Reconciling conflicts between the built heritage and sustainability: the adaptive re-use of school buildings

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Reconciling conflicts between the built heritage and sustainability: the adaptive re-use of school buildings

Joanne Harrison, Department of Archeology, University of York

Jh1637@york.ac.uk

Introduction

Sustainable development is that which ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ and in its most holistic sense, applies to the environment, economy and society.[1] The historic environment can act as a catalyst for the economic and social aspects of regeneration and sustainable development, but redundant and obsolete traditional buildings (those dating to pre-1919, with permeable, breathable materials and solid wall construction), are a threat to both the built heritage and sustainability.[2] Vacancy puts buildings at risk of decay, vandalism, theft and arson, but also has wider impacts in the sustainability of a community, such as neighbourhood blight and depressing local economies.[3] To this end, the government believes that the best way to preserve heritage is to use it because then it can be passed on to future generations, and this also promotes the three aspects of sustainability.[4] However, environmental sustainability is threatened by climate change,[5] which is primarily caused by carbon emissions associated with the burning of fossil fuels.[6] Around 30% of emissions result from our demand for operational energy in buildings[7] so improving energy efficiency, and hence reducing demand, will limit the extent of climate change. Unfortunately, the legislative focus on operational energy use rather than whole-life carbon footprints means measures to improve operational energy efficiency are favoured even if the construction related energy use results in a higher whole-life carbon footprint.

It is widely accepted that continuation of a building’s original use is preferable,[8] but adaptive re-use, the act of changing a building so that it can be used in a way not originally intended, is an important solution to the problems resulting from vacancy. Adaptive re-use requires professionals to balance functional, technical and economic considerations with heritage conservation, climate change and sustainable development (Figure 1), within a framework of conflicting legislative requirements and best-practice guidelines. This is a considerable challenge,[9] compounded by a shortage of people with the necessary heritage and conservation skills. Most educational and training courses for the built environment professions (such as architects, building technologists and engineers), focus on modern materials and techniques[10] and consequently, there is a lack of understanding of traditional building pathology and of conservation philosophy which results in inappropriate maintenance, refurbishment and adaptation, putting heritage at risk.[11]

image001Figure 1: The relationship between adaptation of historic buildings and sustainability

(Author’s own diagram inspired by ‘The Importance of Environmental Sustainability’, (nd.) <http://www.better-life.4utoc.com/saving_the_planet/environment_sustainability.php> [Accessed 26 February 2015] and R. Harrison, and R. Oades, Heritage and Technology: New Ways of Working in Historic Buildings. ed. by Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and Lucent Technologies (London: DEGW ETL, 1996), p. 68). Sustainability includes protection of the environment, and promotion of equitable societies and economic viability, while adaptation needs to balance conservation of historic buildings with environment, society and technology.

Of the many types of vacant industrial, religious and institutional buildings, it is schools that are particularly well placed to benefit local communities through continued use because of their location within communities, and their familiarity to those communities. Since 80% of schools still in use are beyond their shelf-life and providing poor quality learning environments,[12] the number at risk of vacancy could increase dramatically if they are not adapted to overcome obsolescence.[13] This paper therefore examines the opportunities and challenges facing built environment professionals in adapting traditional school buildings for long-term sustainable use, while protecting their heritage significance and complying with climate change legislation that focuses on operational energy efficiency and carbon emissions. It argues that a holistic measure of sustainability with whole-life carbon footprints, and greater consideration for traditional building pathology, will enable adaptive re-use that is more compatible with conservation agendas.

A review of the literature is followed by an outline of the opportunities and challenges in adaptive re-use projects. Best-practice guidelines and the building regulations are then examined, before two case studies demonstrate successful adaptation of traditional school buildings into schools fit for the twenty-first century.

Context

Worldwide concerns about climate change have resulted in a series of international reports, commissions and agreements which in turn have prompted changes and additions to UK legislation.[14] The National Planning Policy Framework includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the broad environmental, social and economic sense, and recognises the importance of the built heritage within that.[15] The Climate Change Act 2008 and the Energy Act 2011 however, are concerned with maximising operational energy efficiency, the former using The Building Regulations Approved Document Part L (ADL) as a vehicle for implementation, and the latter using Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), and they do not give sufficient recognition to the conflicts with broader measures of sustainability or heritage protection.[16]

Legislation is supplemented by third party documentation, voluntary standards and guidance from English Heritage, BRE and others. These best-practice documents can be categorised into two themes. The first details building pathology, sustainable adaptation measures and the impact on historic buildings,[17] and the second explores adaptive re-use of buildings, outlining the challenges, while arguing for the multiple benefits that heritage-led regeneration can bring to the environment, society and the economy.[18]

A smaller number of documents unite legislation, best-practice, sustainable development and adaptive re-use in the context of school buildings. Burke and Grosvenor[19] for example, trace the development of school buildings, discussing the changing educational requirements, adaptability of the built form, and the school’s place in its community, while English Heritage[20] provides an outline of the problems emerging for buildings, their importance, and how adaptation can contribute to sustainable development. Ladbury and Besford[21] focus on practical considerations, making reference to the relevant legislation and best-practice guidance. The literature demonstrates an overwhelming number of objectives that are expected to be met in the historic environment and the ways in which the built heritage might be at risk.

