has a significant role to play and will impact positively on the three key areas that define a ‘healthy’ school: ventilation, light and temperature. Correctly designed and positioned windows ensure efficient natural ventilation in classrooms and when fitted with easy to use opening and closing mechanisms, are the quickest way to easily maintain air quality. They also help mitigate winter heat loss and summertime overheating, further assisted by specialist glass and coatings. In addition to contributing to higher academic performance and better fatigue resistance, studies also report better building envelope energy efficiency.
Natural daylight is critical when you consider pupils spend up to 40 hours a week in the building during lessons and after school clubs. A good lighting strategy, sensibly considered in the early design process, with appropriately placed windows will capture daylight into a room and achieve optimum exposure. Comparisons between properly daylit classrooms and non-daylit classrooms show students had fewer cavities, gained weight and grew in height more.
Partnering with Experts
With over 30 years’ experience in delivering fenestration solutions to the education sector, Nationwide Windows Ltd has a proven track record in manufacturing and installing good design solutions for windows, entrance doors and screens, and curtain walling. Providing a comprehensive service from initial conceptual design to completion, we focus on achieving an effective, efficient and innovative solutions tailored to each individual project requirement.
For more information, call 01788 224 466.