2009 Yearbook

34 Y e a r b o o k 2 0 0 9 BUILDING · CONSERVATION INSTITUTE · OF · HISTORIC · own entrance and staircase and this historic segregation usually means that there is now adequate vertical access to put in new staircases and a lift. This can allow disabled children access to mainstream education without the inconvenience and cost of local authorities having to bus children from one borough to another, as is now often the case. Frequently, however, challenges outnumber opportunities. High ceilings and extremely resilient wall surfaces such as glazed bricks create aesthetic charm. They also, however, mean that the modern acoustic requirements of teaching outlined in Part E of the Building Regulations cannot be met without the intervention of acoustic designers. This will generally result in the introduction of acoustic panels to dampen sound transfer and to control reverberation. Most significant is the government’s design criteria for schools, BB99: Briefing Framework for Primary School Projects, which sets out space requirements and the need for the flexibility of spaces, including the need for joint resource rooms. This usually results in two classrooms needing to be combined into one, often with the introduction of moveable walls between them. In such a scenario, the loss of original fabric and subsequent intrusion upon the original layout of spaces is an unfortunate but essential trade-off. However, the height of the buildings and the original use of coal fires means that the original dividing walls support massive chimney stacks. Removal of these dividing walls requires a great deal of steelwork to support the loads and guard against progressive collapse. To enable the works to be carried out safely, these elements of the work often have to be programmed for the summer holiday break. Fire safety in schools is dealt with in the publication BB100: Design for Fire Safety in Schools . While allowing a risk analysis of particular sites, this usually requires a sprinkler system to be installed, often resulting in the introduction of a large holding tank and a pump house. One space saving solution is to bury the tanks but this is an expensive option. As a part of their evolution, and a necessary element in the development of associated educational policy and technology, the schools have often been updated during earlier stages to allow home economics and trades to be taught. Also, in contrast to the time when pupils sat at a desk and learned by rote, modern teaching methods now require computers and other advanced technologies that in turn require increased power supply. While upgrading supplies is often a problem in itself, the rewiring of an occupied building means floor by floor phasing with the associated relocation of classes. Heat loss through poorly insulated roofs and floors can be dealt with reasonably easily. However, meeting the ecology and energy efficiency credits of BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) can often be very demanding. The introduction of biomass boilers is one possible solution, but storage for woodchips can be difficult on a London site, and there may be a limited list of suppliers in the future for fuels such as pellets. A further note of caution should be added. Most of the schools are not listed, so works are often carried out without attracting the attention of the local authority’s conservation officer. They are not therefore carried out to the exacting standards that conservation professionals would like to see. Much of the work is undertaken as part of maintenance programmes by general tradesmen, often using inappropriate materials and methods. While appreciating the heavy workloads of planning departments, it could be argued that more of these buildings would benefit from the quality assurance provided by a more formal listing, before too many are demolished or inappropriately repaired to their detriment. In spite of all the challenges besetting the refurbishment and extension of the SBL buildings, they are still a fabulous resource both from a historical and an educational point of view. Fortunately, too, the refurbishment option is still significantly cheaper than demolition and new build. Given the many often conflicting issues that must be resolved under the improvements, quality outcomes can only be assured when guided by professionals skilled in traditional construction and conservation practices. John Hemingway MA(Arch Cons) MRICS MCIOB FBEng IHBC is the managing director of Arcos Consultancy Limited and is an RICS chartered quantity surveyor. He has been an IHBC member since 2003. With segregated access came two staircases, allowing one to be replaced today with a lift.