Adaptive re-use

The challenges encountered in the adaptive re-use of a school are likely to mirror the reasons for its vacancy, and could support or weaken the case for adaptive re-use:

  • Demographic changes impact on both the required capacity and the spaces required within and around a school;[22]
  • Government guidelines on space allocations used for limiting construction and life-cycle costs can skew the economic viability of refurbishing schools which are larger than required; [23]
  • The logistics and economics of upgrading a school in use may reduce the viability of adaptation;[24]
  • Changing pedagogies and curricula, along with inclusive approaches to teaching, impact on the size and flexibility of spaces required which can be difficult to accommodate in an existing building (Figure 2).[25] ‘Heartspace’ and atria for example, have become a standard feature of secondary school design in recent years, performing a role that straddles the social and educational realms.[26] They are often an important part of the environmental strategy but can be difficult to introduce into historic buildings;[27]
  • Technical incompatibility relating to IT systems or science and technology facilities which the buildings were not designed to accommodate, can create difficulties with system design, spatial functionality and overheating;[28]
  • Legislative requirements for fire, health and safety or accessibility may involve complex engineered solutions, amendments to existing internal layouts or additional accommodation; [29]
  • User comfort can be compromised if buildings do not provide adequate levels of heating, cooling, ventilation and daylight, and attempts to treat the symptoms rather than the cause can result in high energy use and operational costs.[30]

In view of the challenges, adaptive re-use must offer advantages over new build and these can be discussed in terms of sustainability and heritage value. The environmental effects for an existing building have already been discharged,[31] and evidence has shown that the embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with demolition followed by rebuilding, is around the same energy as ten years’ use.[32] Therefore, re-use has environmental benefits. At the building scale, Carrig Conservation and others found that investment in conserving the built heritage can bring considerable capital cost savings compared to new build (Figure 2), and of the buildings they studied, 80% of those re-used also had lower whole-life costs.[33] Pendlebury acknowledges that economic advantages exist, but is concerned that commodification of heritage assets could result in inappropriate adaptation.[34] At the wider scale, investment contributes to economic regeneration, particularly in socially and economically deprived areas, by creating employment opportunities and improving the public realm which encourages further investment. [35]

image003

Figure 2: The potential capital cost savings associated with adaptive re-use compared to new build

(Author’s own image with data from Carrig Conservation and others, ‘Built to Last. The Sustainable Reuse of Buildings’, (Dublin: The Heritage Council, 2004), p. 3). As would be expected, the benefits are greatest for those buildings which require the least conservation work (i.e. those that are in the best condition, not necessarily those that have a higher level of significance).

Many older buildings, and particularly school buildings, are valued by communities independently of aesthetic heritage significance which is formally recognised by the designation system. They are instantly recognisable, often a local landmark, and in addition to their educational role, have an important role in providing space for community use.[36] Adapting to ever-changing educational, social and communal needs, schools provide a physical record of the history of education, communities and architecture, and reinforce community identity and social cohesion through shared experience and memory spanning multiple generations.[37]

With so many challenges and opportunities, it is inevitable that compromises will be made in the process of adaptive re-use. These might be functional, technical, operational, legislative (where permitted by the relevant officer) or historical, affecting the significance, authenticity, integrity and performance of the building. Cantacuzino[38] has noted the paradox that saving a building often involves destroying some of it and Harrison and Oades[39] accept that ‘a broader spirit of compromise may be necessary’ than would ordinarily be the case for conservation projects because of the benefits of re-use. The best-practice guidance is instrumental in assisting professionals with this dilemma.

Best-practice

Heritage organisations

English Heritage promotes ‘constructive conservation’ which is about managing change to maintain and improve historic significance while allowing adaptation to ensure buildings remain in use.[40] Publications encourage the assessment of aesthetic, historic, evidential and communal values in order to make judgements about significance, and of conservation philosophies such as minimal intervention, compatibility, reversibility and authenticity.[41] English Heritage and Historic Scotland generally concur on philosophy and practical adaptation techniques, though Historic Scotland tends to be more progressive and experimental in its approach. Their literature explains building pathology and techniques for measuring performance and condition, and the practical ways in which a building might be adapted for energy efficiency. They caution against the introduction of impermeable materials and modern construction techniques because they may compromise historic fabric and character.[42] The Prince’s Regeneration Trust promotes a similar approach, in addition to the implementation of good post-occupancy management, and the use of life-cycle energy assessments.[43]

BRE

BRE’s BREEAM UK Refurbishment and Fit-out scheme is a voluntary assessment scheme that measures building performance against best-practice sustainable refurbishment with the aim of limiting life-cycle impacts on the environment.[44] Buildings are assessed in ten key areas at refurbishment and operational stages, and in-built flexibility means that beyond the minimum credits that must be achieved in each category, additional measures can be chosen to suit project priorities.[45]

In recognition of the difficulties associated with adapting historic buildings in a sustainable way that is not detrimental to their fabric and character, the latest version includes credits that are tailored to reflect the limitations imposed by a building’s significance.[46] In the energy category for example, there is a different scale for energy efficiency improvements to designated buildings, and additional credits are available specifically for demonstrating an understanding of the building’s significance and an evaluation of which adaptations may and may not be appropriate.[47] It is interesting to note that listed buildings perform better than other building types in this category (Figure 3). The traditional but un-designated stock however, is not able to benefit from the special considerations and allowances, and so these ‘general’ refurbishment projects may be disadvantaged by the scoring method. They are not only put at risk of inappropriate adaptation, but also of being rated on an unequal footing in terms of performance, potentially making them a less attractive option for adaptive re-use.[48]

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Figure 3: The relative ranking of performance for new build, listed refurbishment and general refurbishment projects (which includes non-designated traditional buildings), in each of the ten BREEAM assessment areas

(Kiruthiga Balson, Gavin Summerson, and Andrew Thorne, ‘Sustainable Refurbishment of Heritage Buildings – How Breeam Helps to Deliver ‘, (Watford: BRE Global Ltd, 2014), p. 5. Available at http://www.breeam.com/filelibrary/Brochures/Heritage-Sustainable-Refurbishment-v2.pdf. Reproduced courtesy of BRE).

