Valuable lessons A special needs school with ESD qualifications by Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architects

as featured in
A special needs school with ESD qualifications
Story by: Justin Foote
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View of exterior

Institutional architecture has, traditionally, been less than inspiring as function has taken precedence over form. In the area of education this notion has increasingly come under challenge as educators begin to use architecture as an adjunct to the learning process.

Of course, this focus is not new in the sphere of special needs education where stimulating surroundings are a matter of course. Where Kimi Ora School at Naenae differs is that the opportunity for learning is more than skin deep, says Peter Beaumont, director at Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architects.

"Kimi Ora is a new special needs-based school that provides classrooms, therapy and staff spaces to support the development of 25 students aged between six and 21.

"The school's philosophy of encouraging life skills is apparent in the wider site design, building layout and landscaping. But it is also there at a micro-level as well, expressed through exposed building elements and materials."

Translucent panels have been incorporated into various sections of the ceiling and wall fabric to provide opportunity for students and staff alike to view many elements of the building's construction and services exposed ducts and cable trays, slab heating manifolds and roof construction that are normally concealed.

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Exterior of school with landscaping.

These glimpses into the inner-workings of the school are complemented by a pared back exterior.

"The exterior playground structures are a combination of glulaminated post and beam frames and rough-sawn timber," says Beaumont. "Exposing the simple frames around the circulation routes and central courtyard verandas helps inform users of the building's structure. Rough-sawn timber was used on the shade pergolas, fencing, gates and planters to offset the metal and concrete used in the hard landscaping."

The school is located on a greenfield site situated between Naenae Intermediate School and Naenae College. Architecturally, the building reads as a series of interconnected forms, which helps to visually reduce the overall scale and references the two adjoining schools.

The location creates a sense of commonality for the Kimi Ora community with those of the other schools. At the same time, the design incorporates a central courtyard with sensory garden and sheltered paths, creating a safe, calm space for students at the heart of the facility.

Another feature of the school is the combination of passive and active environmentally sustainable initiatives, which have earned the school a 5 Green Star NZ Education Design 2009 certified rating.

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View of forked hallways with wooden flooring.

"Ample glazing around the courtyard allows sun into the building core reducing the dependence on artificial lighting for much of the school day.

"The timber frame on concrete slab construction uses 140mm and 190mm exterior wall framing and 400 deep posi-strut roof framing. Combined with double glazing throughout, the building fabric achieved a very high insulation rating. In-slab heating is complemented by a tempered air supply system utilising heat recovery technology and mixed mode ventilation," says Beaumont.

Plywood panels made from sustainably grown New Zealand plantation pine have been used in the interior to provide warmth and patterning as well as a robust finish.

"The specification requiring 90% of all timber to be FSC was key to the project achieving its 5 Green Star Design rating. The completed building is being assessed for a Green Star build rating as well, for which we expect to achieve the same level of certification," says Beaumont.

Mar 15, 2012

Credit list

Kimi Ora School; Ministry of Education
Project manager
Arrow International
Quantity Surveyor
Monastra QS Consultants
Services engineer
Norman Disney Young
ESD consultants
Team ESD
Wall coverings
Daylighting systems
Main contractor
Maycroft Construction
Bell Kelly Beaumont Team Architects
Structural engineer
Spencer Holmes
Landscape architect
Boffa Miskell
Automatic entry systems
Tormax Doors
Fire servicing
Aquaheat Industries
Ceiling tiles
T & R
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