The design brief for Dandenong High School required the devel opment of education spaces and settings appropriate to 21st century learning. This meant student-centred spaces that were responsive to and supported various learning and teaching modes. Ultimately, the design was driven by the school’s curriculum.
The client — the Department of Education — laid down the challenge of creating an environmentally friendly school which was also innovative — main taining the status quo was not an option.
“I think the biggest challenge we all face in education [design] is understand ing the new education paradigm. It is just so different to our inherited experi ence and traditional understanding — and it is also very dynamic,” says Richard Leonard.
“I think both educators and designers are wrestling with the same issues — how do we provide education that is real, that promotes deep learning and is rele vant to our students? And what do these facilities look like?”
Masterplanning for the project took 18 months, with drawings for the project not started until eight months into the process, which Leonard says was good as “we didn’t taint the process by quick designs or flashy pen strokes.
“I now call this ‘slow cook’ design — sometimes you just need that to get to the right answers. Innovation — true innovation — is hard to achieve quickly. So although many wanted the project to happen more quickly, the slow cook provide a far better solution than ‘fast food’ ever could have.”
The building targeted a 4 star Green Star rating under the new education Green Star tool — implementing ESD initiatives on the project was a team effort of several companies coming together. Sustainable Built Environments (SBE) worked with Hayball and its serv ices engineers — Wood & Grieve — to identify realistic ESD opportunities and to model the buildings with the ESD techniques determined with the team.
“[This project] demonstrated that there are always solutions to every challenge if all members of the project team are united in achieving the project objectives,” says Floyd Yap.
The building is positively pressured using higher air flows to create the feel ing of lower temperatures. This also accommodates comfort levels in all of the learning spaces — for example, the comfort levels are unaffected by room re-configurations (through the use of operable walls), doors left open or closed or the size of groups in each area.
The buildings have also been mod elled to extend to 27 degrees before the air tempering needs to cut in by way of an evaporative cooling element. This only occurs after the air is pre-tempered by being drawn though the hollow cores of the first floor slab.
All environmental performance data is transferred through the building man agement system and displayed on LCD screens throughout the school. This enables students to be exposed to and involved in the ESD performance of their school and can also be used as an educational tool.
Yap says materials were chosen for their recyclability. “Most of the materials used on-site were designed to have a minimal impact on the environment. For example, the air-conditioning was con trolled by a building management sys tem to manage the air quality and tem perature,” he says.
“The paint used also gives off low gasses; skirtings were rubber not vinyl; eco-friendly plywood was used; a Colorbond metal roof and wall cladding were used; we installed exposed pre cast concrete walls and face brickwork; and plasterboard drywall partitions were installed.”
The soil removed from the site also went to garden suppliers to be refined and turned back into garden top soil. Also, waste from the site was sent to a recycled centre for processing.
Any issues between HMC Construction and Hayball were over come by talking and understanding. “I think when you understand the other person’s drivers — the things that force them to follow certain arguments — then you’re a good way to resolving an ami cable resolution,” Leonard says.
“We, as professionals, need to help our clients identify appropriate ESD solutions and support them in making sound decisions. Modelling of the build ings is critical in this process and then being able to show them pay-backs in terms of costs and performance.
“That’s how you overcome the cir cumspection that clients may have — they need the evidence upon which to make their decisions. Simple as that.”
Dandenong High School was a finalist in the Public Building & Urban Design category of the 2009 BPN Sustainability Awards.