The Education Sector

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You may be old enough to remember fax machines, and perhaps you created reports on a typewriter. You may have even used a pager or a public telephone for communicating. Well, guess what? Most people below the age of 21 are more likely to see these gadgets as something to collect or as awesomely retro – that is if they give them any thought at all.

The pace of technology is one of the driving forces behind most things in today’s world and we see this nowhere better than in the education sector. Today’s students are not adapting to these different technological-rich environments – they were born into them.

The pace of technology is having a profound effect on how young people learn. Our schools, colleges and universities are at the sharp end of providing learning environments that fit the needs of young people – the same people that eventually find themselves in the office environment.

The best environments in which to develop are also the ones that are most productive. We believe that for a more efficient workspace, those responsible should take a closer look at the classroom and that the next generation of workforce will want to work in an environment that is at least on par with that of their learning institution.

The education sector has recognised that, in order to attract students, they have to provide excellence within the learning environment. It is with this in mind that we wanted to point our attention to the education sector to see if what has happened over the last five years has any benefit to the guardians of the commercial office world – and if so, then what?

Our report will consider some of the most recent education designs and fit outs, we will ask eight protagonists how they think the education my shape the future of the office, and we will look at some of the key education statistics – ideal when planning future workplace design. We hope you enjoy – and learn a thing or two, of course.

Classroom Trends

H ere we take a look at some of the trends in educational learning over the past five years – and also at some of the key furniture products that now enable and support educational working practices. This is what our future workforce has adopted and embraced – and what it will expect when it is let loose in the corporate world!


Group work or collaboration builds critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills.


These are of course available online to anyone, often at zero cost to the student – and sometimes with unlimited enrolment.


Creates a more vibrant, innovative culture – much like that brought by cross-pollination in the business world.


This trend is growing fast and integrates students into the information stream the institution provides – security remains a key issue for the IT department however.


Can be enriched with interactive diagrams, photos, videos and 3d graphics.


Allows collaborate work around the world.


A significant minority of higher education students are now taking at least one online course in their curriculum.


This can be used to capture a more complete view of the student, how they work and what influences the choices they make.


Real world context is offered through traditional forms – apprenticeships, student teaching or though hands-on projects and idea sharing


The application of game thinking in a non-game scenarios can build engagement.

(Source: Teknion, Mix research)


‘It’s not just about affordable ergonomics anymore,’ Kevin Geeves, Education Sales Director for KI Europe tells us. Nowadays, the importance of ergonomically designed seating is so widespread that it is readily available, in a rainbow of colours, and at competitive prices. So what else should be considered when furnishing classrooms for today’s digital-native generation?

The dynamic classroom – teaching methods have changed. Understanding how lessons are delivered is crucial. Teachers don’t always stay put at the front of the room, facing students sat in rows anymore. Different subjects need various media, employing new technology and techniques. Make sure that furniture is durable, and can be reconfigured many times a day, adapting to each individual lesson.

One size does not fit all – consider a variety of sizes. Yes, students come in all shapes and sizes. Granted, this is nothing new – but seldom addressed. Consider having a range of different sized chairs in each classroom to accommodate the aspiring basketball players as well as the aspiring jockeys.

Independent or group work? Furniture can facilitate or hamper collaborative working

Activities may be carried out in small groups or involve the entire class sitting in a circle, so students and teachers alike need to be able to move with ease. If furniture is rigid and cumbersome, it won’t accommodate the mobility required. Some situations, such as examinations, require a writing surface. Others will employ the use of a laptop, tablet, books, or other materials. Fold-away or removable tablet arms are a great way of giving students the best of both worlds, without having to clutter a room with desks.

Multifunctional rooms – make the most of limited space. Ensuring your furniture is suitable for multiple situations is important. Over the course of an average day, a room could be arranged as an assembly hall, a music rehearsal venue, or an indoor sports stadium. A classroom might need to accommodate a drama group before lunch, and a history lesson immediately after. Multipurpose rooms open up huge possibilities.   

