Re-purposing an existing, outdated educational space into a viable, flexible, learning environment is a perplexing problem ripe for architectural reflection. Finding a pre-fabricated, cost-effective remedy for this recurring situation created an opportunity to explore what it would take to design a sustainable model for extending the lifespan of urban schools. Since there was no additional square footage available for typical classrooms, the challenge for this New York City Community Charter School was to create a hybrid design that would provide quality spaces for learning that were flexible, removable, cost-effective, acoustically quiet and aesthetically delightful. The final resolution entailed relocating athletics to the school exterior and re-purposing the school gymnasium into a Pre-Fab Learning Landscape.
A Sustainable Solution
The Pre-Fab Learning Landscape is an ideal sustainable strategy for it can be re-configured, removed, re-purposed, relocated and recycled. Moreover energy savings from factory installed insulated walls, LED lighting, quick build time, minimum waste and improved air quality during construction, make it the ultimate sustainable solution for schools in need of jumpstarting flexible, cost-effective learning environments.
A Flexible Learning Solution
The Pre-Fab Learning Landscape multi-functions to create changeable environments that suit variable learning styles and programmatic needs. The brightly colored metal-paneled “classroom buildings”, in their most basic iteration, serve as three traditional teaching spaces, each accommodating approximately twenty-five students and two teachers. The area between the classrooms and perimeter gymnasium walls, visible from space enlarging classroom windows, creates a place for flexible small group learning. By opening a series of large-scale whiteboard clad sliding doors, this interstitial space can easily transform into a flexible location for a variety of sizable learning situations from dance performances to community meetings.
A Streamlined Construction Solution
Factory built, the Pre-Fab Learning Landscape classrooms are made of metal framing clad in two-sided infill panels, bright colored metal on the exterior and gypsum board on the interior. Equipped with switch boxes, outlets and a factory-wired raceway, the framing system supports a metal ceiling grid, topped with a metal roof above and LED light-gypsum tile dropped ceiling below. The double layered ceiling creates ample acoustical privacy throughout. Connections to base building mechanical, electrical and fire-protection systems run in the zone between the classroom metal roofs and the gymnasium ceiling. Once base building systems are in place, assembling the Pre-Fab Learning Landscape is straightforward and efficient.
As we explore design options that sit within the crevices of more traditional architectural construction, we can find incremental design solutions that sustainably, cost-effectively and aesthetically serve the immediate needs of our clients as well as the educational community at large. The Pre-Fab Learning Landscape clearly falls into this category for it creates an affordable, sustainable, visually compelling, flexible learning environment that can function on a temporary or permanent basis. Less invasive than typical construction, the Pre-Fab Learning Landscape is a prototypical solution for many diverse urban schools that struggle to keep their doors open while they search for more permanent educational space solutions.