Yates[49] developed a concept for sustainable housing refurbishment that could be tailored to the adaptive re-use of any building type (Figure 4). It measures the consequences of adaptions on historic fabric and character by reference to regulatory requirements and Eco-homes ratings (the former domestic version of BREEAM ratings). As the scale of adaptation increases, there is move towards sustainability, but greater impact on the heritage value of the building. The ‘conservation limit’ which is positioned according to the building’s significance, determines the point beyond which the significance is compromised, and best-practice in conservation would be to limit adaptation to measures within this limit. It so happens that this is around the level of regulatory compliance.

image007

Figure 4: The relationship of adaptation actions with conservation and sustainability limits

(Tim Yates, Sustainable Refurbishment of Victorian Housing: Guidance, Assessment Method and Case Studies. ed. by BRE Trust (Bracknell: IHS BRE Press, 2006), p. 9. © IHS, reproduced with permission from BRE FB 14). Actions are progressively more invasive i.e. Action 1 includes installation of an energy efficient lighting system, and Actions 4 and 5 include window replacement, floor insulation and internal and external wall insulation, which, depending on the significance of the building, may be within, or beyond the conservation limit at the point where they meet the regulatory requirements (Tim Yates, p. 14-17).

The Building Regulations

In common with legislation in other European countries, but contrary to the best-practice guidance, The Building Regulations Approved Document Part L (ADL) promotes a simplistic approach to reducing environmental impact.[50] It is concerned only with improving operational energy and takes no account of the embodied energy associated with adaptation to achieve this. It demonstrates one way of complying with the energy efficiency requirements, which are triggered when thermal elements are changed, where there is a change of use or energy status, or where consequential improvements are required because of an extension or changes to the capacity of fixed building services.[51] In the case of an extension, 10% of the value of the extension should be spent on improving the fabric and / or service performance of the original building (Figure 5). Heating and lighting are the biggest energy consumers in non-domestic buildings, accounting for 69% of operational energy used.[52] An efficient lighting system would typically save 30% of a non-domestic building’s energy usage, and a new heating system could save up to 50% compared to the older systems, reducing the building’s energy use by over 40%,[53] providing a compelling case for improving services before fabric. However, when the requirement for improvement is triggered by a heating system upgrade, there is no option to make further service improvements, and fabric improvements to walls, floors and roofs should be made first, followed by improvements to windows and doors, ideally to match the lowest permissible level of compliance for new build.[54] This is disadvantageous to traditional buildings because the most sensitive way of conserving them is often through the selection of service improvements which have minimal impact on fabric and character.[55]

image009

Figure 5: Fabric and service adaptations suitable for satisfying the consequential improvements requirement when a building is extended

(HM Government, ‘The Building Regulations 2010. Conservation of Fuel and Power. Approved Document L2b’, (London: NBS, 2010), p. 24.

See http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_AD_L2B_2015.pdf and http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ doc/open-government-licence/version/3/). Note that whereas item 6 refers to thermal elements (walls, roof and floor) being upgraded, it appears that for item 7, windows and doors should be replaced and not upgraded, which could compromise a traditional building’s significance.

The methods specified by ADL for calculating fabric heat loss are based on modern construction principles which do not produce accurate results when applied to traditional types of construction.[56] It has been shown that solid walls perform better than the standard computer programmes are able to calculate, in part because of the unknown construction build-up (i.e. how much of the wall is masonry / mortar) but also because permeable materials behave differently.[57] For each of the three main building elements, (walls, roof and windows), there are a number of adaptation options. They have variable degrees of effectiveness in terms of minimising fabric heat loss, but there is no clear relationship between this and the impact on the building’s character or fabric (Figure 6). There is no way of improving the u-value (the thermal transmittance, or rate of heat loss) of walls without affecting either character or fabric, but breathable materials carry fewer long-term risks. Research has also proven that relatively non-invasive adaptations can be made to windows to improve their performance,[58] and this is particularly interesting because the figures show that there are four adaptation combinations that equal or out-perform double glazing. These alternatives have minimal impact on historic character and fabric, but have two drawbacks. Firstly, they rely on responsible management of the building, and secondly, the use of shutters, blinds and curtains may not be suitable during the day as they affect natural lighting levels. Secondary glazing with shutters may achieve the best balance as the use of secondary glazing only during the day already exceeds the minimum performance requirement, and if insulated shutters are used at night, this is further enhanced.

This raises interesting questions about adaptation requirements, and the flexibility to accept adaptations that are not operational ‘full time.’ Since it can be argued that the biggest factor affecting energy use is occupant behaviour[59], a reliance on user intervention may not be deemed acceptable. However, it follows that ‘full time’ / permanent adaptations made in accordance with the regulations cannot be taken as an absolute measure of energy efficiency either because a well-managed building with a high rate of fabric heat loss may use less energy than a mismanaged comparable building that has been adapted to limit it.

An exemption from the requirements of ADL applies to designated assets and those in conservation areas where compliance would ‘unacceptably alter the character or appearance of the buildings’. Special considerations may apply to buildings identified in local lists, in sensitive locations and to those which are traditionally constructed. Energy efficiency is expected to be improved as far as practicable, without harming the character or risking long-term fabric deterioration and ADL refers to English Heritage’s publications for best-practice guidance.[60] For designated buildings, the conservation officer’s negotiations could be beneficial in bridging heritage protection and sustainability requirements, but the lack of explicit instruction on whether special considerations apply to non-designated buildings could cause come difficulties. This decision can be determined by a single building control officer, who may not be experienced in conservation issues, but who has the power to encourage or even enforce, a level of energy efficiency adaptation that is detrimental to historic character and fabric, the wider project objectives and its viability.

