27Sep
Ed Investment

Facilities Developments in GCC

According to recent statistics, the rise in population has added more demand for education and schools. It is estimated that the total population in the GCC has reached up to 50 million. In 5 years’ time, the number of students will reach up to 13.7 million (Colliers International). Meanwhile, the majority of the current learning spaces in the region were built decades ago and are unable to absorb this increasing numbers of students. Since many of these learning spaces are not multipurpose, adjusting to the growing number of students is a constant challenge that school operators face. In order to meet this growing demand, new projects are being developed while older schools are considering undergoing renovations and expansions.

When asked about the three most valuable lessons that he learnt from managing school expansions, Alun Yorath, Headmaster at Brighton College, said, “The first thing is to be as flexible as possible with the staffing model in order to accommodate under or over subscription in a particular year group within the first three years. Second, the school opening should be managed as a phased approach over two to three years. And finally, operators shouldn’t skimp on educational resources in the classrooms because an empty school is very hard to sell to prospective parents. Even though the spend on educational resources such as books, ICT, displays etc.is a fraction of your staffing cost for the first year, it plays a crucial role in ensuring the school looks vibrant and sells itself to prospective parents.”

Top considerations when designing quality school buildings for demand
by Alastair Blyth, Consultant at Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

  1. A focus on greater efficiency in the use of space, designing space that is capable of being used in a variety of different ways, for example looking at how spaces can have more than one function so that when they are not being used for one thing, they can be used for another.
  2. Enabling greater flexibility and agility within spaces. This also relates back to the previous point, making spaces agile to enable people to quickly change the arrangement of furniture in the rooms. This will also facilitate more varied use. Furniture that is fixed or difficult to move because it is heavy constrains how space can be used. Likewise the supporting technology such as whiteboards and data projectors need to be incorporated in such a way that they can be moved.
  3. Another important consideration is robustness of finishes to buildings to enable them to withstand more intensive use.

Top considerations when designing quality school buildings for demand
by Prakash Nair, REFP, President at Fielding Nair International

It is important to rethink most aspects of school design. That means, building quality schools that are smaller than traditional schools and yet, more effective in delivering a 21st century education. Among the ways in which school size can be reduced the following deserve special consideration.

  1. Eliminate corridors: School corridors take up as much as 25% of school space. Reclaiming them for teaching and learning means we can reduce the overall size of the school. More important, a design without hallways, done right, can take schools away from the traditional factory model and more toward a student-directed model.
  2. Rethink and Resize Entrance Atriums, Computer Labs, Cafeterias and Auditoriums: Even as students are squeezed into small classrooms with barely enough room to do anything other than listen to teachers, schools tend to spend lavishly on common areas like cafeterias and auditoriums. Many schools also have unnecessarily large entrance lobbies and atriums. All of these spaces need to be rethought. Libraries and computer labs need to be redone as media centers, innovation labs and maker labs with substantially smaller book collections. Large cafeterias can be eliminated in favor of smaller, decentralised cafes – often combined with collaborative learning spaces within learning communities. Auditoriums dedicate a majority of their spaces to the audience whereas much smaller black box theaters focus on student performance like drama and music, as well as digital media productions. Lobbies and atriums can be designed to serve as the heart of the school permitting many modes of learning such as independent study and research, collaboration and student presentation.
  3. Reduce and resize of athletic facilities: There is no need for every school to have full size athletic facilities which take up huge amounts of space. Schools should seek to share the existing community facilities. Instead, schools can focus on health, nutrition and physical fitness which can be accommodated in smaller facilities like gymnasiums, rooms for dance, yoga and physical fitness and running tracks located on the school grounds or on the rooftop and smaller, non-Olympic size swimming pools that can be located below ground or on rooftops to save site area.

Facilities Developments - 21.09.2015

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