Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Amesbury School, Wellington, New Zealand

Exemplary design categories: comfort, community use and involvement, energy efficiency, flexible learning settings, furniture, green school, outdoor spaces, technology rich

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The design and landscaping of the school were driven by the notions of a school without boundaries that can meet both the needs of the community and the needs of education. Constructed on a large flat site, the school is not fenced and its openness is an invitation to the community, including those from outside the suburb, to make the most of the surroundings and facilities. Ongoing development of the grounds always has the wider community, as well as the needs of the school, in mind. A recent development includes wetlands and the planting of a native bush area where children are able to explore the natural environment. The provision of sporting equipment encourages community health and wellbeing. The school/community hall is used by the school during the day and in the evenings for a variety of community activities.

The school is a Five Greenstar rated school. It to optimise natural light, effects of the sun, vistas to the outside and indoor/outdoor flow, while mitigating the negative effects of the Wellington wind and weather. It was also designed to promote "equity", meaning that in every part of the school, people experience the same access to nature. Hence, the school is single story with only the teachers’ commons on a second level. The design has a low energy use and intuitive approach to managing the building’s energy performance. A simple building management system (BMS) monitors energy consumption and is available to both staff and students across the school as a learning resource.

The learning areas were designed to be flexible - to support team teaching, to meet a variety of teaching and learning styles and to enable responsiveness to the changing demands of future-focused learning. Effective wireless access and 1plus:1 devices supports the cloud-based learning that is central to the delivery of personalised learning programmes and enables students to be “inside” their learning anytime and anywhere. The vibrant colour palette that defines the school is appropriate for students aged 5 – 11 years and sends the clear message that this school was built for children with fun in mind. The attention to detail - use of wood and different textures - creates a calm environment.

Amesbury School’s approach to teaching and learning is also focused on developing student agency – students being “insiders” in their learning. This requires the learning process to be highly transparent to students and for students to have choice and voice in it. Equally, parents are also encouraged to be “insiders” with regard to their children’s learning. To facilitate this, parents have anywhere, anytime access to their children’s learning via a huge array of cloud based applications including the school’s own online learning framework. Parents also have the opportunity to be more than spectators and to upload evidence of their child’s learning as it transpires at home to co-constructed working goals and to directly assist their child’s learning by accessing workshops and resources for a highly focused home learning programme.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
An Establishment Board of Trustees (EBOT) was appointed to lead the development of the new school in Churton Park. Though positions on the EBOT were ministerially-appointed, they were chosen from nominations received from community organisations. A BLOG was quickly established to keep the community aware of the ongoing development of the school, to seek feedback and to provide a forum for comment and discussion. One of the Board's first jobs was to draft a Vision and Values statement and to consult with the community. The Vision and Values statement had a strong focus on environmental responsibility and respecting New Zealand’s bicultural heritage as well as the multi-cultural nature of Churton Park. This initial consultation confirmed the direction of the school but adjusted and highlighted the emphasis of some aspects of the vision and values more than others. The vision and values are in continual cycles of review and development. The school is committed to being continually responsive both to the wider economic, political and educational contexts, but also to the sensitivities, thinking and experiences of its parents, students and local community. As a result, the school is involved in continual iterations of innovation and development.

Activity Areas: 5 Learning Suites (2 classroom equivalents)

Project costs: NZD 8,500,000.00

Source: Submitted October 2014

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Images (4)

Drawings (3)

Floor Plan (Registration required)
application/pdf
Credit: McKenzie Higham Architects
Floor Plan 2 (Registration required)
application/pdf
Credit: McKenzie Higham Architects
Masterplan (Registration required)
application/pdf
Credit: McKenzie Higham Architects