Camille Lattouf, associate in the urban planning team at Architectus, explains what the move to vertical schools will mean for designers and the students set to use them. 

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the vertical school concept?

Vertical schools allow for a more efficient use of land by consolidating learning and administrative spaces into one building, rather than being sprawled across a larger site like in the traditional school model. The main challenge for vertical schools is the aspect of vertical circulation, particularly when there is a set class structure and where you need to be able to move large groups of students throughout the building efficiently. 

While you can always introduce more vertical circulation into the design through additional stairways, the best way to deal with these challenges is through cultural change. Operational solutions like the staggering of class times so that different classes can move around the building at different times, or grouping them to specific parts of the building so they’re only moving between a reduced number of floors, can reduce the risk of blockages in key circulation areas.

How does the move to collaborative learning fit in with vertical schools, and how does this effect the design process?

When applying open and collaborative learning spaces to vertical schools, it is integral that you maintain the flexibility of space. You need to be able to allow for areas to be cordoned off to create smaller spaces, or opened to be used as one large space. There also needs to be natural light and ventilation to help it feel like an open environment. Overall, the design must include adequate floor space so you’re not compromising amenity with the height.

What will make vertical schools more sustainable?

The best way we can ensure the success of sustainability is by including the students, and giving them an element of control. There are a lot of opportunities to make the building itself a learning environment, such as allowing the students access to gauges to see how much water and energy is being used, or to control the solar offset rather than making them automated like in a commercial building. The building can be a beneficial educational apparatus that can actively engage students in these sustainability concepts.

While both the design and materials need to be included in any sustainability measures, it is the purpose of a space that will make the biggest difference. To design a school that is durable, you need to understand how many students will be using the space as well as its intended purpose to ensure it will be a sustainable use of materials.

How do vertical campuses best utilise the shared school and public spaces to create land and cost efficiencies for the provision of new public infrastructure?

To use Sydney as an example, there are huge amounts of pressure on land. As a result, it is becoming difficult for the state to acquire enough land to provide the facilities they need. Vertical schools are well-placed in urban centres to provide and support the required public facilities. 

Schools facilities are not used even 50 percent of the time; in evenings, weekends and throughout the holidays. Rather, having a duplication of facilities for school and public use, there is an opportunity to open up school sites and make them available to the public. This eliminates the need to develop new facilities, while the cost of upkeep can be shared with the community.

A full version of this article is available in the November/December 2017 issue of Infolink | BPN.