SCHOOL MODERNIZATION IN PORTUGAL
TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE MODEL OF INTERVENTION Teresa V. Heitor Parque Escolar EPE email@example.com
This paper is focused on the school buildings modernization programme, launched by the Portuguese government in 2007 to bring school facilities up to higher standards, with a total investment of EUR 2.45 bn for the first 205 schools. The programme aims at raising the standards of educational facilities, trying to make optimal use of funds while minimising schools’ disruptions. A stated-owned agency, Parque Escolar EPE, was specially created for this purpose, and benefits from administrative and financial autonomy. It is responsible for planning, managing, developing and carrying out the programme, defining budgets and to ensure that school plans meet governmental expectations and deliver the intended upgrading. The programme is expected to be introduced in a total of 332 schools by 2015. The purpose of this paper is to examine the programme framework and the corresponding design strategies by exploring how they contribute to an integrated and sustainable approach towards existing schools’ improvement. The paper is organized in three parts. The first one discusses the concept of sustainability when applied to school facilities. The second one provides a summary with the key features of the Portuguese school modernisation programme, highlighting the design principles applied to enforce sustainability into the process. The third part identifies the strengths of the adopted strategy together with the challenges and problems it faces. 1. Defining School Sustainability Today, there is an increasing awareness for promotion of sustainable solutions in school facilities. As a broad concept, ”sustainability” is difficult to define in precise and concrete terms. It is most certainly concerned with an efficient long-term allocation of resources that maximizes social welfare: a policy and a strategy for continued economic and social development. Nevertheless, “sustainability” is a useful concept to be applied to school facilities improvement, as a guiding strategy to encourage education authorities to restore school suitability and efficiency in a comprehensive and cost-effective way while giving prominence to long-term decisions. The term “school sustainability” also reflects an attitude concerned with the social concept of school building design, i.e. on how to provide qualified mechanisms for developing effective design strategies, which will respond successfully to contemporary teaching and learning needs and to social, economic and environmental expectations of stakeholders, without negatively affecting future changes or compromising users’ demands. This means that “school sustainability” becomes about structuring school buildings layout to meet the needs of students, teachers and other users and contributing towards raising standards of education as well as to support security, healthy living, environmental awareness and social responsibility as a comprehensive and lifelong approach. International experiences have shown that the school spaces can affect learning and influence the attitudes and behaviours of those using them. This effect is reflected above all in the less motivated and more vulnerable students (Rudd et al, 2008). Situations of environmental discomfort caused by extreme temperatures, incorrect lighting, deficient ventilation, noise or excessive humidity are all factors that can lead to learning difficulties (Schneider, 2002; Higgins, et. al 2005) The school spatial layout, the configuration, equipment and furniture of the various learning and nonlearning spaces can interfere into the school’s educational project, affect the dialogue and communication between the members of the school community and inhibit the effectiveness of the learning strategies adopted (Mannunen, J. et al. (2007), Fisher, 2006). The lack of teachers, other school staff and students involvement in both the design and the daily
management and maintenance of school facilities can reduce their sense of responsibility in keeping an healthy, safe and efficiently low-cost school environment as well as foster incivilities and neglecting attitudes that are disruptive to the educational process (Higgins, et. al 2005). Creating opportunities for learning for all – in suitable, flexible and stimulating environments – is fostering educational performance. Offering appropriate and comfortable working conditions is contributing to the well being and consequent satisfaction and performance of the students, teachers and non-teaching staff members. Engaging the school community in the school operation, defining and solving design problems, is vital to create a positive, harmonious and cooperative learning atmosphere. 2. Modernizing Portugal's Secondary Schools The Secondary School building Modernisation Programme was developed bearing in mind that the effectiveness of an education policy depends on a comprehensive school network that is planned according to the geographical and social tissue as well as on the quality of the school buildings. The current public secondary school network in Portugal is made up of 502 schools. Alongside some buildings of acknowledged heritage value and others in which innovative solutions in spatial and construction terms were tried out, 77% of these schools were built since 1968 in accordance with standardised designs. This building programme corresponded with the extension of compulsory schooling. However, these efforts did not allow for an ongoing and consistent practice of conservation and maintenance of the existing school building stock or for their