Element Required u-value Adaptation method U-value of element after adaptation Impact on character or fabric Other
Wall 0.3 50mm rigid insulation board with vapour control layer, mechanically fixed to internal face of wall, on timber battens at 600mm centres, with 12.5mm plasterboard and 3mm skim 0.3 Potential loss of interior details (e.g. cornices, architraves, skirting boards etc). Risk of condensation and thermal bridging
150mm sheep’s wool fixed internally between timber battens at 600mm centres, with 0.232 Potential loss of interior details (e.g. cornices, architraves, skirting boards etc). Loss of internal space
55mm rigid insulation board fixed to wall exterior and finished   with 10mm polymer render 0.3 Change to external appearance incl. loss of features. Wall no longer breathable
100mm wood fibre board fixed to wall exterior and finished with 15mm lime render 0.26 Change to external appearance incl. loss of features
Roof 0.16 (ceiling level) 270mm glass / rock wool insulation 0.16 No impact on character. Potential condensation risk to fabric
250mm sheep’s wool / hemp 0.16 No impact
217mm cellulose fibre 0.16 No impact
Window 1.8 Double glazing 1.2-1.8 Considerable change to character – possible change to frame material, proportions, profile size & design, and different appearance of glass (double reflection and no surface imperfections)
Victorian blind and shutters 1.8 Minimal – character retained; reversible adaptations Reliant on user interaction and may not be suitable for use during the day
Secondary glazing 1.7 Minimal – character retained; reversible adaptations
Victorian blind, shutters and curtains 1.6 Minimal – character retained; reversible adaptations Reliant on user interaction and may not be suitable for use during the day
Secondary glazing and insulated shutters 1.0 Minimal – character retained; reversible adaptations Partly reliant on user interaction and may not be suitable for use during the day
Draughtproofing 5.4 – no change Very minimal – character retained; reversible adaptation Up to 86% reduction in air filtration which reduces the need for heating and lowers the energy requirement

 

Figure 6: Adaptation options for improving thermal performance to the levels required under ADL

(Author’s own table with information sourced from Black Mountain, ‘Natural Sheep’s Wool Insulation’, (Bradwell on Sea: Black Mountain Insulation Ltd, nd.); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Roofs at Rafter Level’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012), p. 18; English Heritage, ‘Draughtproofing’, English Heritage, (nd.) <http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/your-home/saving-energy/older-houses/draught-proofing/> [Accessed 11 March 2015]; Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 1: Thermal Performance of Traditional Windows’, (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland 2008), p. 13; Kingspan, ‘Kooltherm K5 External Wall Board’, (Leominster: Kingspan, 2011), p. 3; Kingspan, ‘Kooltherm K18 Insulated Plasterboard for Mechanically Fixed Dry Lining’, (Leominster: Kingspan, 2011), p. 2; Lime Green Products Ltd, ‘Warmshell External Wall Insulation System’, (Much-Wenlock: Lime Green Products Ltd, nd.); Nordan, ‘Performance: Energy Saving’, Nordan, (2013) <http://www.nordan.co.uk/UK/performance/energy_saving.php> [Accessed 1 March 2015]). Note that a lower u-value is better than a higher u-value.

Case studies

Elm Court School, London

The former Strand Grammar School which is located in a conservation area, was built in 1912. It had been vacant since the 1980s prior to its selection for adaptive re-use in the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, through which it was adapted to become a new secondary school, Elm Court, providing places for 100 children with special educational needs. The building was chosen for its architectural merit, its status as a community landmark, and because of its identity as a school.[61]

The strategy was to renovate the deteriorating building externally, but to also introduce new materials and structures, including a glazed stair tower.[62] To the rear of the site, two new buildings were constructed, one for sport and the other for the arts, connected by an amphitheatre, but physically separate from the historic building so as not to compromise its significance (Figures 7, 8 & 9).[63]

image011

Figure 7: The vacant building prior to adaptation (Philip Ives, Marcel Hendricks, and David Tasker, ‘Elmcourt SEN School’, Slideshare, (nd.) <http://www.slideshare.net/VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

image013

Figure 8: After adaptation, the building retained its architectural aesthetic to the front (jmarchitects, ‘Elm Court SEN School, Lambeth’, jmarchitects, (2015) <http://www.jmarchitects.net/projects/elm-court/> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

image015

Figure 9: The original building, with the new sports building, arts building and amphitheatre

(Philip Ives, Marcel Hendricks, and David Tasker, ‘Elmcourt SEN School’, Slideshare, (nd.)

<http://www.slideshare.net/VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

The design team was conscious of the environmental impact of the materials specified, so existing materials were re-used wherever possible, accompanied by durable, low maintenance new materials, in order to minimise the building’s carbon footprint, though the windows were a notable exception.[64] The conservation officer had wanted the original window aesthetic to be retained, but acknowledging that higher thermal and acoustic performance was required, agreed to an alternative specification (Figure 10). A composite window type was selected for the replacement fittings, with an aluminium exterior and timber interior, energy efficient glass and vents at the bottom, but because of their size and the technical requirements they had to be sourced from Germany. The combination of metal, glass and transport does not appear to be a low carbon option,[65] however the windows do provide good levels of day lighting, reducing the need for electric light. The traditional design complements both the original interior detailing (such as picture rails) and the new finishes. It has been claimed that the building is super-insulated throughout, but Figure 10 appears to provide evidence that the walls are not.[66]

image017

Figure 10: The new windows closely resemble the architectural style of the original and provide good levels of day lighting

(Philip Ives, Marcel Hendricks, and David Tasker, ‘Elmcourt SEN School’, Slideshare, (nd.)

