Truly Remarkable People — Nga Iwi Tumeke

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That’s the mission statement of the Remarkables Primary School, but it could just as easily be an apt description of the Kiwis who designed and built it.
In January 2009 Naylor Love Construction was confirmed for the design/build contract for the new school. Although it was agreed there was very little chance the school would be finished by the end of the year, the Ministry of Education made its expectation clear: the new school was to be in a position to accept new entrants for the first term of 2010.

Naylor Love called the first design meeting towards the end of January, inviting Babbage Architecture and other consultants it had engaged before, knowing their ability to fast-track the design so that earthworks could be started in April.

To make the co-ordination of design and plans more efficient, Babbage Consultants was subcontracted as the structural engineers on the project. It was agreed that a three-stage building consent process was needed to get construction under way. This allowed time for the detailed design to be completed for full consent, which needed to be lodged and approved before work could begin on the building envelope in July.

John Jones Steel was confirmed as the structural steel and ComFlor decking system subcontractor.
The brief provided to Babbage Architecture by the school’s Board of Trustees was inspired by the school’s mission statement: “Truly Remarkable People — Nga Iwi Tumeke”.
Architect Michael Bilsborough, who is very knowledgeable about education design, said the Board had a very clear vision of the sort of school they wanted to create: Remarkables Primary School aims to provide world class education to equip and inspire each student to take full advantage of life’s opportunities.

“When we research current education practices,” Mr Bilsborough says, “we find that they place great emphasis on the importance of self-directed learning. The teacher’s modern role is that of facilitator, allowing their pupils to discover knowledge for themselves as individuals.
“This, in turn, requires the architect to provide the spaces needed for different individual activities. Hence, camp-fire space for story-telling, watering-hole space for social collaboration, and small cave spaces for intimate, one-on-one encounters and conversations.

“There are five ‘pods’, each with four learning studios (classrooms), and an Early Childhood Care centre. In each pod there are four teachers and around 100 pupils (roughly 20 to 30 per class). The arrangement of the pods allows for a collaborative environment where teachers and pupils form a learning community. The children have access to what we call a Learning Commons.

“Therefore, the design caters for those times when, say, four teachers would combine their pupils in a collegiate environment for group activities. By designing in steel, we made it easier to fit the necessary structure into the building envelope.
“In fact, by leaving the details of the steel connections expressed, we allowed the pupils to see and enjoy the structure, using the building as another learning opportunity,” Mr Bilsborough says.

Babbage structural engineer Victor Lam says after examining the seismic considerations of the Frankton site, the Ministry of Education decided to increase the design loading by 30% to achieve a return period of 1000 years.
“In concrete, this would have made the school buildings excessively heavy. Instead, our design concentrated on steel, relying on the ductility of Eccentrically Braced Frames (EBFs) and the long span properties of ComFlor 210 steel decking to keep the structures and the floors as light as possible,” Mr Lam says.

It was at this point that John Jones Steel raised the construction tempo, as Naylor Love construction operations manager Peter Taylor comments: “Having worked with John Jones Steel extensively throughout the South Island, we were confident they had the resources required to meet our very demanding programme and deliver a quality product at the same time.
“They staged their shop-drawing process to suit our compressed timetable, and they worked proactively with our design engineers to restrict draughting errors. They were also very quick to tell us about potential cost savings,” Mr Taylor says.

“I have to say that their steel detailing and quality assurance documentation were of the highest standard, while the care they took during the erection process contributed to this project being one of the most stress-free that Naylor Love has been involved with.”
The fabrication was done in the John Jones Steel Timaru workshop. The 3-D model drawings were produced in X-Steel, a Tekla software product, in the company’s Christchurch headquarters.

General manager Dave Anderson says the dialogue between the company’s detailers and the Babbage structural engineers generated efficiencies and enabled rapid progress with the ComFlor 210 (deep profile) decking.
“At one stage we were a fortnight ahead of the design review. It helps when the main contractor is a company of Naylor Love’s calibre. Liaison with the client and the subcontractors is always close, with the objective and the deadlines clearly defined and the methodology agreed up front,” Mr Anderson says.
“That this project was delivered on time and within budget is largely the result of Naylor Love’s highly organised approach.”

Christchurch-based Murray Aitken, currently the Ministry of Education’s senior advisor on education, curriculum and performance, says the school buildings fit the landscape very well.
“The low-level profile from the Lake Avenue entrance is an attractive feature of the design that keeps the lake views for the surrounding properties pretty much intact,” he says.
“The design is inspiring, inclusive and welcoming, not imposing, and the indoor spaces connect with and flow naturally into the outdoor areas. Remarkables Primary is a school where pupils and teachers are able to witness learning as it happens.”

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