Green Architect, Building Sustainable Schools: A Case Study

David Lloyd Jones is a British architect, based in London, who has for several years specialised in designing and building sustainable schools. Through his architectural practise, ‘Studio E Architects’, Lloyd Jones and his team of architects and designers have won several contracts and competitions through a recent British Government scheme that has pumped 90 billion pounds into a revitalised school building and renovation programme.

During a recent International green architectural and design seminar, he gave a lecture and workshop where he discussed at length some of his projects, and the green motivation behind the projects, and the particular sustainable vision that went into them. He and Studio E have been responsible for Newark Primary school, Inverclyde Academy, Upland Primary school, college boarding houses and technology centres, as well as 2 London Academies at Southwark and Hackney, amongst many others.

Building Sustainable Schools

Lloyd Jones spoke passionately of his belief in planning ahead now for “future generations” as part of his motivation in working on school buildings. He sees education and sustainability as 2 key issues that are very closely linked, and are crucial for the sake of the future survival of humanity and our planet.

“In my experience, most sustainable building designs and projects are a blend of the local climate, the sustainable technology and materials that are available and affordable, and the local culture – that is, who is going to be involved in the project and actually use the building once complete,” Lloyd Jones said in a short interview after his lecture: “All these elements come together in the site – where the existing school is, and what is actually on the site right now, be it existing buildings, run down buildings, no buildings at all, a recreational field, or whatever.”

The first part of Lloyd Jones’ projects always starts with the wish to engage with the school and the local community. He asks them the same question – ‘what sort of school do you want?’, and then he and his team engage everyone in working out together exactly the answer to this question. He said that the motivation behind this is to “engage and influence young minds”: when the children themselves see that they are invited to engage in a design and discussion process, they have a stake in the future, through their school and as part of the local community.

As an architect, responsible to the educational authority that has commissioned the project, Lloyd Jones discussed with the audience the factors which constrain the project and which he must always keep at the forefront of his mind as the project develops: “quality, time, and cost”, but he continued, “the interpretation of the project is always a shared thought process.”

He spoke more about the joy of working with school children as they imagined the kind of school they would want to be in and learn within. At one of his projects, a primary school, the children repeatedly talked about an observatory to see the planets, and Lloyd Jones was able to design and build a unique stand alone classroom in a corner of the playground, that contains an observatory area, with hi-tech links to desktop computers for the children to monitor the sky. He is inspired by the fact that 1.4 million school children in the UK now have their own web pages, and sees that computers and technology are children’s way into the world of the future – “there is an educational transformation going on,” he said after the lecture in an interview: “And there is no reason why their school buildings cannot be a part of that too.”

Elements of Environmental Sustainability and Standards

Lloyd Jones went on to discuss more about the practicalities of designing and building sustainably. According to him, this includes having an ethical underpinning to all that he and his firm does, combined with an objective analysis and quantification of the entire project, with all its materials, and costs, and time factors. He mentioned “the plurality of technologies”, which means how to bring in and combine old and new technologies together. For instance, glass walls can be effectively used to allow more light through a building, but may also need blinds to provide classes with a degree of privacy. This phrase also applies to heating and cooling systems as well.

Understanding the local climate conditions is key to ensuring a school building can be maintained effectively, Lloyd Jones believes. Designing buildings to face the sun, or where it rises for the longest part of the day, is a keep requisite for solar gain, and also finding ways to ensure maximum ventilation through both the summer and winter months. Lloyd Jones stringently adheres to both International agreements, as well as local and national environmental planning laws, and ensures local materials, in range of the school building, are used where possible.