<http://www.slideshare.net/ VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

Radical changes were permitted internally, in order to provide light, flexible and visually connected spaces, which proved a challenge to the design team.[67] The original building had a large hall immediately behind the entrance, with intrusive downstand beams, split level floors above, and cellular classroom accommodation accessed from dark corridors (Figure 11).[68] Internal adaptation works included:

  • addition of steel trusses to raise the floor and remove the split level;
  • removal of downstand beams to the former hall;
  • addition of a floor across the hall space to create office accommodation and therapy rooms at the lower level, with an open plan flexible space above;
  • creation of an atrium in the middle of the building;
  • and new doors to link the atrium to the external quad via the dining hall (Figure 12).[69]

The atrium juxtaposes original architectural features with modern materials such as the ETFE roof, and is an essential part of the ventilation strategy. It draws air through the window vents, across the classrooms, and expels it via the stack effect through vents near the top of the atrium. The thermal mass assisted this process and may also contribute to night-time cooling.[70]

The building retained its architectural aesthetic to the front, with the contrasting yet subservient addition of the glazed stair tower. This is functional and of its time, and is a good solution to complying with the fire escape regulations because it involved relatively little disturbance of the fabric compared to accommodating a stair internally, and ensured the viability of the scheme. The external renovation has benefits beyond conservation of the building as it also improves the streetscape.[71]

image021

Figure 11: Section through building prior to remodelling

(Adapted from image by Philip Ives, Marcel Hendricks, and David Tasker, ‘Elmcourt Sen School’, Slideshare, (nd.) <http://www.slideshare.net/VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

image023

Figure 12: Section through building after extensive remodelling

(I Philip Ives, Marcel Hendricks, and David Tasker, ‘Elmcourt Sen School’, Slideshare, (nd.)

<http://www.slideshare.net/VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015]).

King Edward VII School, Sheffield

The Grade II* listed King Edward VII School in Sheffield’s Broomhill conservation area was built in 1838, remodelled in 1905 and added to throughout the twentieth century (Figure 13). It is considered to be a ‘focal building’ in the conservation area, and of significant merit[72] but by the twenty-first century, it did not meet the school’s needs.[73] Alongside refurbishment of the original building, new accommodation was built for technology intensive spaces.[74] The concept was for minimal intervention, and the design team, conservation officers and English Heritage worked together to agree a solution[75]

The existing interior was reorganised to provide better accommodation groupings and more legible circulation (Figures 14 & 15). However, the highly significant 1838 entrance area and 1905 hall were retained with some of the later additions to these spaces removed to recover the original design. Sustainability was an important part of the project and energy efficiency measures in the original building included window refurbishment, roof insulation, energy efficient lighting, heating and ventilation systems, and metering.[76] Additionally, materials from the demolished buildings were used in the new building to minimise the embodied energy and carbon footprint of the scheme (Figure 16). The new building is quite dominant in terms of its massing, and this was one of the arguments of the local conservation group, but it has a limited impact on the conservation area.[77]

Compromises are inevitable in adaptive re-use schemes, and construction of the new building kept the original building in use. The re-use is acknowledged as a measure of sustainability,[78] and the conservation officers felt the project achieved a balance between user need and conservation.[79]

image025

Figure 13: The original building dates to 1838 (King Edward VII School, ‘Post 16 Prospectus’, nd.).

image027

Figure 14: The re-organised interior layout

(Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, (2010) <http://www.sheffieldbsfschools.com/schools/KingEdward/Design%20Exhibition/Design_Exhibition_display_boards.pdf> [Accessed 9 March 2015], p. 4). Image courtesy of Sheffield LEP Ltd and Sheffield City Council.

image029

Figure 15: Section through the development

(Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, (2010) <http://www.sheffieldbsfschools.com/schools/KingEdward/Design%20Exhibition/Design_Exhibition_display_boards.pdf> [Accessed 9 March 2015], p. 4). Image courtesy of Sheffield LEP Ltd and Sheffield City Council.

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Figure 16: Materials from the demolished buildings (shown red) were used in the new buildings to minimise the embodied energy and carbon footprint of the scheme

(Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, (2010) <http://www.sheffieldbsfschools.com/schools/KingEdward/Design%20Exhibition/Design_Exhibition_display_boards.pdf> [Accessed 9 March 2015], p. 2). Image courtesy of Sheffield LEP Ltd and Sheffield City Council.

Critique

Both buildings achieved a ‘Very Good’ BREEAM rating and are used by English Heritage as examples of how successful learning environments can be created in older schools.[80] Successes of the projects include: bringing a vacant building back into long term sustainable use and securing the future of a Grade II* listed building, both for their original purpose; safeguarding external fabric and character; integrating modern design into historic settings; creating spatial flexibility; improving energy efficiency; and achieving all of these successes while minimising the life-cycle carbon footprints. However, compromises were made, most notably the loss of the original internal layout and windows at Elm Court School. The works were carried out under previous building regulations and BREEAM assessments, and so it would be interesting to compare the outcome with that which would be expected in 2016. The high significance of King Edward VII School would probably be sufficient to protect it from inappropriate adaptation under the current ADL, but as Elm Court School is not listed, and only its external appearance was a consideration to the conservation officer, it may be that further energy efficiency adaptations would now be expected. The effective relaxation of BREEAM requirements for historic buildings means that both buildings could be eligible to receive additional credits resulting in either a higher score for the same level of adaptation, or the same score for less adaptation. Reconciling the potential contradictions between ADL and BREEAM would be dependent on the knowledge and negotiation skills of the professionals involved.

