Bold ambitions led an Essex primary school to move to a village’s new estate, and gain an exciting modern building by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects. With inventive design and successful collaborations the move paid off, and it didn’t cost the earth. Working with Essex County Council, the decision was made to relocate the school to the centre of the village’s 840 new homes on the Priors Green estate. As a foundation school, Takeley Primary School has a certain independence when it comes to strategic decision making and the same independent spirit was asserted when it came to commissioning the school. The latest design and build route was adopted and, a competition launched to find partners, was won by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and May Gurney contracting.
Commenting on the specification of Monodraught X-Air systems for the school, the project’s architect Toby Carr says it was intended from the outset to specify low energy natural ventilation, as the practice specialises in low energy buildings and sustainable architecture.
“We were keen to specify a natural ventilation solution and the client was hoping to achieve a high BREEAM rating,” says Toby: “so to meet both objectives we needed to adopt the most effective natural ventilation strategy available. The Windcatcher X-Air system from Monodraught best met both objectives and proved to be an extremely effective and affordable solution.”
One of the issues affecting the project was the site’s proximity to Stansted Airport, which made acoustics a vital part of the specification. The architects were adamant that the building should not be a hermetically sealed box that would require mechanical ventilation to be specified, as this would prevent windows from being opened and would not allow teaching staff to control their own environment. Explains Toby: “We were very keen that natural ventilation was the predominant strategy for the building and therefor worked very closely with an acoustic consultant and Monodraught to review different ways to achieve natural ventilation while giving staff a controllable environment with the option to open windows if needed.“
All classrooms are monitored using a Monodraught iNVent control system, which works automatically but also allows teachers to override individual systems if they want to. Toby reports that the school is very pleased with the arrangement as the controls can be used to create the most suitable environment for each classroom.
On educational projects, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects is particularly interested in ensuring that buildings are not simply containers in which children attend school, but are also learning environments. To achieve this, systems employed within the school are, where possible, made apparent and visible to the children. And as Toby explains, the Monodraught X-Air systems are clearly visible on the roof, so children are able to appreciate how they may be working and, in their classrooms can also see how the X-Air units are helping to control their environment, during the seasons and under changing weather conditions throughout the year. They therefore form part of a sustainable curriculum for the school, teaching children that many different and sustainable technologies are available to help save energy.
A similar example includes a weather station that relays data to a visual display in the school library, creating an understanding of how weather can affect the pupils’ internal environment and, externally, the building itself. Thus, the school’s X-Air natural ventilation strategy, together with the other sustainable technologies, is not only providing a solution to a specification problem, but is also physically demonstrating the building’s sustainable credentials. Sarah Wigglesworth Architects acknowledges important part Monodraught played in helping Takeley School achieve its BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating, and reports that the X-Air systems are performing exactly as expected. The Monodraught natural ventilation strategy has also proved to be an affordable solution, contributing to the architects’ efforts to retain many of the original ideas and features that make Takeley School a very sustainable building.
Summing up, Toby Carr says he is pleased that Monodraught X-Air systems have helped the practice achieve its sustainable natural ventilation objectives for the school within affordable budgets.
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