functional adaptation to reflect the changes that took place in curricula and educational and training practices. No integrated measures were put in place to address problems of degradation caused by the everyday use of the buildings and the construction problems some of the buildings faced, not to mention the need to adapt them to new learning technologies or contemporary requirements in terms of comfort, accessibility and energy efficiency. This has led to the generally acknowledged situation of most of the schools being unable to effectively meet the requirements of the current education model, in particular the challenges brought by a school operating full time with a diversified educational offer and being opened to the community. A school that is oriented towards delivering knowledge, facilitating the acquisition of skills and, at the same time, fostering lifelong training. Moreover, the school image in general is not very attractive and fails to motivate students and teachers towards active participation in school life. Improving Portuguese secondary schools called for a rethinking of the existing buildings and their adaptation so as to provide a better response centred on learning and the ways in which people learn. The real and symbolic value of the schools within the social and urban fabric of the country, the limited space available in consolidated urban areas and the urgency for an intervention, were the main reasons behind the option for a “rehabilitation” based modernisation model that would not interrupt the teaching activities. In order to develop the solutions to be implemented, Parque Escolar brought together a multidisciplinary team of architects, engineers from the various areas and landscape architects, as well as educationalists and consultants from other areas of expertise. The constraints outlined above meant that the school building model adopted is not so much the “ideal school” type as “an idea of a school” that takes into account the education project proposed for each of the schools. The purpose is to make possible to adequately respond to the needs, objectives and characteristics of the respective school communities and guarantee the sustainability of the intervention over an extended period of time. The interaction between the school and the design team begins as early as the programme development phase, thus providing exceptional conditions for involvement of the schools in defining the solutions to be put in place. The process begins with the school board team drawing up a Strategic Plan. In this document, the school summarises and explains the objectives established in its educational project and identifies the corresponding needs so that the modernisation project can address the problems on a convergence basis. From there, the schools collaborate directly with the teams of designers until the Final Design is produced and approved by the school community.
During the work preparation phase the schools are involved in defining the work phases and identifying the needs to guarantee continuity of the learning activity without major disturbances and in safety conditions. In addition to improving the conditions of use, management and maintenance, the whole school space is reorganised. In most cases, this requires the extension of the existing built area by around 30% to assist learning spaces, library and teachers work spaces needs. Particular emphasis is placed on accessibility, environmental comfort (namely the heating and ventilation of the spaces, correcting noise levels, protecting against humidity) and the general structural safety of the more vulnerable parts of the buildings, requiring careful analysis of construction methods and materials used and the technical and budgetary alternatives available for the modernisation. 3. Key features and design principles applied to enforce sustainability The upgrading of existing school facilities emphasises the need to intervene on the whole school space with sustainability in mind. A successful school site is one that can be used 365 days a year and creates as many chances to learn outside the walls of the building as it does inside. In this view, it is essential to promote: a) the flexibility of the school layout, to ensure it can encompass changing needs and evolve according to educational requests and users’ expectations; b) the robustness of the construction materials, fixed furniture and fittings to ensure the reduction of maintenance costs; c) the integration of energy efficient measures to ensure the reduction of the schools’ ongoing energy consumptions - electricity, water and natural gas - and corresponding operating costs d) the incorporation of low cost solutions, efficient technologies and measures based on simplified operational mechanisms to ensure use effectiveness and e) the engagement of the school community to ensure a participative management of the school space by assigning supervision and monitoring responsibilities to both staff and students for the school facilities. a) Spatial flexibility Spatial flexibility is ensured through the reorganization of the school spatial layout. The emphasis is on the provision of a diversity of learning and non-learning areas with spatial features adjusted to different uses, as well as areas available to the wider community after school hours. The key concept behind the reorganization of the spatial layout is based on two interconnected structural rings. A shallow one connects all the school spaces available to the community after school hours. A deeper one intertwines the teaching core with teachers’ workspaces. These two rings intersect in the informal learning core space.