Conclusion

Adapting traditional school buildings to meet twenty-first century needs gives conservation professionals exciting opportunities, but the legislative focus on energy efficiency challenges heritage protection and sustainability. Adaptive re-use is an opportunity to:

  • Safeguard the built heritage from vacancy and secure its future by improving functionality, comfort and performance;
  • Benefit communities by providing school places and community facilities at their heart;
  • Capitalise on the favourable economics of re-use so that heritage can act as a catalyst for regeneration, creating sustainable communities.

Most built environment professionals do not have conservation knowledge, and, if operational energy efficiency is prioritised, buildings and the broader measures of sustainability are at risk. Where energy efficiency adaptations reach the ‘conservation limit,’ the scope for meeting the other project objectives may be reduced, thereby limiting or even eliminating, re-use options and regeneration potential. If the ‘conservation limit’ is exceeded there is a risk of harm to a building’s character and fabric. While some compromise to the significance of buildings may need to be made in order to achieve the benefits of adaptive re-use, the narrow definition of energy efficiency makes little sense in the broader measure of a building’s life-cycle energy use and carbon footprint, and change to the energy efficiency legislation is essential. Possibilities include:

  • Improve understanding of heat loss so that the performance of traditional buildings is not underestimated, as this leads to greater intervention than necessary;
  • Greater flexibility to accept alternative adaptation methods so that simple measures such as draughtproofing and secondary glazing are acknowledged as improving energy efficiency;
  • Explicit wording on the requirements for undesignated buildings, so that special considerations should apply rather than may If a building has traditional construction it is just as vulnerable to deterioration from inappropriate adaptation as any other of the same construction, irrespective of significance;
  • Shift the focus away from operational energy efficiency to life-cycle energy so that adaptations can be considered in terms of net savings. BREEAM could provide a good model for this.

Together, these changes could result in less invasive adaptation, which aligns with important conservation philosophies such as minimal intervention, compatibility and authenticity. Having recognised the possibilities for improvement, the next challenge is to implement them within the legislative framework derived from international agreements and directives.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Balson, Kiruthiga, Gavin Summerson, and Andrew Thorne, ‘Sustainable Refurbishment of Heritage Buildings – How Breeam Helps to Deliver’, (Watford: BRE Global Ltd, 2014).

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[1] World Commission on Environment and Development, ‘Our Common Future’, (WCED, 1987).

[2] Department Of The Environment, Reusing Redundant Buildings. Good Practice in Urban Regeneration. ed. By Urbed Ltd (London: H.M.S.O., 1987), p. 3; p. 20; English Heritage, ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’, (English Heritage / Department for Education and Skills, nd.).

[3] English Heritage, ‘Vacant Historic Buildings. An Owner’s Guide to Temporary Uses, Maintenance and Mothballing’, (London: English Heritage, 2011), p. 2.

[4] English Heritage, ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’.

[5] English Heritage, ‘Climate Change and the Historic Environment’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2008), p. 1.

[6] National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, ‘Overview of Greenhouse Gases’, NAEI, (2013) <http://naei.defra.gov.uk/overview/ghg-overview> [Accessed 26th January 2015].

[7] Committee on Climate Change, ‘Meeting Carbon Budgets – 2013 Progress Report to Parliament’, (London: Committee on Climate Change, 2013), p. 109; United Nations Environment Programme, ‘Buildings and climate change. Summary for decision makers’, (Paris: United Nations Environment Programme, 2009), p. 6.

[8] Sherban Cantacuzino, ‘Using and Re-Using Buildings’, in Concerning Buildings : Studies in Honour of Sir Bernard Feilden, ed. by Stephen Marks (Oxford ; Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1996), p. 158; John Earl, Building Conservation Philosophy (Shaftesbury: Donhead, 2003), p. 113; English Heritage, ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’.

[9] Ladbury, Daniel and Ian Besford, ‘Practical Considerations for the Design and Implementation of Refurbishment Projects of Historic School Buildings’, (English Heritage / Mott MacDonald, 2011); Derek Latham, Creative Re-Use of Buildings (Shaftesbury, Dorset: Donhead, 2000), p. 41.

[10] NHTG, ‘Built Heritage Sector Professionals’, (London: NHTG, 2008), p. 3; NHTG, ‘Traditional Building Craft Skills’, (London: NHTG, 2008), p. 3; John Preston, ‘The Context for Skills, Education and Training’, Journal of Architectural Conservation, 12 (2006), p. 35-37.

[11] English Heritage, ‘Climate Change and the Historic Environment’, p. 1; English Heritage, ‘Heritage Counts 2013’, (English Heritage, 2013), p. 11-12).

[12] Anna Scott-Marshall, ‘Building a Better Britain’, (London: RIBA, 2014), p. 45.

[13] Catherine Burke, and Ian Grosvenor, School (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), p. 7; English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, (English Heritage, 2010), p. 3.

[14] Keith Hall, ‘Green Building Standards’, in The Green Building Bible: Volume 1, ed. by Keith Hall (Llandysul: Green Building Press, 2008), p. 107; Designing Buildings Ltd, ‘Kyoto Protocol’, Designing Buildings Ltd, (2014) <http://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol> [Accessed 26th January 2015]; United Nations, ‘Earth Summit’, UN, (1997) <http://www.un.org/geninfo/bp/envirp2.html> [Accessed 20th January 2015]; World Commission on Environment and Development.

