© Dennis Gilbert / VIEW
© Dennis Gilbert / VIEW

Redbrook Hayes Primary School

Walters & Cohen have been at the core of developments in the architecture of DfES-sponsored Exemplar Schools, since the scheme’s inception in 2003. Redbrook Hayes Primary School in Staffordshire was designed according to their original template and focuses on the ideas of transparency and flexibility within the learning environment.

The concept for this single-storey block was based on a central open space, or ‘heart’ area, around which lie heavily glazed classrooms, building a sense of connection between different learning groups, and minimising any potential for bullying: separate areas such as corridors, toilet blocks and stairs were omitted. A well-equipped library close to the entrance is also open to the local community as well as the school.

Simplicity and economy were vital to the success of the Exemplar, utilising local trades and materials. These governing factors also promoted an emphasis on environmental concerns, which is evident in the design. The existing school was demolished prior to construction, and its foundations removed. We replaced these with simple strip and pad footings, beneath beam-and-block floors spanning onto masonry dwarf walls.

Dense polystyrene infill blocks were used instead of concrete to reduce the self-weight of the floor and provide integral insulation. 75 mm screed was laid over the insulation, and a void kept between this and a suspended timber floor for transfer of services, also used as a plenum to draw air into the building. A steel frame was used to maximise flexibility of internal layout; columns are generally set at 7.2 m centres and allow the internal walls to be non-load-bearing, and therefore alterable if necessary.

150 mm concrete slabs span the classroom roofs, maximising thermal mass to create a naturally ventilated building. Over the ‘heart’ of the school this is not required, and a light, inexpensive ply deck runs over timber joists which span onto the supporting steelwork.

An exemplar school with a flexible and highly visible internal layout

Staffordshire, UK
Staffordshire Joint Schools Property Unit
Walters & Cohen
£ 3.5 million
1,600 m²
  • 2007 RIBA Award