Wednesday23 August 2017

'Flat-pack' schools will make architects redundant

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Architects are being written out of the government’s plans for school building, it emerged today.

To save money, schools will be 15% smaller and based on one of half a dozen pre-approved templates.

These templates are already being drawn up by construction companies, according to a report in today’s Times newspaper which dubbed them “flat-pack” schools.

The standardised designs would cut out the need for architects, planning advisers and other consultants to design each school from scratch.

The Times quoted sources close to the Department for Education’s over-running Capital Review, which is being led by Sebastian James, head of the Dixons group, and whose panel includes Kevin Grace, director of property services at Tesco. The retail sector has long used standardised store design to keep costs down.

Schools which are given permission for new premises would have to choose from one of a handful of templates specifying the design of the buildings as well as fittings such as radiators and doors.

Classrooms, halls, staff rooms and other facilities would be 15% smaller and secondary schools might be forced to cope with fewer classrooms by staggering the timetable.

The plans could cut the time it takes to build a school from 18 months to 13 weeks and the cost by 30%, it is claimed.

Education secretary Michael Gove axed the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme shortly after taking office, after claiming the unwieldy procurement process allowed architects to “cream off cash”.



Readers' comments (64)

  • So the preparation for a lifetime in anywheresville, in a multinational supermarket which could be anywhere, beeping through the same products which are available anywhere now begins at school.

    The sad thing is - i'm not even remotely shocked.

    I wonder how many "free schools" will be built in this way....

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  • urbansurgery

    so long as the templates are excellent, what's the concern?

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  • tescos, ikea, etc still use architects, planning consultants, engineers, etc on each "standard" shed!

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  • There are not many building designs I am aware of that would suit any site anywhere in the country, particularly when you take site orientation into account for your required solar shading, prevailing wind conditions etc. etc. And good luck to them meeting the ever changing Building Regulations with a standard template that will be out of date on a annual basis.

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  • Kevin Palladio

    15% smaller is not enough. School should be child size. OK, obesity is a problem for children, but heights have not expanded in the same way. New Labour was thinking about the teachers (who are generally normal adult height) with BSF. But if we moved the tall teachers to older schools, we could bring down the headroom to a generous 1.7m or 1.8m in the new Coalition Schools, and really cut costs.

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  • What happens when someone loses the allen key?

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  • Hopefully they will avoid sheds! A handful of templates sounds worrying. However, an agreed range of classrom / studio / laboratory layouts could be useful, some informed connectivity options to select the best usage for a schools philosophy. This could be efficient. I'll get my Neufert...

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  • Let's cut out the middle men - let Tesco's just get on with governing the country: it should stop MP's creaming off cash.

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  • Er, standardisation of school buildings is not a terribly new idea. Many of the board schools built during the late Victorian era in the wake of the 1870 Elementary Education Act by the likes of Edward Robson, chief architect of the London Schools Board, were built to a standard plan, adapted where necessary to the exigencies of the available sites.
    This makes them as instantly identifiable in our urban landscapes as churches, town halls and breweries. The adoption of a limited number of standard plans enabled speedy deployment, highly necessary to the ambitious plans of a government wanting to provide places for hundreds of thousands of primary age children as expeditiously as possible.
    As long as the designs are of high quality, distinctive, sustainable and fit for purpose, there's no good reason to think that this methodology should not succeed. But the revelation that they are being designed by 'construction companies' rather than a specialist architect with a track record in schools design gives pause for thought.

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  • "so long as the templates are excellent, what's the concern?"

    the concern... is that the templates will be far from excellent

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