Think outside the box – teachers and students do. The modern classroom doesn’t even necessarily have four walls anymore. Can the furniture you choose be taken outside? Is it easy to clean if it gets dirty? Will it weaken or be damaged by sunlight? Is it water resistant? Is it light enough to be moved around with ease? Do you need a transport dolly? And, most of all, is it durable enough to go through all of this and survive, and continue to be comfortable for years to come?

Education Case Studies

ESLA_BDP_N11---«David-BarbourEnterprise South Liverpool Academy (ESLA), designed by the Manchester studio of BDP, recently recieved a Civic Trust Award. The awards are given to projects of the highest quality design that have also made a positive cultural, social or economic contribution to the local community. 40 buildings were given the top award this year out of 238 entries.

The academy, which is also a RIBA North WEST Regional Award winner, provides 1,100 secondary school students with over 10,000 sq m of state-of-the-art facilities to meet the challenges of 21st century learning. A very simple approach of placing the student at the heart of the design process has shaped the architecture around both the functional and social ideas for the project.

The design was led by Architect Director, Sue Emms, who commented: ‘This building is a beacon that symbolises the regeneration of Garston, South Liverpool. The academy is organised around a central ‘heart-space’ which creates a sense of place where all users feel welcome in line with the academy’s Christian ethos.

‘A key part of the brief was that it should be an iconic building in order to challenge the negative preconceptions about education locally, and make the academy as appealing as possible to students and the local community. This Civic Trust Award is very welcome recognition of what we set out to achieve when designing the Academy.’

The building’s organisation responds to the educational requirement for diverse learning and social spaces, arranged to enable cross-curricula education.  The four-storey building accommodates generic learning on the two upper floors and specialist learning on the two lower floors, all arranged around the central atrium, which is a dynamic space that can be used flexibly in an exciting array of configurations.

The outward-facing enterprise centre, with its clear identity and individual expression, houses business studies learning space that can double-up as a conferencing facility for local industries and enables students to experience business in action.

Enterprise South Liverpool Academy’s Head Teacher, Anne Pontifex, says of the scheme. ‘Pupils, staff and parents have waited a long time for our new school, but now it has been completed we are all absolutely thrilled with the finished project.

‘The school has had two ‘outstanding’ Ofsted inspections, and it was important that the new build could enhance teaching and learning in order to move education in Croxteth beyond outstanding. The new facilities more than deliver this. On our opening day in September it was wonderful to watch the sheer delight on our students’ faces and to hear the shrieks of excitement as they got to explore and know the building. Our vision of a learning environment that supports our Salesian ethos of ensuring that ‘all young people are loved and cared for’, especially via passive supervision, has more than been realised. We have a defined blend of traditional classrooms and open breakout spaces which, when combined with flexible furniture and fittings, enables truly creative teaching and learning to take place.

‘Our partnership with the architects developed into an open, honest and creative relationship, which enabled ideas, theory and the concept of truly ‘thinking outside the box’ to take place.

‘As a result, we have what I believe is a unique, exciting and stimulating school, which supports our already outstanding teaching and learning. These two strands will enable young people to achieve their true potential.

‘Feedback from children at our school has a common theme: that they feel safe and secure as well as proud of their school and motivated to succeed.’

Gresham-Case-Study_Brighton-University-1The University of St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland, established around 1410 and ranked as the 3rd best university in the UK.

The Students’ Association represents the student body of the University and comprises the Students’ Representative Council and the Students’ Union Council.

BDG has been working with them on a phased refurbishment programme over a three-year period to deliver a new theatre, music facilities and a range of new bar spaces, along with a modern headquarters for societies, representation facilities and campaigning. The new shop and Rector’s cafe opened in early 2014.

The £12 million redevelopment provides a full renovation, increased space (40%) and an aesthetic overhaul. The footprint of the building has remained the same but the event venues have been improved with the creation of both a nightclub and a performance space.

When Brighton University was looking to create a ‘Learning Hub’ to be located inside an already existing office, it turned to Gresham for a completely bespoke solution.

