It wasn’t too long ago that we were still trying to prove the link between good design and learning performance. Now it's no longer a question of ‘does it improve performance?’ but more a question of ‘how it improves performance’.
This understanding is the key to driving the best value for the long run, which can be particularly pressing in state run schools where government funding is tight.
The simplest designed buildings can drive down maintenance and facility costs; RIBA produced a report that claimed unnecessary costs are being spent on facilities, which can accumulate to an annual spent of up to x7 the average teacher salary.
Good designs can also improve teacher retention rates as the same RIBA study claimed that 1 in 5 teachers had considered leaving due to building conditions.
Then of course there is the effect that design has on student performance. Salford University reported that classroom designs can improve pupil performance by 25%. Many teachers believe that it also encourages better behaviour and reduces bullying.
So, it’s not surprising that some of the most inspirational designs have come out of the educational sector. Take a look at some of the past RIBA Stirling Prize winners: Evelyn Grace Academy, The Sainsbury Lab at the University of Cambridge and Burntwood School.
What to Consider:
The most effective spaces are those that do not impose the design on the occupants. Instead they involve the users in the design and create a shared sense of purpose.
The conclusion: an off the shelf design is not going to cut in the educational environment. The design must respond to the local context and offer innovative, inclusive spaces to learn.