Figure 1. Diagram of the spatial layout hierarchy
b) The robustness of the construction materials, fixed furniture and fittings The physical space of a school has to endure a continuous usage throughout a day (an average of 1000 users/day), a great wear due to the profile of users (majority of them are young people with a great deal of energy and creativity!) and in many cases a careless use since usually there is a weak accountability for any caused damage. The solutions adopted by the designers, particularly the cladding materials and components, are validated according to resistance to use, easy maintenance and being ecologically clean. Unless certified by a recognized laboratory materials like the following are forbidden: chipboard and cork with phenol components; solvent paints, glues and mastic; rock wool; asbestos or respective fibbers; asbestos cement or composites; bitumen and levelling compounds with VOCs. Particular attention was given to the school grounds and landscape design solutions. Limited financial resources have created the need for greater quality enhancement of these areas to ensure they are used efficiently. Landscape architects are encouraged to develop low-cost maintenance solutions, consider the use of native plants that are indigenous to the soil conditions and climate features. Whether installing new plantings or replacements they should consider orientation and surrounding conditions i.e., north side of a building versus a southern exposure, proximity to solar heat gain from surrounding pavement and/or building façade, shady versus sunny conditions, and exposure to severe winter winds. High maintenance generating plants that drop flowers, nuts and berries in locations adjacent to sidewalks and parking facilities should be avoided. c) The integration of energy efficient measures The main procedure to reduce school buildings’ energy consumptions, in order to achieve an environmental internal comfort, is by having an emphasis on bioclimatic measures in the projects, such as natural lighting; cross ventilation; the use of vertical slightly transparent movable shades; This strongly reduces maintenance and operating costs to a minimum, increasing global sustainability Improving the overall performance of buildings and their equipment increases energy efficiency. This implies: 1) reducing the carbon footprint and CO2 emissions as well as energy consumption; 2) Lowering embodied energy; 3) promoting natural lighting and ventilation; 4) installing solar shades; 5) dealing with thermal insulation; 6) preventing thermal bridges and allowing thermal mass. Reusing existing buildings and retrofitting them instead of a massive new building construction can reduce the carbon footprint. New building construction is reduced to a minimum, only added when there is an absolute need for new areas derived from the new school concept. Another measure is preserving and increasing the green surroundings and trees. To minimize thermal losses, thick insulation is used in rehabilitated blocks’ roofs and terraces and on the new buildings are used the reference values from new buildings’ code (RCCTE). Thermal bridges, discontinuities and any possible condensation points are critical places to be treated. Nevertheless the advocated high ventilation rates used in schools, particularly in classrooms, helps to avoid winter condensations when the school is in use. Also the use of high internal thermal mass and non closing ceiling slabs, allowing free circulation of room air, increases the comfort feeling on spaces where mechanical cooling is not present. Strong internal thermal mass is also beneficiated by night cooling when exterior cool air is drawn into the interior. A special agreement with the state authority on energy (ADENE – Energy Agency) was obtained to get an increased freedom on the design process, focused on two special exception measures: Design Temperatures – As a differentiating measure the legal minimum design temperature of 20ºC for winter is reduced to 18ºC, which allows some flexibility in the dimensioning of heating equipment. The legal summer design temperature is increased from 25ºC to 28ºC, which could even be exceeded by 5% of the school year, avoiding this way the installation of mechanical cooling in classrooms on almost all schools throughout the country. Reference “U” value - The coefficient of thermal transmission (U in W/m2ºC) on walls has a legal fixed value depending on each climatic region. Parque Escolar obtained a license to ignore it when in the existence of a technical justification. That avoids facades’ external insulating on rehabilitated blocks with plastic specifications or any kind of technical difficulty.
