Learning Lessons from the Scottish School Building Programme: Providing an Accessible, Sustainable Environment for 21st Century Education

By David Grierson and Claire Hyland.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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The largest school building programme in the history of Scotland is taking place from 2000–2011 to extensively refurbish or replace 21% of local authority schools. Thereafter, the Scottish government has pledged to improve all schools remaining in poor or bad “condition” or “suitability” (Scottish Government, 2009). Based on the School Estate Statistics 2010 (Scottish Government, 2010), 36% of the school estate could still require improvement work. As the first stage in this long-term building programme draws to a close, it is necessary to reflect on the performance of new and refurbished school buildings in meeting the requirements of 21st century education. This paper argues that further research is required to establish the strengths and weaknesses of accessible design in Scotland’s new and refurbished schools. Reference is made to relevant national and global educational initiatives, such as “Inclusive Education” and “Education for Sustainable Development”, and changes to the national curriculum in the form of the new Curriculum for Excellence. A brief summary of Scottish government design guidance also helps to establish the requirements of the built environment in helping to deliver modern education. “Improving the School Estate” (Audit Scotland, 2008), the most comprehensive study of new and refurbished school buildings in Scotland, found the worst performing factors to be lighting, temperature, acoustics, and air quality. The adverse effects that these factors can have on all people, and particularly those with impairments or additional support needs, are examined. It is concluded that further investigations within the area of accessible design in Scotland’s new and refurbished schools should be undertaken in order to achieve an inclusive, inspirational, and sustainable learning environment for current and future generations.

Keywords: School Buildings, Accessibility, Sustainability, Educational Environments, Architecture

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp.63-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 252.975KB).

Dr. David Grierson

Deputy Head of Architecture, Director of Sustainable Engineering, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Dr. Grierson is the Deputy Head of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, where he also directs the Sustainable Engineering Postgraduate Programme. His teaching and research interests are in sustainable architecture and urban design. He is particularly active in the integration of teaching and learning activity across the postgraduate community, and the promotion of knowledge exchange and CPD through increased engagement with business, industry, and the professions. Dr. Grierson is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a visiting lecturer in sustainability in Manchester, Rome, and Florence. His own architectural work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, and he has gained a number of architectural awards including two Glasgow Institute of Architecture Design Awards and a Sir Rowan Anderson Silver Medal for Architectural Design. He has an active role in both the architectural and engineering professions, being listed in the UK Register of Architects, acting as the Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor (Engineering Design for Sustainable Development) contact for faculty.

Claire Hyland

Research Assistant, Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

Claire Hyland graduated from Postgraduate Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 2007. She is currently undertaking a PhD in the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde, sponsored by University scholarship. Her PhD research focuses on accessible design in Scotland’s new and refurbished school buildings. Claire’s main interests are in sustainable and accessible architecture and education. Additional projects include working in collaboration with colleagues in creating and designing workshop activities for school children based on sustainable communities and developing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in accessible design. Previously, she worked as an assistant to a visually impaired PhD student of Architecture, assisting in his research on urban design for people with visual impairment, and was employed as a Research Assistant in the Department of Architecture, supporting Dr. David Grierson in developing a framework for new postgraduate activity in the area of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. She has experience tutoring students and gained professional experience working in architectural practices both in the Glasgow and Spain, where she gained fluency in the language.