The building was required to relocate the two existing faculties from tired and long-lived temporary classrooms. The Headmaster led the client team and guided the client brief from the governors. The brief was to provide ICT classrooms and drop-in, music classrooms, music practice spaces, a recital space and top quality recording facilities. The building was to be funded entirely by donations and therefore the challenge of providing a very cost effective building was always a key driver.
The College site is within the west Berkshire AONB and the campus includes listed buildings. A good relationship was developed with the local authority through the process and this helped us gain a delegated consent for what is a challenging building in this situation. The site is a sloping site at the edge of the central College quadrangle and is bordered by mature trees. These were both a constraint and one of the joys of the final scheme.
The project delivers a bespoke and technical response to the sometimes conflicting issues of a quiet classroom space and adjacent loud music practice and performance spaces. The design incorporates flexibility within spaces to allow different spaces to be opened up or isolated, but began with a careful distribution of compatible spaces through the plan. The build was to a very high standard in terms of acoustics and also energy design.
The scheme met the stringent Breeam excellent standards . Natural ventilation and acoustic control are not always convenient partners but we strove to provide a natural solution. The design uses bespoke acoustic baffles that we developed to limit cross-talk between open windows.
Double layered door openings allow manual enhanced ventilation in a simple way. The recital space also includes a series of designed joinery wall panels that can be easily opened to expose soft attenuating panels that can tune the space acoustically. The spaces also carefully use daylight to provide an excellent light quality largely thanks to top light and North light working together.
Externally the building is conceived as the intersection of two volumes, one of timber and one of aluminium. The mill finish aluminium expanded metal cladding wraps up the recital hall ‘cube’ and is seamless with the exception of the punctured open corner glazing. The timber cladding was designed to be constructed in panels to remove the impression of narrow board timber cladding and to give some relief to the expanded metal facade. The natural larch cladding is interrupted by the vertical folded metal solar shades. The cladding is opened up to reveal acoustic baffles to the music practice rooms behind, giving a lively active facade to the main approach to the College.
The construction is largely in heavy-weight masonry with very deep external insulation that wraps up this thermal mass. This makes for a building that retains heat and cools and makes for a comfortable place to be.
The building is naturally ventilated. In classrooms this is via large amounts of opening windows, using cross-ventilation where possible and then being enhanced by north-facing roof lights that can be used for safe night cooling.. The practice rooms are ventilated by opening windows that open at high and low level to allow better circulation of air in these smaller spaces. The challenge here was for these opening windows in potentially loud spaces to not undo the work of the acoustically separate walls and floors from space to space. We came up with the idea of external acoustic baffles that attenuate the sound from one direction and reflect it away from the other. This acoustic baffle is also used vertically from practice room to classroom over.
The recital hall is also naturally ventilated despite having a potential occupancy of over 70 and the requirement to be acoustically isolated. The design uses a low level plenum duct to draw fresh cooler air below ground behind the staging. Again, night cooling can also be taken advantage of. At peak use times there are simple manual ventilation doors that can be opened from the flush internal linings to reveal large vents behind and allow simple, instinctive, operable ventilation.
The building takes very little energy to heat, but is carefully managed by a BMS system and is supplied by a district heating system from the College central plant. The designs for this plant to be upgraded to run as a biomass energy center using fuel from the college 400acre estate. Ultimately the desire is to remove the reliance on oil fuel and move forward towards energy self-sufficiency.
The building is sustainable from its very heart and . The construction was managed for low waste through design, detailing and careful site control. Materials such as the expanded metal cladding are used in their natural state and will require very little maintenance. Ultimately the building is very recyclable and re-useable.
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