[15] DCLG, ‘National Planning Policy Framework’, (London: DCLG, 2012).

[16] Christopher Thompson, ‘Minimum Energy Efficiency Levels for Letting Non-Domestic Property in April 2018’, Mills and Reeve, (2014) <http://www.mills-reeve.com/minimum-energy-efficiency-levels-for-letting-non-domestic-property-in-april-2018-09-03-2014/> [Accessed 26 February 2015]; HM Government, ‘The Building Regulations 2010. Conservation of Fuel and Power. Approved Document L2b’, (London: NBS, 2010).

[17] Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 1: Thermal Performance of Traditional Windows’, (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland 2008); Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 10: U-Values and Traditional Buildings’, (Historic Scotland, 2011);

BRE, ‘Breeam Uk Refurbishment and Fit-out 2014’, (Watford: BRE Global Ltd, 2014); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2011); Keith Hall, The Green Building Bible: Volume 1. ed. by Richard Nicholls (Llandysul: Green Building Press, 2008); Robyn Pender, Brian Ridout, and Tobit Curteis, Practical Building Conservation: Building Environment. (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014); Prince’s Regeneration Trust, The Green Guide for Historic Buildings: How to Improve the Environmental Performance of Listed and Historic Buildings. ed. by Trust Prince’s Regeneration (London: TSO for The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, 2010); Neil May, and Caroline Rye, ‘Responsible Retrofit of Traditional Buildings’, (London: Sustainable Traditional Buildings Alliance, 2012).

[18] Deloitte, ‘Heritage Works. The Use of Historic Buildings in Regeneration’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2013); Department Of The Environment; English Heritage, ‘Regeneration and the Historic Environment. Heritage as a Catalyst for Better Social and Economic Regeneration’, (English Heritage, 2005); Harrison, R. and R. Oades, Heritage and Technology: New Ways of Working in Historic Buildings. ed. by Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and Lucent Technologies (London: DEGW ETL, 1996); Latham; John R. Pendlebury, Conservation in the Age of Consensus (London ; New York: Routledge, 2009); Lynda H. Schneekloth, Marcia F. Feuerstein, and Barbara A. Campagna, Changing Places: Remaking Institutional Buildings (Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press, 1992).

[19] Burke and Grosvenor.

[20] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’; ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’.

[21] Ladbury and Besford.

[22] Toby Helm, and Tracy McVeigh, ‘Population Rise Will Force Schools to Use empty Shops and Warehouses’, The Guardian, (2012) <http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/jul/21/primary-school-pupils-taught-shops> [Accessed 26 February 2015]; Christine Taylor, ‘Adaptive Reuse: How Regulatory Measures Imposed on Physical Characteristics Impact on the Reuse of School Buildings’, in Changing Places: Remaking Institutional Buildings, ed. by Lynda H. Schneekloth, M Feuerstein and B Campagna (Fredonia, N.Y.: White Pine Press, 1992), p. 353.

[23] Ladbury and Besford, p. 7.

[24] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 10; Ladbury and Besford, p. 15.

[25] Burke and Grosvenor, p.166; English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 10

[26] (Education Funding Agency 2014a; 2014b) Education Funding Agency, ‘Baseline Design: Superblock Section BB for a 1,200 Place Secondary School’, EFA, (2014) <http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/276532/2_01_006_secondary_type_2_1200_section_bb.pdf> [Accessed 5 March 2015]; Education Funding Agency, ‘School Building Design and Maintenance’, EFA, (2014) <https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/school-building-design-and-maintenance> [Accessed 5 March 2015].

[27] Ramboll, ‘Elm Court School’, Ramboll UK Ltd, (nd.) <http://www.ramboll.co.uk/projects/ruk/elm%20court%20school> [Accessed 26 February 2015].

[28] Burke and Grosvenor, p. 154; English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 10; Ladbury and Besford, p. 10.

[29] Ladbury and Besford, p. 16; Alan Marshall, and Stephen Newsom, ‘Fire Protection Measures in Scottish Historic Buildings’, in Fire Protection and the Built Heritage, ed. by Ingval Maxwell, Audrey Dakin and Neil Ross (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 1999), p. 59.

[30] P. Fanger, Thermal Comfort (Copenhagen: Danish Technical Press, 1970), p. 3 cited in Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 14: Keeping Warm in a Cooler House’, (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2011), p. 18.

[31] English Heritage, The Heritage Dividend: Measuring the Results of English Heritage Regeneration 1999-2002 (London: English Heritage, 2002), p. 48.

[32] Ladbury and Besford, p. 17.

[33] Carrig Conservation, McGrath Environmental Consultants, James P McGrath & Associates, and Murrary O’Laoire Architects, ‘Built to Last. The Sustainable Reuse of Buildings’, (Dublin: The Heritage Council, 2004), p. 4.

[34] Pendlebury, p. 121-122.

[35] Deloitte, p. 12; English Heritage, The Heritage Dividend, p. 8.

[36] Burke and Grosvenor, p. 7; English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 3; English Heritage, ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’.

[37] Burke and Grosvenor, p. 8; p. 10; p. 59;p. 62; p. 189; English Heritage, ‘The Future of Historic School Buildings’; Latham, p. 5-6.

[38] Cantacuzino, p. 164.

[39] Harrison and Oades, p. 68.

[40] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 3.

[41] English Heritage, ‘Climate Change and the Historic Environment’, p. 28-32; p. 45-47.

