The building has been designed with a simple, no-frills approach to sustainability, centred around natural materials, natural ventilation and avoiding a reliance on M&E which can cause maintenance issues down the line for education clients. This was also because mechanical ventilation was simply not needed thanks to the corridor-free design (heating is via standard radiators linked to the school’s system), and was inappropriate here given the likely pattern of use, confirms Jerry Tate. “There’s no point making a super air-tight building with mechanical ventilation, because staff and pupils are going in and out all the time – that’s the point of the institution.”

WELCOME APPROACH The refurbished Parent/Teacher Hub to the south will allow parents to meet teachers informally, and punctuates the new approach to the site All images © Kilian O’Sullivan

The double aspect enables natural cross-ventilation, but despite the simplicity of the approach, the architects still energy modelled the classrooms to ensure ventilation levels were acceptable. The only space that has any form of M&E cooling is home economics, but this will “only be needed on very hot summer days,” says Andrew. Jerry Tate comments, “The headmaster was clear from the start – questioning why have corridors as kids don’t melt, they are eventually going to have to live in a world with weather.” He adds that the way the building explicitly connects with its environment as far as possible ties into the practice’s ethos of giving users of its buildings easy access their surroundings: “There is an inclusivity issue with a lot of the work we do, which is about access.”

Hub & new entrance PROJECT FACTFILE

Client: Cranleigh Preparatory School Architect: Tate Harmer D&B contractor: Blue Forest QS: Frank Gainsbury Structural engineer: Engenuiti M&E engineer: Skelly & Couch/The Design Collective/REED M&E Landscape architect: Barton Willmore

Gross internal area: 583 m² Planning approval: June 2016 Completion: Autumn 2018

The final piece of the masterplan to date was the decision to turn the former art building, a small 1970s-built single-storey anomaly – previously isolated in the middle of the site, into a real asset. This was completely refurbished and reclad in larch, providing a purpose-designed ‘Parent/Teacher Hub’ which will allow parents to have a far more informal way of meeting teachers. This included generous windows enabling parents to see a large amount of the school itself including the new building. A green roof was the ultimate goal, particularly as the hub’s overlooked by the art rooms, but was not possible due to budget constraints. It will now be the “front door to the

school” says Andrew, enhanced by landscaping to come which will provide a much more welcoming approach than the current tarmac. Says Jerry Tate: “The hub idea is currently in vogue among private schools –you can meet the teacher without


having to go back into an office, which is very confrontational. It’s a soft ‘interstitial’ space that’s not the school and not outside.” He adds: “It was eked out of nothing in terms of the budget.”

Budget Jerry Tate says that despite this being a prestigious private school, there was a demanding budget to stick to, and some compromises were necessary such as not having a brick base as originally intended. Repeatable elements such as in the roof construction helped keep the costs down, but this does not feel like a ‘value engineered’ project. Tate says that the project being design and build helped the project stick to budget, but didn’t mean compromises – “the advantage of D&B was that what we said we were going to do, we did.” There was a further benefit in that Tate Harmer has often worked with contractor Blue Forest. Says Tate: “They’re quite a sensitive design and build contractor, with a lot of timber-framed sustainable buildings in sensitive landscapes. We have a natural affinity with them”. Tate reports that the school’s bursar “is thrilled because the project stuck to time and cost,” crucially, it needed to finish before the start of the academic year. But moreover, he says, “it represents a sustainable future for them, that’s really important.”


Through thinking around the brief, Tate Harmer has produced a ‘Swiss Army Knife’, solving a range of problems for the client, says Jerry Tate: “We were really keen to show how we could exceed the brief, just through design, not spending more money; the building does all these extra things”. Tate admits it somewhat refutes the idea

of “tight, sculptural forms” that architects love, with its set of overhanging gables, although he’s right that these have their own somewhat sculptural presence in the landscape. It will be interesting to see how Allies and Morrison’s new building over the road at the main school compares, once it’s finished. Crucially, as well as providing an outdoor function space alongside fantastic education spaces that will inspire young pupils, this project also managed to unpick this school client’s circulation problems, and create a future entrance sequence. And, as Jerry Tate stresses, it demonstrates how education buildings can be not only practical solutions for the client, but also open up to their surroundings in a brilliantly simple way. 


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