Opportunities for change in public and social architecture

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Workplaces
  • Community centres
  • Day care centres
  • Libraries
  • Places of worship

The social and public sector has grown significantly in recent years, with more schemes, activities and organisations than ever before. Buildings in the health, education and social arenas account for a significant part of Britain’s architectural landscape. ¬†How can new and existing buildings evolve to benefit our social infrastructure?
Drawing on our extensive involvement in architecture for schools, universities and local authorities, we present here four areas in which Britain can rethink its approach to public and social buildings.

Anticipating change, designing in flexibility.
Flexibility is at the heart of good design in public sector buildings.

Todays public buildings are invariably put to a number of different uses. Educational buildings, for example, may be used for teaching by day, yet house community group, events and exhibitions or sports activities during the evening and weekends..

Flexibility needs to be worked in right from the start. Consideration of the broad range of users should be part of the brief. Looking at how different groups use a building influences the design concept, proportions, facilities and furniture. Often this can make all the difference.

Such flexibility will help to retain a building’s long-term value. A building that can have a broad range of functions is a building that can be used to its maximum.

Designing out institutionalism.
Finding a fresh perspective on public architecture.

Public buildings need not look or feel institutional. We draw on our work in the private sector on apartments, heritage projects and offices to give a fresh perspective on how public buildings can function, look and feel.

Modern construction methods are most cost effective and flexible than ever before, creating greater choice in how buildings are developed.

The soulless nature of institutional buildings can be designed out today by looking beyond the sector for new approaches and identifying the mistakes of the past.

Environmental sustainability in the design process.
Cost-effective methods of making new buildings more sustainable.

Not every new building has the budget to utilise the full range of environmentally-sustainable products and building methods. However, a significant difference can be made through good design.

We make the most, for example, of natural light to reduce energy costs from artificial lighting. Carefully considered window schemes create well-ventilated spaces in the summer and well-insulated rooms in the winter. Trees and water surrounding a building can be used to control the temperature as well as create a more pleasant and relaxing environment.

Providing facilities for those who travel by bicycle rather than car is also a responsible design consideration. This means providing spaces in which to change and shower as well as safe bike storage.

Sustainability can be integral part of the design even before looking at the latest environmental materials, processes and technology.