Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Archbishop Ryan Senior National School, Lucan, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Exemplary design categories: access, community use and involvement, cost efficiency, energy efficiency, flexible learning settings, special needs provision

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The main purpose of this project was to pilot the Ministry of Education and Science’s Generic Repeat Design (GRD), which consists of a design for a standard 8, 12, and 16 classroom school. More than 50 schools will be constructed to this optimised, low energy design on sites with varied orientation: the GRD school consumes less than 40% of the energy used by a school built to CIBSE good practice standards, without significant additional cost. The GRD schools program also allows school projects to be fast tracked, and has a huge potential to reduce the environmental impact of Irish schools within a short time period. The key objective is to meet the demand for rapid accommodation for large numbers of students. Many of these schools from earlier decades have stood the test of time and reinforce the school as a significant civic building type in the Irish rural and urban landscape. The GRD has evolved this procurement method with complete superstructure tender packages available.

The key concept behind the school was to allow for additional capacity. The 8-classroom school acts as a core area containing all ancillary spaces, including the school hall. It can be extended from 12 to 16 classrooms. By locating fire stairs at corridor ends, it is possible to add further extensions in two directions - for example a special unit, extra resource teaching rooms or classrooms - with minimum disruption to the school in operation. Accessibility was another important element of the brief, in particular for students with special educational needs. The school's layout reflects simple internal orientation and clear way-finding, with provision of an excellent acoustic environment throughout the school. To serve as a learning tool, the school was fitted with additional sensors and meters, and a remote monitoring interface for the controls system. These are linked to a touch screen in the atrium with a cartoon character encouraging pupils and visitors to view and interact with the real-time energy use of the building. Individual room temperature control is measured by digital room sensors, which display the room temperature and allow the occupants to adjust it to a high degree of accuracy and comfort. All spaces enjoy high levels and balanced natural light, without need for additional artificial lighting for 80% of the working hours of 9.00am to 3.00pm, throughout the school year. The building is naturally ventilated in most areas. All rooms have single sided natural ventilation, with the exception of the school hall, which is cross ventilated by means of additional high-level roof windows. Classroom depths have been minimised in order to maximise ventilation and daylight distribution. The school embodies passive security strategies as well as active elements. Elements such as a large and secure entrance and visitors’ lobby, a central atrium, glazed screens and views to and from the upper level balcony corridor into the hall seek to improve management, supervision, security and sense of connection between spaces. The use of two-storeys reduces the accessible ground perimeter and reduces the building’s footprint. The perimeter of the site is enclosed with decorative railings and landscaping to encourage the public to look into the school and prevent vandalism and unwanted visitors.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
Extensive fieldwork was undertaken by the design team in close consultation with education inspectors, including detailed inspections and feed-back from in-use schools. A review of international leading edge research in school design was also undertaken. Design options were fully evaluated with educator input. Proposals were presented to school management and the school principal. School staff were consulted on choice of interior fit out, colour schemes, furniture, and ICT installations (with addition of smart-boards).

The school represents a focal point in an emerging community. The extended school community use the facility on a regular basis, for example to celebrate religious and cultural events, for adult educational activities for parents and for meetings of church and community groups.

Activity Areas: 16 classrooms, special education tuition rooms, multi-purpose room, library, assembly/sports hall, staff room, reception, parents' room, hard and soft play areas and gardens.

Project costs: EUR 4,500,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (1)

“The school represents a focal point in an emerging community. The traditional Irish landscape of church, school and pub is not reflected in developing areas where haphazard planning is very much the norm. Balgaddy's sole sense of identity is the "place where they built that new school". The extended school community deprived of other means of self-expression use the facility on a regular basis. Inviting and attractive access to school gives sense of belonging to wider school community. Teachers find layers of new possibilities in the building the more they teach in the school. Pupils are proud of their school, a pride which reflects in the almost total lack of vandalism to school property and a healthy respect for the teachers and members of staff. In its early days, the school was inundated with visitors from other schools who were anxious to acquire the Balgaddy Generic Repeat Design experience. The relatively short time (10 months) it took to complete the building allowed the key stakeholders do what they do best .... engage in meaningful teaching and providing positive learning experiences."
Mr. John Ring, Principal

Images (5)

Drawings (4)

Ground Floor Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Tony Sheppard., B.Arch., M.R.I.A.I., R.I.B.A., Design Team Leader, Planning & Building Unit In-house architects
Section of Classrooms, Atrium, & Hall (Registration required)
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Credit: Tony Sheppard., B.Arch., M.R.I.A.I., R.I.B.A., Design Team Leader, Planning & Building Unit In-house architects
Site Layout Plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Tony Sheppard., B.Arch., M.R.I.A.I., R.I.B.A., Design Team Leader, Planning & Building Unit In-house architects
Typical Classroom furniture (Registration required)
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Credit: BDP