The brief was to create six individual pods for Post Graduate academics, which provide the users with a fully equipped, secluded learning area whilst taking into consideration flexibility, acoustics and space restrictions.

Working closely with the university and its local furniture distributor, Gresham Bespoke design team created a solution, which fully fitted the client’s requirements. A series of bespoke, lock-together, fully reconfigurable upholstered screens were installed, creating one large pod housing six smaller pods. The screens were upholstered using moulded foam to give enhanced acoustic properties with the fabric colours reflect the University’s brand identity. Each pod houses a single Script desk with overhead and under desk storage to create individual working zones and maximise space.

Working with ISIS Concepts, KI supplied 1,368 Postura+ chairs in a variety of colours and sizes to the classrooms of The Orion Primary School based in Graham Park, Northwest London.

The staff and students of the school were very excited to move into their new premises. Parts of the school have been given ingenious titles – for example the school offices are now known as ‘Mission Control.’ The building houses a theatre, dance and recording studio, which are open to the local community and friends.

There are specific colours for each year throughout the school, for instance Year 3 has a colour coordination of blue, whilst Year 1 uses lime green. A block of colour has been painted on the outside of classroom walls with oversized numbers, with the same colour of chairs assisting the children with wayfinding.

Sarah Piers, Project Manager at Isis Concepts said: ‘Isis chose the Postura+ having used them on a number of previous projects. The new colour range means that we could offer the school the opportunity to have different coloured chairs in different areas to create a fun and engaging learning environment.’

The design for The Orion Primary School accommodates for day-to-day change, which comes with school life, as well as adaptability to allow for long-term change.

The design includes a 180 sq m badminton court, creating a flexible hall for school and community use.

The stackable Postura + chair is ergonomically designed to promote good posture and provide exceptional comfort. Moulded from high impact resistant polypropylene, Postura+ is strong, durable and light enabling the safe vertical stacking of 12 chairs.

The new Nobel Building at Barton Peveril in Hampshire is an eco-friendly structure with light, airy classrooms, solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system – making IT, media, maths, psychology and sport some of the most environmentally friendly subjects to study there!

The building represents a £4.2 million investment in the campus, designed by HNW Architects and built by Amiri Construction. Other facilities within the two-storey structure include a media studio, staffroom, private study area and a coffee shop for the use of staff and students.

The estates and IT staff have installed more than 1,200 items of furniture as well as adding 200 new PCs to the network. KI were briefed to supply a high volume of Intellect Wave Chairs for this showcase area of the campus.

Carol Geddes of Barton Peveril commented: ‘The Intellect Wave Chairs were chosen to complement the light, airy setting of the student study areas in our new teaching building. Practical and comfortable, they are in constant use throughout the college day and fit neatly under desks when unoccupied.’

Julie Perry Head of Prism Office Interiors added: ‘Barton Peveril College was keen to ensure that the durability and design of the student furniture selected fulfilled all the criteria required for the Nobel Building. Following an extensive audit of various samples of ICT chairs, the Intellect Wave IT chair was selected because it basically ticked all the boxes – comfort, design, durability and is very competitively priced. The Intellect Wave chair has been well received by the students hence the reason for all the repeat orders!’

USM Haller Furniture is the focal point of the redesign of the new Portsmouth University Library. The redesign was completed in 2014, bringing new life to the university and creating a central hub designed to engage and support students.

The library building, the work of ABK architects, dates back to the 1970’s and USM Haller was specified because of its ability to fit and adapt with time and changing needs. Designer Laura Debout, who worked on the refurbishment of the 2,000 sq m ground floor of the library, says: ‘The choice of USM Haller was a way of restoring the building’s original spirit, providing an opportunity to revisit the entire concept of the space using USM Haller to provide library storage. USM’s tubular metal frame is wholly in keeping with the raw elements such as the concrete ceiling and exposed ducts.’

‘We were delighted to be so extensively involved with the project,’ Ian Weddell, USM UK CEO, tells us. ‘The timeless and hardwearing qualities of USM will give the library a real longevity. The modularity of the range means it is a great investment for a public institution such as a university as the units can be lowered or extended with ease, either within the library itself or reconfigured and moved to other parts of the campus if need be.’

