6 Points to Optimise Area/ Cost Of A School Building

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How to efficiently plan a school to make it cost effective?

The initial work of cost optimization of a building lies with the architect who design the building or campus. Value engineering starts with the choice of a good architect and careful attention to be given to preliminary design scheme as well as the detailed design scheme with material specification. As this is the stage of brand building or character building for your school. Making or constructing a new educational campus is rather an easier task while preparing a vision or growth plan for the organization is something everybody tends to neglect at the initial stages. While, this neglect can pose multiple challenges and extra costs in the later years of growth. The financial gains you receive from a good architect who can plan with a vision is much greater than you can count.

Here are six pointers to optimize the cost of your school building from infrastructure to operation:

  1. Preparation of Master Plan

This is the first and the most important step in the process of making a school building. Even if the site area is nominal, a master plan with a complete vision for a fully operational school is essential. This masterplan can be divided into phases of development, where fresh construction is never going to hinder the daily operations of the school. Also the master plan to be developed in accordance to the vision and mission of the school as per potentials of the land.

  1. Basic Module of a class room

A single classroom is the basic module of any school building. Hence deriving the size of the classroom based on the intended curriculum and their teaching methodologies is very crucial. In this era of changing educational needs, classroom layouts and furniture requirements need to be carefully worked out between the architects and the management. Based on the classroom sizes a structural grid is framed to optimise the number of columns and beam.

As per the Indian Standards a Nursery school classroom to be designed for 20- 25 students and for all the higher age groups a maximum of 40 students (to a maximum of 45 students in ICSE). And the minimum floor area requirement per student in a class is 2sq m in preschool, 1.11 sq m for primary and 1.26 sq m for Higher Secondary, while CBSE prescribes a minimum of 1 sq m of area per student in a school.

  1. Size of building blocks and orientation

The size of the building blocks (length & width) need to be calculated with a consideration of your standard classroom size or grid. The optimum sizes or shapes of the block, that can be well fitted into the site without wastage of any inch of site can be derived from the master plan or site plan prepared.

The blocks need to be planned in such a way that the sunlight reaches every corner of the building, especially if you plan for a doubly loaded corridor. The dark corridors never give a good ambience or positive energy to the learning spaces. For the climatic comfort of users, the building need to be oriented in such a way as to minimise the gain of harsh summer sun while receiving warm morning sun during the winters. There are softwares to analyse the building orientations for best performance of the building throughout the year.

  1. Integration of service and vertical circulation cores

The two essential parts of the building for the smooth operation, is the service core and circulation cores.  The service core consists of washrooms, electrical room, FHC, AHUs, and all the service shafts. While vertical circulation core is the area which accommodates staircases and lifts. These requires to be strategically placed keeping future expansion plans in mind. Else you will need to repeat the same unnecessary in the next block during expansion plans. Also your service line length might increase resulting in extra running cost of your pipelines.

Fixing the location of these service blocks need to be an integral part of the future expansion plans of the school. As per Indian standards a 0.2 sq m area per student need to be reserved for Washroom facilities in a school. The National Building Code gives guidelines as to how many number of washrooms are required as per number of girls, boys and staff which are mandatory to be followed for obtaining building approval. Meanwhile there are also, fire regulation standards regarding number of staircases and exit routes, prescribed by National Building Code which are mandatory parameters to be followed. The provision for making the building or converting the building (in later years) into a centrally air conditioned building needs to be incorporated into the building plans.

  1. Built quality and low maintenance

The built quality must ensure that the materials used has a low maintenance cost. The materials should be carefully chosen in such a way that they are easy to be cleaned and can withstand any man-handling by the students. The intension should not be, to use flashy or low cost materials, but instead quality materials or locally sourced materials that can be easily replaced if damaged.

The safety of the children must be of utmost important inside a school building. Hence make sure that all the railing heights are 1.2 meters, no sharp corners or edges. Glass should be carefully used and must be toughened. Avoid unsafe nooks and corners in planning as they can encourage students to stay out of vision from teachers. An open plan which gives a through and through visual axis enhances the feel of togetherness and a safe environment.

  1. Energy Efficiency

Replenishing the energy needs of the building through renewable resources is a strategy that can be adopted right from the project inception to impeccable financial gains in the future operating costs. While the provision for the same need to incorporated right from the structure plan of the building. Provision for addition of solar energy panels and rainwater harvesting is the basic minimum value additions that can be incorporated without much of an added cost.

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Dona Alex

Architect, Academician, Architecture Critic, Researcher, Explorer