What’s Involved In A School Refurbishment And Does It Impact Learning?

What’s Involved In A School Refurbishment And Does It Impact Learning?

You may be thinking about or already looking into renewing and refurbishing part of your school or college building. Whether it’s due to overcrowding, looking into improving energy efficiency or increasing pupil enrollment; you’re looking at what’s involved in a school refurbishment and wondering “Does it impact learning?”

We’ve put together a free Guide To School Refurbishments, to give you the full low-down on different levels of refurb, decorations, refreshes and even rebuilds, as well as giving you some printable sheets to help assess what needs improving in your building.

Download it here or read this blog to see an outline of what’s involved with the different levels of refurbishment in a school or college building.

We will look at the following, explain what’s involved and suggest how to minimise disruption to teaching and learning:

  • Level 1 – Tune Up and Minor Refurbishment

  • Level 2 – Intermediate Refurbishment

  • Level 3 – Major refurbishment

  • Level 4 – Complete Refurbishment

  • Level 5 – Demolish and Rebuild


Level 1 – Tune Up and Minor Refurbishment

This level of refurbishment project is the most common and most budget friendly. The building fabric (structural elements, the external envelope and roof) remain untouched, but you can replace worn out furniture, service the heating system and undertake some cosmetic works.

It also often involves renewing and upgrading your key ICT infrastructure to make sure that they operate smoothly (great for boosting teaching and learning inside the classroom, with no more waiting for the computer to restart mid-task) and results in  better energy efficiency (to reduce overall spend in the longer term).

The impact on teaching and learning is completely avoidable as works can be planned to take place at mid-term holidays, weekends and evenings, with everything being replaced and made operational ready for when teachers and students return.


Level 2 – Intermediate Refurbishment

An intermediate refurbishment can (and often will) include all of the previously mentioned work, with more extensive elements of decoration works. The biggest difference from a minor refurbishment would be looking at renewing and adding to the mechanical and electrical systems.

Whereas a minor refurbishment might replace the existing light fittings for something more energy efficient, an intermediate refurbishment might include installing motion sensors, timers and other intelligent features.

The existing heating system can be assisted by dropping the ceiling level and installing a suspended grid system, for example, so that a smaller space is being heated.

If programmed smartly, work like this could be completed over the summer break. Alternatively, some rooms/areas might be out of action whilst work is undertaken due to having to manage the different trades working alongside each other. To explain, elements of the ceiling work could not be completed until the electrics have been first fixed, whereas the electricians would then need the ceiling to be completed in order to finish their installation – but then the ceiling installer would need to return to quickly make good any defects.

But such is the complicated nature of construction – the simplest way would be to complete it when the building is closed. One silver lining of completing this during term time is that the noise disturbance would be minimal, meaning neighbouring classrooms will be unaffected by the works.


Level 3 – Major Refurbishment

This is a large step up from an intermediate refurbishment. It would involve replacing all the major plant (including the entire mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems), upgrading the floor finishes and maybe even reconfiguring the internal walls and layouts.

This would clearly impact teaching and learning as work would need to be staggered and there are elements of the work which cannot be made good and returned to the next night (as could be done with minor works). This would mean the project would need to be completed in stages, in between school terms.

However, the benefit of this is that there is no impact on teaching and learning. Apart from if the science department gets disgruntles that their corridor was left until last.


Level 4 – Complete Refurbishment

This leaves only the substructure (anything below ground), superstructure (any structural elements above ground) and floor untouched. Everything else is removed and replaced – maybe even the facade, roof and some of the structural elements (beams, supporting walls, and so on).

The impact on teaching and learning would be needing to move to temporary accommodation whilst the work was completed. This can be brought onto site and the refurbishment project can be undertaken just metres away.


Level 5 – Demolish and Rebuild

And the same thing can be done if the best option available to you is a complete demolition and rebuild. This option is most common when a new site cannot be found so the existing site footprint is utilised.

Again, this would mean bringing in temporary accommodation to use whilst the work takes place. There would, however, be some further disruption in terms of noise from the full construction site next to your temporary home.


What Does Your Building Need?

If you can sense that your school building needs something doing to it, but are not sure exactly what, then you can use the survey sheets in this guide to canvas your staff and students. They give you the right questions to ask in order to assess what most impacts the end users of your building – and you can then assess the answers and see what level of work your building needs in order to be the best school or college building possible.

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