Maber – Education and Skills Funding Agency

Established in 1983, Maber is an award-winning practice with offices in Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, London and Birmingham.

Transforming three secondary schools for 21st century education

Secondary education is a fundamental time of life, however those who also have to endure this time in a decaying and poorly insulated building, this can only add unnecessary pressure and stress for both students and teachers.

For Reading Girls’ School, Westfield Academy, and Longdean Secondary School, this was the case. These three schools were identified by the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme, set up to address the needs of schools in urgent need of repair.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), responsible for the schools, opted to create three new learning centres on the existing sites to provide a 21st century education for the 4,000 students across the three schools.

Multi-functional educational spaces

Through a competitive dialogue process, the ESFA appointed a consortium including award-winning architectural practice Maber. The challenge was to provide users with spaces that gave an inspirational feel, and offered the students to feel excited to learn. Of course with this, the team had to meet extremely high performance requirements for daylight, natural ventilation and acoustic performance coupled with tight budgets.

maber - ESFA

Designs were drafted by a team of experienced architects and technicians, who regularly attended meetings with the EFSA to discuss ideas. Despite each school differing in size and design, ranging from 900 students to 1,600, Maber implemented common design elements where possible to keep costs to a minimum. To add to the challenge, the schools required a flexible environment that could be modified to suit different activities when needed.

Maber use Archicad for custom facilities management requirements

Archicad’s zone tool became essential for the architects when translating the ESFA’s space requirements into a functional building design, as it allowed Maber to experiment with their designs, without wasting time on the project.

maber - ESFA

When designing the spaces to be equipped for differing activities, the team had to work within the ESFA’s strict expectations for room sizes, with their own room data sheets, including a bespoke coding system and a rigorous system of technical review and independent certification. The ESFA provided its requirements for custom facilities management information to Maber, which were added into Archicad as IFC parameters from the start of the project.

Cost-effective standardised designs

Working collaboratively in the consortium, Maber developed standardised details and designs in response to the differing briefs and site constraints. A fabric first approach was offered, with increased insulation values and air tightness. This would mean that the buildings’ performance go well over the standard Building Regulation requirements.

The integrated and cost-effective designs were produced to a Level 2 BIM Protocol; sharing, clash-detecting and federating building models from each discipline to fully understand and communicate the emerging designs. Each building is based around a central fully glazed street that provides an exciting and inspiring heart to the schools.

To allow the ESFA to be fully involved in the design process, visualisations were utilised at an early stage. GRAPHISOFT’s BIMx viewer allowed the client to virtually walk around the model and communicate much easier and quicker with the team.

Maber utilise IFC and Solibri to share and collaborate

Maber worked closely with buildings consultancy Arup, who were responsible for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP), fire, acoustic and structural performance of the schools. It was vital that all parties could communicate their design models easily, and Maber, Arup and the rest of the design and delivery team had decided to use the IFC protocol to share their data.

maber - ESFA

While Archicad has no issue with handling IFCs, Solibri was brought into play for federation and clash detection. It was also used to create and maintain model risk registers which drove design team reviews and risk management. Federation enabled the architectural model to link directly to MEP and structural models and would immediately show any clashes. The federated IFCs were available for access across the delivery team, allowing collaborators to interrogate the model, rather than drawings. Archicad acted as the principal architectural modelling tool, while Solibri held the project together.

“Archicad has been our primary design tool for nearly 20 years. It provides us with all of the advantages of BIM; in particular productivity gains along with excellent opportunities for collaboration, team-working, visualisation and of course, outputs that our clients want for future facilities management. Within Archicad, building components, unlike in other applications, are independent and can be modified without having to dismantle large parts of the model and turn layers on and off. Archicad allows us to experiment with different iterations of a design, export IFCs for analysis and comparison, and communicate our design through software such as BIMx, which has proved extremely popular with clients.” – Ian Harris, director at Maber.

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