[42] English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Roofs at Ceiling Level’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Roofs at Rafter Level’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Solid Walls’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Secondary Glazing for Windows’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012); English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. insulating Solid Ground Floors’, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2012); Historic Scotland, ‘Improving Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings’, (Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, 2011).

[43] The Prince’s Regeneration Trust.

[44] BRE, p. 7.

[45] BRE, p. 22; p. 25-26.

[46] Kiruthiga Balson, Gavin Summerson, and Andrew Thorne, ‘Sustainable Refurbishment of Heritage Buildings – How BREEAM Helps to Deliver ‘, (Watford: BRE Global Ltd, 2014).

[47] Balson, Summerson, and Thorne, p. 7.

[48] Senior Architectural Systems, ‘Breeam’, Senior Architectural Systems, (nd.) <http://www.seniorarchitectural.co.uk/support/breeam/> [Accessed 26 February 2015].

[49] Tim Yates, Sustainable Refurbishment of Victorian Housing: Guidance, Assessment Method and Case Studies. ed. by BRE Trust (Bracknell: IHS BRE Press, 2006), p. 9; p. 14.

[50] Tina Wik, ‘Sustainable Architectural Conservation’, in Imagining Conservation : The Next 20 Years, ed. by Navin Piplani (York: York Conservation Studies Alumni Association, 2013), p. 62.

[51] HM Government, p. 4; p. 8-9.

[52] Pender, Ridout, and Curteis, p. 513.

[53] Carbon Trust, ‘Energy Saving Fact Sheet. Lighting’, (London: Carbon Trust, 2005); Rehema, ‘Condensing Boilers – the Healthy Way for Energy Efficient Heating’ (nd.) <http://www.remeha.co.uk/news/condensing-boilers-the-healthy-option-for-energy-efficient-heating-2> [Accessed 11 March 2015].

[54] HM Government, p. 24-25.

[55] Jonathan David, Guide to Building Services for Historic Buildings: Sustainable Services for Traditional Buildings. ed. by Carbon Trust and Energy Action (London: Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, 2002), p. 8.

[56] Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 10’, p. II.

[57] English Heritage, ‘Climate Change and the Historic Environment’, p. 8; Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 10’, p. 30-32.

[58] Historic Scotland, ‘Technical Paper 1’, p. 13; Chris Wood, Bill Bordass, and Paul Baker, ‘Research into the Thermal Performance of Traditional Windows: Timber Sash Windows’, (English Heritage, 2009), p. 13.

[59] Deloitte, p. 8.

[60] English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Roofs at Ceiling Level’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Roofs at Rafter Level’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Solid Walls’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Secondary Glazing for Windows’; English Heritage, ‘Energy Efficiency and Historic Buildings. Insulating Solid Ground Floors’; HM Government, p. 9-10.

[61] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 5; Ramboll; Sarah Richardson, ‘Project of the Month: Elm Court School, Lambeth’, Building, (2010) <http://www.building.co.uk/news/project-of-the-month-elm-court-school-lambeth/3157428.article#> [Accessed 23 February 2015].

[62] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 5; Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker, ‘Elmcourt SEN School’, Slideshare, (nd.) <http://www.slideshare.net/VikkiJacobs/philip-ives-marcel-hendricks-david-tasker> [Accessed 26 February 2015].

[63] Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker; Richardson.

[64] ‘Case Study: Elm Court School’, BSEC 2010: The Journal (2010) p. 20-21.

[65] ‘Case Study: Elm Court School’, p. 21; Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker.

[66] ‘Case Study: Elm Court School’, p. 21; English Heritage 2010, 5; Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker; Ramboll.

[67] ‘Elm Court’s Rebuilt Facilities Have Sustainability Built-In’, Sustainable FM (2010), p. 14; Ramboll nd.)

[68] Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker.

[69] ‘Elm Court’s Rebuilt Facilities’; Ramboll; Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker; Richardson.

[70] ‘Case Study: Elm Court School’, p. 21; Ives, Hendricks, and Tasker; English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 5.

[71] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 5; jmarchitects, ‘Elm Court SEN School, Lambeth’, jmarchitects, (2015) <http://www.jmarchitects.net/projects/elm-court/> [Accessed 26 February 2015].

[72] King Edward VII School, ‘Post 16 Prospectus’, (nd.); Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, (2010) <http://www.sheffieldbsfschools.com/schools/KingEdward/Design%20Exhibition/Design_Exhibition_display_boards.pdf> [Accessed 9 March 2015].

[73] Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’.

[74] English Heritage, ‘Successful School Refurbishment Case Studies’, (English Heritage, 2011).

[75] HLM, ‘King Edward VII Upper School and Language College. Planning Application Design Statement’, (2010), p. 12; King Edward VII School, ‘Post 16 Prospectus’, King Edward VII School, ‘Prospectus’, (nd.). Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, p. 4.

[76] HLM, p. 25; Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, p. 4; Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Introduction’ (2010) <http://www.sheffieldbsfschools.com/schools/KingEdward/Design%20Exhibition/Design_Exhibition_Introduction.pdf> [Accessed 9 March 2015].

[77] Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, p. 4; Sheffield Telegraph, ‘Planners to decide over school facelift’,  (2010) <http://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/what-s-on/planners-to-decide-over-school-facelift-1-1831772> [Accessed 9 March 2015].

[78] Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Display Boards’, p. 2; Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Introduction’.

[79] Sheffield LEP, ‘Exhibition Introduction’; Sheffield Telegraph.

[80] English Heritage, ‘Refurbishing Historic School Buildings’, p. 5; English Heritage, ‘Successful School Refurbishment Case Studies’.