Template Schools: a unique opportunity for holistic post-occupancy evaluation
Authors: Newton, Clare ; Hes, Dominique ; Aibinu, Ajibade ; Crawford, Robert H; Goodwin, Kate ; Jensen, Christopher; Chambers, Dianne ; Chan, Toong-khuan ; Aye, Lu
In February 2009, the Australian Government announced the $16.2b Building the Education Revolution (BER) program as part of an economic stimulus package. In the context of a global financial crisis, it called for ‘shovel ready’ projects requiring state education departments to develop Template designs to speed the delivery process. The implementation of the economic stimulus initiative was heavily criticised by parts of the Australian media, particularly ‘The Australian’ newspaper, during the first half of 2010. There was concern that schools were not receiving good value for the government funds being spent.
Within this controversial context we focussed our research on schools within the state of Victoria. A multidisciplinary research team at the University of Melbourne considered that the Template designs developed in Victoria offered an unprecedented research moment in the history of Australian schools. The Victorian government school Template spaces were particularly interesting. They were designed to accommodate traditional classroom-based teaching but had the flexibility for walls slide open, allowing larger learning neighbourhoods, team teaching and flexibility of student groups rather than in fixed classroom groups. During the second half of 2010, our team studied a small number of schools in an attempt to capture the transition into the first of the newly completed ‘J’ Templates.
With $50,000 funding from the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, our team observed how learning communities in different locations and cultures occupied similar Template spaces. Our focus was on developing a suite of methodologies to undertake post-occupancy evaluations (POE) of the new Templates. POE strategies are often driven by construction and project management perspectives and rarely focus on the impact of new spaces on organisational issues and user behaviour. We were also interested in how cost and environmental performance were affected by the different locations and orientations.
The initial project tested the methodology and over the short period of implementation found that the three Template schools investigated performed well. In this preliminary research, we were able to observe gaps that occurred in handover communication compromising comfort and usability. We saw how the sustainability credentials of a design could be affected by budget cutbacks. For example, the high level louvres for night purging and ventilation were replaced with fixed glass in one school. We also saw the impact of building orientation on indoor climate. In terms of pedagogy, we not only found differences in how spaces were occupied between different schools, but also observed different pedagogical cultures between one end of a Template space and its other mirrored end. Finally, we investigated the cost of ownership of a Template using a life cycle cost analysis technique, finding that this method offered insight into future cost requirements and could suggest areas where cost reduction might be achieved in the future.