Learning centre achieves environmental credentials

A £3.5million Collaborative Learning Centre (CLC), funded by Essex County Council, is helping to transform education facilities in Wickford, Essex. Built on the site of The Bromfords School, accommodation includes a large hall, entrance area, small hall, theme room, video recording studio, external spaces and classrooms for workshops.

The Centre is a collaborative project created to provide an invaluable resource filled with technology that children would not normally have at school. It boasts hi-tech music, art and IT facilities for use by Wickford’s eleven primary schools, one special school and the local community. It is expected that up to 120 primary school children and their teachers will use the facility every day.

Commenting on the project, Kevin Harrison of Colchester-based architects Stanley Bragg Architects says: “From the start, an important part of the brief for the CLC was that it should be as sustainable a building as possible and, working in conjunction with M&E consultants Peter Sharp Associates, many of the original aspirations of the building and its environment were met. A Monodraught natural ventilation strategy was therefore a natural choice in place of traditional opening windows, where noise from outside the building could be a distraction in spaces dedicated to learning, and similarly, noise from activities within the building, such as live shows and concerts, could be a nuisance to local residents.”

The Monodraught system also enabled the Centre to comply with a number of noise restrictions that were placed on the building, especially in specialist spaces where large groups of people rehearse and develop plays and musical events. In addition, the original plans to use solar power were changed, so the Monodraught Sola-boost units provided an opportunity to include solar power into the building specification by a different route. The Sola-boost units have been especially beneficial during the extended spell of hot weather experienced last summer as the long hours of sunshine meant that the Sola-boosts’ solar powered fans have increased the throughput of air at just the right time.

The building also features highly sustainable ground-source heat pumps as its main temperature control system and particular attention has been paid to air tightness, both of which complement the Windcatcher Sola-boost natural ventilation strategy, which allows the building to breathe, but can also be fully controlled using its motorised louvre system.

The Sola-boost systems also allow fresh air into the building during autumn and winter when opening windows would not be acceptable to the students, teachers and members of the public using the Centre during the day and night.

As the ground-source heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, they are used to introduce some comfort cooling if required, during larger events where 300 or more people are in one of the spaces.

Tony Cull, Managing Director of Monodraught says: “Creating a comfortable learning environment is vital for students and teachers alike, and with eleven schools, one special school and the local community using the Centre, the addition of our solar powered natural ventilation systems proved to be an inspired choice for the very hot summer of 2010.”

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