Award-winning Elm Court School in London's Lambeth is an education establishment for up to 100 students with special educational needs. To create it, an Edwardian former school building was refurbished and remodelled under the government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative. New work included the addition of a gymnasium and arts teaching block. The existing building is a local landmark and the site is in a conservation area. Our structural, building services and civil engineers were appointed to the project along with our environmental consultants.
The main structural challenges in the existing building were the raising of the floor levels in order to optimise space and remove split levels, the creation of an atrium at the heart of the building and the construction of a new external steel and glass stair tower. The atrium features an ETFE translucent roof, allowing natural light to fill the space.
At the rear of the site, former playing fields have been redeveloped to provide the new gymnasium and arts teaching buildings, grouped around a large amphitheatre. The amphitheatre is both a method of dealing with the differing ground levels and a retaining structure. To maximise thermal mass for the servicing strategy, the new structures are steel frame with precast concrete floors and reinforced concrete containing walls.
One of aims of the project was to provide facilities with good energy efficiency. This was achieved through careful design and the choice of materials in the new buildings, utilising thermal mass for natural ventilation. The existing building provided a good basis to begin with because of the thermal mass of the building fabric, the high floor to ceiling heights, its good daylight and natural ventilation levels. Replacement windows were installed where necessary to meet current standards.