How Facade Systems can be used to create a better learning environment

1/25/2021

For projects in the education sector there are aims and targets that must be met to ensure it meets the needs of students and staff and supports the learning process. The design and specification of the external building envelope can have a significant contribution to achieving these aims.

A good indoor environment

A key consideration when designing a building for education is creating an environment that supports the health, wellbeing and learning of students. This includes levels of daylight, thermal comfort, indoor air quality and ventilation. For schools, the Department of Education’s Output Specification provides, amongst other requirements, detailed guidance on these factors in the Internal Environmental Condition standards it outlines.

The correct specification of the façade elements, such as curtain walling, doors and windows, can help architects to meet these requirements in the most effective way. Where a range of targets need to be met, engaging with an experienced system supplier during the design phase can allow innovative solutions to be formulated.

An example of this is on the Oasis Academy Don Valley, which provides modern, state-of-the-art learning spaces for 1,200 students aged from two to 16. Here, Bond Bryan Architects worked with our team on a design that made innovative use of TECHNAL curtain walling and windows to maximise daylight and provide safe and effective ventilation. The building features 1,500m2 of our GEODE MX 52 visible grid curtain walling used to create large fixed glazed sections, meeting the daylighting requirement. Different sized TECHNAL FXi 65 windows were also integrated into the curtain wall, including a side-hung window that opens like a door and a smaller bottom hung open-in window, fulfilling the ventilation requirement. To ensure the safety of the students, the openable windows sit behind a bright yellow or green laser cut aluminium powder coated mesh tray, which is welded into the curtain wall system. Solar shading elements were also integrated into the system to help control the indoor environment.

Achieving the right acoustic performance

Another essential consideration for any educational project is acoustics. Noise from outside the building or learning space is not only a source of distraction and disturbance but can also make teaching more difficult. A quiet environment also reduces stress levels and enables better concentration. For student accommodation buildings, ensuring an environment free of external noise is essential for the health and wellbeing of those living there.

The choice of curtain walling system and specification of the glazing has a significant impact on the acoustic performance and transmission of sound. Industry standard double glazing will deliver around a 30 dB to 35 dB reduction in sound against normal passage through air. This can be improved through specifying special acoustic grade glass and thicker panes, widening the cavity or by introducing secondary glazing: which can generate a 40 dB or greater reduction. The flanking sound or flanking noise also needs to be considered. This refers to the energy waves that pass over or around, rather than directly penetrating a barrier. This means that although an insulating glass (IG) unit or architectural glazing system may offer good acoustic insulation, noise can still penetrate the building interior, or pass between spaces.

At the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) , the acoustic performance of the building was a key requirement, partly due to its proximity to a busy A-road. Architectural glazing specialist Dortech, who provided the design, manufacture and installation of the curtain walling, worked with our team on a specification that featured 3,100 m2 of our MX62 curtain wall accommodating over 40 different types of IG units. High density foam inserts were utilised alongside decoupling joints in the mullion sections to achieve 50 Dnfw flanking sound reduction, as well as 37 dB sound reduction for noise from outside the building.

For acoustically complex projects, facilities such as our accredited acoustic test laboratory can help in assessing and developing a solution to ensure it meets the required performance levels. Also, in response to increasingly stringent acoustic requirements we’ve launched TechAcoustic  - the only tool on the market that provides a reliable evaluation within 1 dB of accuracy for any composition (dimensions and glazing) and is equivalent to a laboratory based test. You can achieve the desired performance levels in just a few clicks, saving significant time as well as measuring possible savings made. Models for complex assemblies, for example, window on a sill with a fixed or fan light, as well as large-sized construction can also be created.

Quality, durability and security

A further factor that must be considered, especially when selecting doors and windows for educational facilities, is the quality, durability and security. By their nature these buildings will often experience high levels of traffic and heavy use. As elements of the building that are interacted with most frequently, the doors and windows must be able to withstand this level of use. Additionally, security is also an issue, especially for buildings in publicly accessible areas such as off-campus student accommodation and buildings on open campuses.

Doors specially designed for heavy duty use can help minimise wear and extend the lifecycle of the product to reduce on-going costs. For example, our CD Commercial Door, which is available as pivoting, rebated and sliding door versions, has been used on a number of buildings in the sector.

There are also a range of door and window systems that have gained approval through the police service’s Secured by Design (SBD) initiative and meet the PAS 24 standard for enhanced security. On the £52 million, 893 bedroom, Paradise Street student accommodation project in Coventry, our high traffic, Secured by Design compliant STII doors were used on the main entrances. The specification included maglocks and automatic gearing that were tied into the Building Management System, ensuring all doors open in the event of evacuation. Similarly, our FY 65 windows were used on The Shield , a £18.4m student accommodation development in Newcastle city centre. Here any fixed light or fixed light with vent windows at ground floor level had to be Secured by Design certified.

With the education sector encompassing a wide range of different types of institution and building, the specific needs are similarly varied. However, whatever the exact requirements are, the façade systems have a significant role in creating an environment that is healthy, safe, secure and supports staff and students in teaching and learning. Engaging with a systems supplier during the design stages can help ensure the most suitable solutions can be identified and developed.

Click here to read how our products have been utilised on other school, college and higher education projects or contact us here to speak to a member of our expert team.