Education from start to finish — primary school to A level — is provided at this single complex, created through the Government's City Academies scheme. It's built on the playing field of an existing school, which remained open during construction. When the works were complete, the old school was demolished to make room for a new sports field.
Most of the teaching spaces are housed in two reinforced concrete wings, respectively two and three storeys high. The wings are neatly linked by an enclosed steel bridge and a triple height assembly hall. This and the sports hall are steel framed and clad in zinc tile and timber.
The assembly hall is spanned by a second enclosed bridge, so broad that it resembles a mezzanine floor. By suspending this structure from massive steel trusses at roof level, we were able to assist internal circulation while rendering the ground floor area completely column free. A strip of glazing along the bridge's facade allows natural light to enter and gives users a view across the hall.
Roof lights, brise soleil and an overflying roof, supported by steel columns, all contribute to an integrated services strategy.
Education from start to finish — primary school to A level — is provided at this single complex, created through the Government's City Academies scheme. It's built on the playing field of an existing school, which remains open during construction. When the works were complete, the old school was demolished to make room for a new sports field.
With through-life costs in mind, our building services engineers produced a low technology solution that brings the external environment into the building. In the absence of major acoustic issues, we were able to maximise use of natural ventilation. A 300mm deep panel system that opens automatically, panel by panel, was used in the classroom areas. This helps to maximize use of night-time cooling without affecting security, as a panel at the head of each window can be left open.
Daylighting is facilitated by shallow room plans and increased by clerestory glazing and lights in the saw-tooth roof.
To minimize the need for mechanical cooling, we analysed the uses of different internal areas and varied our approach accordingly. Cladding incorporates heavy insulation and glazing optimized to support passive measures.
fire & safety
An attractive and practical architectural layout can contravene prescriptive fire regulations, as at first appeared at St Matthew Academy.
Overall, each 800 sq m classroom area is fire rated to 60 minutes in accordance with the generic standard. However, 60 minute rated doors are cumbersome as well as costly and the architects also wished to include large glass vision panels to the side of each door to encourage a sense of openness. In two locations, access stairs open directly into learning areas: a layout that is proscribed by the generic regulations.
Our fire engineering team worked with the local fire brigade to agree these design elements within an overall fire strategy. By presenting the real-world scenarios, we were able to demonstrate that in practice the layout is sufficiently safe and that 30 minute rated doors will provide acceptable protection.
The main assembly and dining hall covers approximately 1,000 sq m, exceeding the prescribed 800 sq m compartment size. Here, the height of the space reduces the rate at which fire spreads, so it was agreed that existing measures are adequate to protect occupants and fire fighters.
soil & groundwater
St Matthew Academy is a new-build school located on the site of former playing fields. It provides facilities for around 950 students aged 3-16 years. Ramboll provided a full range of services for the project. Specifically, our environmental consultants undertook a desktop study and site investigation looking at any contamination risks.
The original topography had been steeply sloping and material had been brought in during the 1950s to level the site. This resulted in a layer of up to 10m of made ground, which unexpectedly turned out to contain oil deposits. There was a high risk of contaminants mobilising during construction activity, potentially causing obstruction of the aquifer. Japanese knotweed was also identified.
A detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment for groundwater was completed and a strategy agreed with the relevant authorities. The solution reached limits surface drainage from the buildings and captures surface run off, directing it away from contaminants. A model was created to predict the water flow, demonstrating the effectiveness of the design. A watching brief was established to verify results.
The European Waste Directive was introduced in January 2006, just as construction was getting underway. Adopting the new regulations had been expected to cause major delays, as the project involved a lot of earthworks. We negotiated an exemption process with the Environment Agency and, by classifying unearthed materials as part of the earthworks rather than treating it as waste, saved considerable time and money for the client.
This strategy continued into the second phase, in which old school buildings were demolished and replaced with new playing fields. A site investigation was carried out, including chemical testing and monitoring. Shallow asbestos contamination was detected and we advised the contractor on its safe excavation and removal.