A school renovation is an exciting time. It’s a moment to implement revolutionary ideas, to install exciting new facilities, and a chance to have a significant impact on everyone involved in the education of your pupils. But it can also be an overwhelming proposition, and in the quest to make as dramatic an improvement as possible, the danger is that the final project ends up falling short of the mark.
We share some of our insider secrets and point out the 8 most common mistakes when redesigning a new school building, allowing you to side-step potential pitfalls and guaranteeing that your school refurbishment delivers the maximum possible impact.
Not considering all stakeholders
So, you have the opportunity to redesign your learning space. In the eagerness to get cracking you plough your efforts into making sure the space serves the purpose of the primary users, in most cases, this will be the pupils. And while this is an obvious move, it is important at this stage to ensure that you have considered the needs of all stakeholders. This is everyone from the teachers using the facilities, the pupils (both current and future), the senior leadership team, the support staff, and last but not least, the cleaning and maintenance teams. Satisfy all of these, and you’re instantly on to a winner.
2. Deploying style over substanceThis must be one of the most common mistakes in classroom redesign. A mistake that is committed by high-end designers, in-house estate teams, and teachers themselves. Far too often a renovation focuses solely on the ‘wow’ factor. Hours are spent deliberating over exactly how a room should look, rather than how it works. And whilst a pleasing aesthetic certainly comes high up on the list of importance, it’s crucial to avoid a situation of style over substance. Once the sheen has worn off the newly refurbished space, the initial excitement mustn’t be replaced by frustration over the lack of thought that has gone into the usability of the new facilities.
3. Overlooking the main aim of the learning spaceBefore redesigning an area, the first task should be to ask yourself what the main aim of the space is. Elevate the thought process beyond ‘to teach pupils Maths’ and craft a statement that creates real purpose. For example, ‘to create a space to foster critical thinking’. With this new aim in mind, the design process will be more focussed and directed. All too often, the main purpose of a room is overlooked. Instead, designers will impossibly strive for unrealistic flexibility, resulting in an inefficient and unsatisfying renovation project.
4. Being limited by tradition and conventionYou are investing time, money and energy in redesigning a learning space, so it must be worth the large expense. While it is tempting to ‘do what we have always done’ this approach simply guarantees that you ‘get what you always got’. Use this exciting process to discover if there is another way, embrace the opportunity to try something truly outstanding and revolutionary. Encourage all those involved to think outside of the box, and use this development to become a forward-thinking school, an expert in your field, led by the creative and imaginative use of design.
5. Not adequately assessing your space In most schools, space is at a premium. So upon being given the chance to redesign an area, an assessment of the current utilisation of facilities should be one of the top priorities. Auditing space fully means taking into consideration several factors. Everything, from the movement of people around a room to the fixtures, fittings, and floorings, should be identified, noted, and set about being improved upon.
6. Allowing the project to become personality-drivenIt is simple to delegate this task to someone on the staff team who has an artistic eye or a hankering to be a designer, however, now is not the time to let that someone test out their visions. Whilst all voices should be clearly heard, it is the professional design team that should take the lead on the final design of the project. Their years of experience and proven track record means that they are best placed to make difficult choices and decisions.
7. Employing fads and trends without a strong research baseEducation seems to be awash with jargon, and some of it is certainly valid and interesting. However, the danger begins when leaders and teachers get swept up in a frenzy of these fads and trends and attempt to adjust every policy to satisfy this latest whim. Design is a huge investment, and if done right, it should stand the test of time. This means whatever you choose to put into your new development should be chosen with care and a healthy dose of critique. Instead of looking at Twitter or Pinterest for ideas, head to research papers and studies based on in-depth research and a wealth of scientific case studies.
8. Underestimating the impact of the projectThis is the single biggest mistake when it comes to classroom design. Underestimating the impact of the learning environment. The train of thought that refurbishment involves shoving a few new nests of tables and some bright, adjustable plastic chairs into a space, is thankfully, becoming a mindset of the past. We know how affected we can be by our environment, and school leaders are becoming ever aware of the huge impact that the learning environment can have on everyone who steps foot inside the classroom