d) The integration of high efficiency solutions and easily operated (user-friendly) mechanical and electrical services Legal rules are fully respected on the demand of renewable sources insertion. Generous surface areas are created to install thermal solar collectors for heating the water of gym showers. A free area is incorporated on the roofs for the installation of 150 kWp of photovoltaic systems, including all necessary infrastructures. In a later stage, Parque Escolar intends to install the photovoltaic equipment and eventually sell the surplus energy to the national network. To reduce the maintenance costs, natural ventilation is used whenever possible. HVAC, mechanical and lighting systems are implemented in accordance with high efficiency solutions, extended output intervals of maintenance and through centralized management with monitoring. To achieve a rational operational and usage management, the central heating and air conditioning units are decentralized by building and function, therefore allowing a different use in certain spaces according to specific schedules or become inactive due to lack of space occupation. The ventilation systems must obligatorily have heat recovery. It is mandatory to use high efficiency luminaries in order not to pass the value of 10W/m2 for 500 lux. Lighting and occupation sensors are installed in circulation and toilet spaces as well as teaching and working spaces to fully maximize the use of natural lighting. In most spaces, for greater flexibility and lower maintenance costs, same size luminaries are installed, allowing light bulbs with different candlepower. The ventilation systems and equipments are mandatory certified and highly efficient. To reduce water consumptions low-flow water fixtures are installed in the toilets; drip irrigation systems are used, rather than conventional sprinklers; and capturing rainwater in cisterns and rain barrels for use on school gardens, trees, and other planted areas are also applied measures. e) The engagement of the school community Although the school management model adopted by Parque Escolar considers the joint contracting of the construction, conservation and maintenance operations for a 10-year period (including preventive, corrective, functional and large-scale maintenance), widespread participation of the school community in the daily maintenance of the school facilities is regarded as fundamental to meet the needs of those who will use them and ensure a comprehensive and lifelong approach. Participation is broadly defined by users’ engagement in activities that contribute to their sense of belonging. It includes training and support to skill teachers and other school staff in the use and management of school facilities, as well as, delivering students’ activities focused on different technical and non-technical issues concerned with the school suitability and efficiency. The school community is advised on how to make best use of the school space as an educational tool, how to minimize high cost or underused learning and non learning spaces, how to reduce energy consumption and take advantage of renewable energy technologies. In order to encourage students and staff to a healthier and participative environmental attitude and awareness, great visibility is given to energy and environmental performance indicators, by spreading monitoring devices throughout the school space and allowing users to easily see and monitor the results of the renewable systems performance. Also workshops with school designers and low building energy experts and classroom discussions are used to increase the knowledge, awareness and experience of a more sustainable school environment. It is now in development the possibility of installing a small wind generator/turbine for every school as a demonstration project on wind renewable sources. 4. Conclusion The school buildings modernization programme was initiated in March 2007. To the present date 205 schools divided into 4 phases, involving a total of 247.500 students has been covered. The pilot phase covered 4 schools that are presently fully operating, corresponding to an investment of Euros 62 million. Phase 1 started in June 2007, being the construction works about to conclude. It covers 26 schools and 32.000 students, corresponding to an investment of Euros 330 million. Phase 2 was initiated in March 2008 and works started in June 2009. It encompasses 75 schools more, a total of 90.000 students and an
investment of Euros 860 million. Phase 3 was initiated in April 2009, covering more 100 schools and a total of 120.000 students with an estimated investment of Euros 1.206 million. At the present time the design stage is under development. It is intended that these interventions become exemplary, giving coherence to a number of actions that in other circumstances would loose efficiency. Also it is intended to motivate citizens towards learning “culture”, as well as promoting good practices of intervention in school buildings, becoming a unique opportunity to provide innovative facilities to school buildings. Nevertheless, this is an operation of great magnitude, with considerable costs and recourse to public funds, demanding from all actors’ answers of extreme attention, focused on the re-functioning of the various school space sectors (learning and non-learning) and on the efficiency of its management and maintenance, guaranteeing their long life suitability. It is a collective learning process for Parque Escolar, the design teams, the schools and the other actors involved in the process of designing and construction. A process characterized by: A base knowledge which is still under construction, therefore with a sense of experimentation clearly assumed by Parque Escolar and shared from the beginning with all the design teams; Reduced times of planning, design and construction, demanding quick, efficient and without hesitation responses; Difficulty in attaining teachings (learned lessons) in time - the concentration of so much expenditure in such a short period of time means that opportunities are lost to have a more incremental sustainable approach that enables lessons to be learned from experience that can be useful to future projects; Involvement from the beginning of various actors and “clients”, with distinct needs, to whom is demanded to reply adequately; The existence of new national legislation in the matters of air quality, acoustics, safety conditions and energetic efficiency launched at the beginning of the modernization programme, preventing a time of gathering of its implementation experience.
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