In the spirit of the Government’s Academy Programme, Langley aims to raise academic standards by reinventing the school experience. Sponsored by the Arbib Foundation, the school caters for 1150 students between the ages of 11 to 18 and introduces an innovative curriculum, which embraces unusual subjects such as forensics. The building itself forms part of the learning experience, articulating the educational themes of scientific enquiry, museum curating and sport: science laboratories are revealed; the services are exposed and energy use of the building is scientifically chronicled and displayed; and the visual links with the playing fields create an intimate relationship between the interior and exterior.
The central focus of the Academy is a large, open, flexible entrance atrium, which is used for assemblies and as an exhibition space for loaned museum exhibits and schoolwork – pupils are encouraged to learn about curating exhibitions through direct experience of putting displays together. Inside the atrium are three yellow drums, raised above the floor on circular columns. These two-storey pods house the Academy’s ten science laboratories and, placing their activities on display, reinforce the importance of science teaching. Also visible is the plant room, whose digital displays are behind a glazed panel in the atrium, allowing students to scrutinise energy use – the building’s environmental features save 20 percent in water consumption and approximately 150 tonnes of carbon per year compared to a traditional academy.
Langley is a form-based Academy and classrooms are configured around two ‘fingers’, which extend from the atrium and enclose internal courtyards for art and IT, as well as defining and sheltering an external play area. The classrooms are highly flexible to support a variety of formal and informal teaching methods and provide adaptable rooms for out-of-hours use by the community. A dedicated sports and culture block, adjacent to the atrium, contains specialist facilities for music and drama: a fully equipped theatre, a TV and sound recording studio, sound-proof rehearsal space, a sports hall and lecture theatre. The Academy’s exterior is clad in sustainably sourced timber panels, which have naturally weathered from an orange to a silver shade, and harmonise with a horizontal and vertical arrangement of timber brise soleil.
Sketches + Drawings
Site + Climate
The building's orientation responds to the climate and protects against excessive solar gain and glare.
Form + Massing
The solar shading on the façade responds to the buildings orientation. On the south façade, horizontal shading provides protection from high angle sun, while the East and West façade's vertical shading protects from low angle sun. There is no shading to the North, to help diffuse daylight penetration.
Cost effective passive design measures informed the design of Langley Academy. These include the exposed thermal mass, allowing the building to act as a thermal buffer and help maintain a comfortable working environment. Where practical, all spaces are naturally ventilated.
Where practical either low energy (i.e. lighting), or driven by renewables (i.e. solar thermal hot water) environmental systems were used.
A biomass boiler and ground source heat pump provide the majority of heating requirements for the building. Solar thermal panels provide hot water and solar powered street lights illuminate the external areas.
Mobility + Connectivity
The building is located in a residential area which provides the main catchment for the school. The layout of the campus encourages pedestrian and cycle access, with entries in 2 directions and over 60 covered bike racks.
Materials + Waste
Durable, simple and environmental responsibility materials were chosen throughout. FSC cedar wood was used for the envelope, whilst concrete and blockwork feature in the internal finishes.
The school partnered with Thames Water to install and monitor water usage of different types of fixtures and fittings across the campus. A 30,000L rainwater harvesting system is used for WC flushing. A Reedbed was installed to treat greywater.
Land + Ecology
The school has a greywater reed bed and an organic plantation to help increase the biodiversity of the site alongside assist the students understanding of ecology.
Culture + Heritage
The schools playing fields, sports hall, theatre, classrooms and atrium are shared with the local community when not in use by the school.
The classrooms were designed to be daylit and naturally ventilated. Since moving to the school, there has been a significant improvement in school grades, a reduction in absenteeism and an decrease in antisocial behaviour among the students.
The project achieved a BREEAM Very Good rating, on a modest budget. Passive design measures were chosen over active systems, which led to partnerships with local utility companies.
Planning for Change
To increase fuel security and reduce costs, the main sources of heat for the school are renewables. Solar energy and ground source heat pumps gather 'free' energy from the environment. Biomass prices have been comparatively stable in the UK compared to rising gas prices.
Performance in Use
A Post Occupancy Study reviewed the operational performance of the building and its environmental systems. In 2013 a Foster + Partners will work with the students at Langley Academy to conduct a more detailed environmental analysis of the classrooms and atrium space.
Facts + Figures
- Appointment: 2004
- Completion: 2008
- Area: 10,064m²
- Client: Arbib Foundation (Sponsor)
- Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
- Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon
- M+E Engineer: Buro Happold
- Additional Consultants: Sandy Brown, FEDRA
- RICS National Awards Commendation, Community Benefit
- RICS South East, Project of the Year
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