Sunday, August 28, 2011

Portable Classroom Design Competition

The University of Melbourne's Design School is running a federal government sponsored competition for a relocatable classroom design, called "Future Proofing Schools". The competition is open to anyone, but primarily aimed at professionals and tertiary students including Architects, Landscape Architects, Urban Designers, Planners and Industrial Designers. There is also a special web site for Year 10 to 12 school students.

Available are:
  1. Brief and Guidelines
  2. Frequently Asked Questions
  3. 21st Century Learning
  4. Sustainable School Environments
  5. Landscape Integration and Connections
  6. Prefabrication
Three-step challenge

The competition has three steps:
  1. Propose design ideas for next-generation
    relocatable classroom space [s] that:
    • suit a core cluster of up to 50 - 60 students*
      * based on teaching space of 3,5sqm per student + amenity spaces such as teacher preparation areas, wet areas and lockers + core spaces such as toilets
      Note: Australia’s Federal Guidelines suggest 9.75sqm per student for an entire school.
    • can be scaled to suit larger or smaller student populations
    • can adapt sustainably and economically to a range of physical and cultural contexts [climates, topographies, amounts of land available]
    • provide delightful spaces within, between and adjacent in which to teach, learn and play can be installed rapidly
  2. Show us how your design idea from step 1 works
    by applying it to a school site, either real
    or hypothetical:
    How will your design idea:
    • address variations in climate, topography and amounts of land available at different schools?
    • address connections to the outside, and existing buildings?
    • allow for clustering to create connected learning communities?
    • convey a sense of permanence, even though it is relocatable?
    You are free to tailor your design ideas to physical contexts of your own choice. ...

  3. Show us how your tailored design idea from
    step 2 can be re-located and re-adapted to
    a new school site with different physical
    parameters, either real or hypothetical:
    • How will your design idea adapt to this new set of parameters?
    • What building elements might change?
    • What building elements might stay the same?
    Consider that your tailored design idea may be relocated after one year, three years or even more at its first school site.
An ABC Radio "By Design" Podcast about the design of demountable school buildings with James Timberlake (Kieran Timberlak) and Arie van der Neut (HVDN) is available: "Reimagining 'relocatables' as 21st century learning spaces".

The competition is funded as Australian Research Council Linkage Grant project "Future Proofing Schools: using smart green integrated design approaches to prefabricated learning environments" (LP0991146, by CL Newton; T Kvan; D Hes; K Fisher; MJ Grose; S Wilks).

Schools in the Community Context

While the competition guidelines do a good job of setting the learning and environmental context, they do not appear to take into account the school in its social environment. Treating a school is a resource for the community and should be planned to be available for use by the community. A school building can be used by students of other schools in the area and as a community facility when not needed by students. At the same time the cost of the school building and its facilities can be reduced by drawing on community resources.

As discussed in my submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the NBN, governments are paying for unnecessary duplication across education sectors in both online learning and physical infrastructure. Substantial savings could be obtained through the creation of an ‘Australian Learning Commons’ consisting of multi-use school buildings and free sharing of teaching materials throughout Australia.

Rather than have a single purpose relocatable school building which, has to be dismantled and moved on a truck every few years to re-purpose it, this can be done by changing the use of the classrooms from daytime school student use to nighttime adult education class, to weekend community class. Instead of having to move walls to reconfigure the classroom, which could take minutes or hours, the software running on the computers in the classroom could be changed in seconds.

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