Assured performance for school design


As Innovaré Systems has proven with its i-SIP and i-FAST systems, the speed and flexibility of offsite construction makes it an ideal fit for education, delivering better outcomes for school projects and especially for SEN learners.

Panelised systems such as i-SIP and i-FAST deliver projects rapidly and reliably with guaranteed quality and performance levels. When it comes to the particular demands of SEN school building programmes, panelised offsite has even more to offer. The maximum benefits are realised through the integrated design and manufacturing process made possible by the technology. This offers enormous flexibility to designers, architects and SEN learning specialists to shape the ideal learning environment.

Talking about flexibility might seem a bit counter-intuitive. Offsite to many people can mean the design and layout must be based system constraints and creativity is limited. But, when the technology is deployed using a collaborative process, designers have access to many more possibilities.

Panelised offsite can offer large spans and flexible internal layouts. Thermal and acoustic performance levels are built into the panels and there’s guaranteed buildability. This brings new opportunities to design school buildings that meet specific needs, which is what creating effective SEN learning environments is all about. SEN is a wide-ranging term. It encompasses a diverse group of learners with very specific needs. Meeting those needs calls for unique solutions in terms of the design, layout and construction of each SEN school with its own learner community.

The digital design and manufacturing process used by the i-SIP and i-FAST systems means SEN experts and design engineers can be fully engaged in the spatial planning process. The ideal layout of learning spaces and the need for students to easily navigate their way around the school can be fully met. The ideal design can then be turned into reality in the shortest possible time and with controllable costs with more certainty of outcomes.

What Learners Need

The most important requirements for SEN learners are flexibility of use, minimising distractions and structured learning spaces. Natural lighting and ventilation also improve the learning environment. Panelised offsite methods offer designers significant benefits, freedoms and opportunities, including:

• Structural capacity to support wall and roof-hung equipment
• Flexibility of layout for improved access and movement space
• Clear spans for future adaptability
• Optimised thermal comfort for health and wellbeing
• Enhanced acoustics for reduced disturbance
• Robustness against accidental damage.

Schools should be neither too hot nor too cold. The right building fabric choices along with design flexibility ensure that these conditions can be maintained with minimal mechanical intervention. Along with good ventilation and natural lighting, these are the key ingredients for the health and wellbeing of students and staff.

Classroom Acoustics

Poor acoustics make learning hard work. Difficulty with oral communication also affects the quality of group working and student interactions. The learners most obviously affected are those with hearing or visual impairment. The added cognitive effort caused by poor acoustics also leads to problems for students with ADHD or ASD.

An integrated design and manufacturing process is an opportunity to fine-tune the acoustics during the design stage and to build the desired properties into the structure and fabric of the building. This covers both transmitted noise levels and the surfaces needed to absorb sound and minimise reverberation. Controlling the acoustics means there’s less reliance on assistive hearing devices and technology. The digital design process means that precise routing of HVAC systems can be designed into the building to minimise background noise levels. Hard, reflective surfaces such as glass can also be carefully positioned to control reverberation.


The choices made today about building systems will have an enduring environmental impact. The structural timber used in the i-SIP and i-FAST systems stores carbon and offers significantly lower levels of embodied carbon than other building methods. The panelised offsite manufactured i-SIP and i-FAST systems generate minimal waste on site and any waste from the manufacturing process is recyclable.

The thermal performance and airtightness of the i-SIP and i-FAST wall panels mean heating and cooling energy consumption in operation is minimal and carbon emissions are therefore low throughout the building life.

Careful energy efficiency and acoustic engineering calculations can easily be undermined by poor levels of air-tightness in the finished structure; or by walls, floors and ceilings that transmit more heat than they should. That’s why designing performance into panels that fit together tightly is such an advantage.

Delivering the Balance

A successful project that fully meets the needs of students relies on eliminating potential disconnects between the design and the finished product. This means three things:

• Making the project fully digitally enabled from design to delivery (which eliminates the need for interpretation during the construction phase).
• Using a fabric first approach so that the desired thermal and acoustic properties are built into the structure.
• Adopting a pre-manufactured offsite process that delivers airtightness through fine tolerances and precision.

Panelised offsite construction used within a collaborative design and manufacturing process delivers better project outcomes in terms of energy efficiency, acoustic properties and, most important, a learning environment fine-tuned to the needs of SEN learners.

Red Kite Academy, Northamptonshire

Red Kite Academy was delivered two weeks ahead of schedule to create much needed school places for children with a range of learning difficulties and special educational needs. The academy provides an inclusive and welcoming environment for one hundred pupils with additional educational needs. Innovaré, Architecture Initiative and Ashe Construction collaborated to create a new and innovative design and deliver a high quality, airtight, energy efficient building using Innovaré’s i-SIP System. The Academy includes a hydrotherapy pool, a sensory suite, and a studio flat to help prepare pupils for independent life. Early design collaboration enabled the delivery of an efficiently designed scheme that met the specialist requirements set out by the client. Regular team meetings meant that a robust schedule for delivery was agreed in advance and design for M&E services was incorporated within the manufacture of the panels to avoid onsite clashes.

The enhanced performance benefits achieved using the i-SIP System will reduce ongoing maintenance and energy consumption costs across the lifecycle of the building. Tom O’Dwyer, on behalf of the trust, said: “We are thrilled to finally take this crucial step as we move towards providing a desperately needed resource for the children and their families. We look forward with immense anticipation to seeing Red Kite Academy take its place in the family of wonderful Northamptonshire special schools.”

To read the full article, go to the latest issue of Offsite Magazine here.

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