Expectations in education have changed over the years, and educational buildings are no exception. The environmental requirements of new builds continues to increase year on year; expanding educational opportunities mean campuses require new facilities and improved learning spaces; and ever changing technologies mean everything that is built for today must also be prepared for what new technology might come along tomorrow. For South West College, and the architects working with them, all these things had to be embraced when designing the new Erne Campus.
Leading the way in Environmental Construction.
West College has always sought to be at the forefront of environmental
construction. The CREST centre at South West College, Enniskillen, is the
Centre for Renewable Energy & Sustainable Technologies, and provides
assistance for businesses in the renewable energy, sustainability,
environmental and construction industries.
It is one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK and Ireland.
Now, the Erne Campus will see the delivery of the first educational building worldwide to achieve the highest international standard in environmental constructions (PassivHaus Premium), ranking it alongside prestigious buildings such as the Apple Campus 2, in terms of sustainable innovation and design.
Carr is a senior architect at Hamilton Architects, who are the ICT architects
on the Erne project. He has spent several years helping bring South West
College’s vision to fruition, and he explains that environmentally conscious construction
was a major factor from the start.
are three main elements that went in to producing the original design. Firstly
of course you have the requirements of the college and what they want from the
building; secondly you have the features and practicalities of the site that
was chosen; and thirdly you have the crucial element of the environmental
requirements, which was a very important aspect for South West College.
three elements can be summed up by the curved glazed atrium at the front of the
building. It’s a great design feature, because it gives the building an iconic
look from the town of Enniskillen. However, it’s also a crucial environmental
feature, because it captures so much solar gain. That’s been a crucial part of
the design process of the building from the very beginning.”
As a learning space, flexibility is key.
environmental consciousness has been a vital part of the design process, but
the Erne Campus is of course first and foremost a place for education.
says, “In terms of planning for education we were very much led by the college
themselves. They encouraged us to look at modern examples of flexible learning
spaces, something which is becoming more and more common.
“A lot of it comes down to the furniture in the rooms, and having desks that could be used in multiple configurations, allowing for group learning and individual study. Technology wise you’re talking about large touchscreens and pupils having access to computers and laptops. The college, as the client, was very proactive in providing us with case studies from other projects they’d seen and other universities.”
constant developments in technology, in both education and construction,
designing a modern building that will still be modern in ten years’ time, isn’t
necessarily straightforward. Peter emphasises that when you’re trying to do so,
flexibility is very much the key word.
the difficulties with these projects is the long periods they take from design
to final use. But longevity is always something we have in mind. Flexibility is
always something a client wants and always something we try and build in to our
projects as much as possible. As such a lot of the internal walls in the
building are lightweight studwork, so there is the possibility that certain
rooms could be reorganised in the years to come.
are always advancing, but the college are well placed to know about this, and
we’ve been able to take a lead from them in certain scenarios. They know, like
we do, that the key to being ready for any change in technology is to not create
too many layouts that are confined to one set purpose. You don’t want spaces
that are only fit for the technologies we have now. Flexibility is the key.”
Follow Architectural Principles and Your
Building Will Stay Modern
architect heavily involved with the project is Karl Pederson. Karl is from
Mullarkey Pederson Architects, and their role, as part of the IST team, is to
act as architects for the main contactors, Tracey Brothers. He agrees that allowing
for a flexible environment is crucial, and insists that creating a modern
learning space doesn’t mean tearing up the rule book of what came before.
think it’s a case of breaking a pattern. I think it’s a case of letting a
pattern evolve with the natural way that people learn and understand.
to teaching is communication. Nowadays we communicate differently. Things that
were once on a paper format are now digital, and as such we can communicate
with people all over the world. When we work with further education facilities,
and we think about future building, that’s always something they want: a
worldwide classroom. So that’s something we’re working towards with South West
comes to designing a building that will last for the future, inevitable
developments in technology don’t concern Karl. Instead he simply says that a
building must be designed in a way that will embrace these changes when they
prepare all you want in terms of future-proofing, but I think there’s a natural
evolution with technology and how people use it. People were trying to future
proof things fifteen years ago, but technology that was new then is antiquated
now. Younger generations have no apprehension about technology. They expect the
latest thing to be everywhere, they expect to have information and communication
at their fingertips. A classroom shouldn’t be any different.”
building communicates with people it will continually stay modern, so that’s
what we have to ensure. To do this we have to think about the way spaces are
going to be used, how people are going to interact with them, how they’re going
to work with light and colour and textures. But these are all things I would
consider architectural principles, and if you guide your design process with
architectural principles then you’ll always end up with a modern building.”