The layout was reconfigured to encourage the professional behaviour the university is seeking from its students. Ken Dick, Associate University Librarian, explains: ‘Usually a library is traditionally arranged on lines of shelving parallel to each other, which can be quite intimidating as it creates a dark, closed space.’

Instead, there are now five clusters, framing desks with PCs, which the USM borders. Laure Debout explains: ‘The shelving acts as a space definition tool, changing the overall landscape and creating zones and lounges at a more human scale. This also enhances the acoustics and sense of wellbeing.’

There are sofas within these clusters and other seating options, including armchairs and new window benches around the periphery of the space to give a variety of work settings, typical of third space environments.

The height of the shelving is lower than the previous units, with the mid-sections open, allowing light to pass through them. The chrome surfaces are also reflective, meaning what daylight there is, particularly in winter, can be maximised.

The central zone, which is where further desking is arranged and where the main information point can be found, is kept free of shelving so that students can work in large groups in an open area.

The overall aim was to create a social, learning environment where collaboration could be encouraged and students felt welcome. This is also the rationale behind blurring the boundaries between the cafe area and where the periodicals and magazines are displayed. Students can simply sit down and read or share information with their peers over a coffee.

The reaction from students has been overwhelmingly positive: they like and are respectful of the new furniture and the transition to the new configuration of space has been an entirely natural one. The success of the scheme can also be measured in footfall for the library, which has increased year on year as it attracts and supports students.

BGY_Roedean_-®Hufton+Crow_002Award-winning architecture practice BuckleyGrayYeoman refurbished four Grade II listed boarding houses at Roedean, one of the world’s leading independent girls’ schools.

Roedean is famed for the natural beauty of its 45-acre coastal campus, which lies just outside Brighton, overlooking the English Channel within the South Downs National Park.

BuckleyGrayYeoman drew on the it’s experience of private residential and boutique hotel projects to refurbish Rodean School’s four Grade II listed Victorian boarding houses, built in the Arts and Crafts style in 1898. The new interiors reflect the school’s reputation for combining tradition with a progressive and forward-thinking approach to education, and are of the highest quality to be found in the UK.

Oliver Blond, Headmaster of Roedean School, said: ‘The refurbishment of the boarding houses underlines Roedean’s commitment to the highest pastoral standards, and creates a ‘home from home’ feeling which is so important for those girls for whom school is their home during term-time. It draws the building’s fine heritage and architectural features, together with the comfort and welcoming feel of a contemporary home. The new boarding houses have certainly had a very strong and positive impact on the girls, their parents, and staff at Roedean.’

BuckleyGrayYeoman’s designs enhanced the internal layout of the buildings and created new areas for interactive learning and private study, as well as socialising. The refurbished boarding houses accommodate more than 200 bedrooms, along with a wide range of communal areas including prep rooms, dining rooms, bathrooms, drawing rooms and hobby rooms. The boarding houses are central to the ethos of Roedean: every student, day or boarder, is a member of a house and has access to the common areas.

The atmosphere throughout the boarding houses is of a home from home, each differentiated by different colour palettes of blue, red, green and yellow that are played out in the fabrics and carpet designs. Furniture and lighting by British design brands including Ercol, James Burleigh and Innermost combine with William Morris wallpapers, bespoke and handmade rugs and carpets and light-hearted details such as plywood dear heads. Artwork by past students hangs throughout the common areas; a personal touch that gives a presence to the Old Roedeanians. The refurbished spaces are lively and comfortable, with a contemporary design aesthetic that makes the most of the school’s rich heritage and the impressive original detailing of the buildings.

Key to the refurbishment was the transformation of the student bedrooms. Most are one- or two-bed, with a small number of three-bed rooms. BuckleyGrayYeoman designed bespoke furniture and fittings to maximise the available space, creating warm, welcoming and well-organised rooms suitable for sleeping and private study. The bespoke furniture system integrates lighting fixtures and frames the windows and sea views beyond.