Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Gjerdrum ungdomsskole, Gjerdrum, Norway

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

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The objective of the project was to provide flexible multi-functional spatial solutions in an effort to inspire lifelong learning and more practical and varied teaching. The configuration of spaces supports the use of more varied pedagogies and practical assignments, while connectivity between spaces allows teachers to more effectively interact with students as part of learning activities and classroom management.

The school’s rich interior is characterised by open landscapes broken down into smaller volumes. Short distances between the different functions and the absence of corridors have resulted in a compact building that encourages activity and connectivity. The school blends into the surrounding forest and lush scenery, offering a meeting place for students and teachers during school hours, and the local community in the evenings and the weekends.

The three age groups (years 8-10) form three teaching areas spiralling around a sequence of open and enclosed social spaces, including the assembly hall and the school canteen, the library and the outdoor atrium. Each grade’s teaching area consists of different types of classrooms all designed for multiple classes and flexible use: an auditorium, a classroom, smaller rooms for group work, and an open learning space with workstations. The shared areas ensure the students’ sense of learning community and invite them to work collaboratively in groups. Being a technology-rich environment, the school has workstations and wireless access for students’ laptops.

The teachers’ study is situated close to the students’ area, which creates a connected environment where students and teachers can easily interact and where students feel more secure. Moreover, the open spaces allow the teachers to see what is going on in other learning groups, which enables teachers to assist and learn from one another.

Parts of the school can be closed off without difficulty to create spaces for use by the local community in the evening, such as the twice-weekly youth club meeting. The school building has been recognised for accommodating students with special needs.

The school has a number of environmentally-friendly features, such as decentralised ventilation systems, external sunscreen, high efficiency insulation in walls, floor and roof, low maintenance materials; and less glass area than the 20% requirement at 16%.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
Teachers, students, parents and the local community were highly involved in the design process, from developing performance criteria for the new school to engaging in the architectural competition and construction. A project group composed of representatives from the school management, teachers, student council, parents, the municipality administration and the municipality politicians visited other schools to study different solutions and see how the spaces worked in practice. All represented groups developed "success criteria". Some of the teachers’ criteria were: - Rooms with different sizes that allow teaching groups of different sizes

- High level of activity in the multipurpose areas, and the library is a central meeting point in the school

- Increased well-being among teachers and students

- The new school would facilitate a “pedagogical lift”, which will give better results on various student tests and surveys

- Teachers’ spaces allow the teachers to do more of their work at school

- Management offices are made in a way which creates a sense of community

- All teachers and students use ICT as a natural tool in their work

- Students use the canteen on a daily basis

- The students use the school after school hours

- The school building and the outdoor area make the students more physically active

- The storage rooms make things look tidy and nice, and through strategic and functional location, eases the daily operations

- Students and teachers are proud of their school

The teachers also worked in smaller groups to discuss the different parts of the new building, e.g. outdoor area, ICT, furniture. Both the principal and the chief municipal education officer were in the jury of the architect competition.

A community meeting was held, where all the inhabitants of the municipality could see the plans and suggest changes. All the suggestions were collected in “Visions for the new school: Gjerdrum is a green area, and we hope that this is reflected in the building”.

Activity Areas: Classrooms, open multi-purpose spaces with ICT-area, arts and craft workshop, science laboratory, teachers' lounge, auditoriums, library, administration offices, communal areas, youth club, canteen/assembly hall, school kitchen, music department with studio, smaller rooms for group work, storage rooms.

Project costs: NOK 160,000,000.00

Source: Submitted January 2015

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User perspectives (4)

Everything is just cool and fancy!
This school is everything we dreamed of: A vibrant school environment, where community, cooperation and diversity is acknowledged, a school which facilitates mastery, motivation and a desire for learning.
The different functions are well integrated between the circulation areas and the social zones in a way that insures flexibility, both in terms of variation of work environments and future area requirements. Short internal distances and transparency gives the building an open layout. (…) The proposal has the best solutions regarding extracurricular activities after school hours."
Excerpt from the jury's statement in the architect competition
In the same way that the traditional classroom school doesn’t have ‘blackboard teaching’ all the time, the new school does not have project based teaching all the time.

Images (10)

Drawings (2)

Section (Registration required)
Credit: Kristin Jarmund Architects
Floor plan (Registration required)
Credit: Kristin Jarmund Architects