Building a sustainable future for education

Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, Christchurch

16 September 2014 - The Rangi Ruru Girls’ School buildings suffered a significant amount of damage during the Christchurch Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. As a result the school has undertaken a long term plan, working with Aurecon to revitalise its campus with Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) at the forefront of its plans.

The project is divided into four distinct stages with multiple buildings within each stage. The first stage which consists of the Science Centre, Gibson Centre (library) and General Academic Block named Mana Wahine, was completed in May.

Our Christchurch Building Services team is working with all stakeholders to create a series of buildings which respond to the growing needs of a 21st century education environment whilst minimising the use of energy consuming plant and equipment.

Commenting on the Science Centre, Architect Craig Brown from McIldowie Partners Architects, describes it as “a living, breathing giant science experiment”.

“It’s a living building that will actively engage the students by being the very latest, environmentally responsive building that uses natural ventilation together with displays of how systems work, green walls and weather stations,” says Brown.

From the outset, the Aurecon team worked in very close collaboration with the Architect to incorporate, wherever possible, passive design solutions into the buildings with the common goal of creating buildings that would live and breathe.

Aurecon’s Technical Director, Peter Rickard-Green, ensured sustainable design was considered in every aspect of the Science Centre.

“We wanted the whole building including the architecture, the structure and the façade to work for us to passively condition the internal space.”

The team achieved this by using automated windows to ventilate the building with a controlled amount of air based on the CO2 content and temperature of the rooms. As the air enters the building it is conditioned by passing over an exposed section of concrete that runs along the internal perimeter of the building. During winter months, this strip of concrete is heated by an underfloor heating system which derives its heat from a high efficiency air to water heat pump. During summer months the concrete is cooled overnight by natural ventilation, thus resulting in passive cooling of the air as it passes across the concrete. High level windows in the classrooms are then used to exhaust the stale air from the most intensive areas.

The team used thermal modelling to test the use of internal exposed concrete to absorb excess heat during hot summer days and therefore reduce the internal temperature of the spaces. This passive cooling method reduced the highest temperature in the rooms to a comfortable level resulting in the complete absence of mechanical cooling from the Science Centre.

The Building Services team received high praise for their work on the building and achieved this with the focus on delivering with excellence.

“We have a basic mantra on the project. If anything we designed did not benefit the real client, the students, then why were we doing it? Client service excellence was always at the forefront of everything we did”, Rickard-Green said.

To achieve this, along with a high level of stakeholder engagement, the Buildings Services Team hosted fortnightly design workshops, where the Architect and engineers could attend ‘round table cross discipline sessions.  Towards the end of the construction the design team instigated their “soft landing” approach to handing the building over to the users. This approach included holding stakeholder workshops, with presentations on the effective use of the buildings proving invaluable to all.

The outcome of their designs has resulted in internal comfort being controlled by the use of in-floor hydronic radiant heating, passive cooling (provided by the thermal mass) and night purging. Natural ventilation systems were designed in such a way as to allow a light breeze, tempered by the perimeter bands of exposed concrete with underfloor heating, to flow through the building, keeping the air fresh. As a result, the teaching spaces experience complete silence due to the total absence of mechanical ventilation or blown air heating.

The client, Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, relayed its delight in the project in the following article. Click here to read it.

"It's magic," says Rangi Ruru Girls’ School Principal, Julie Moor. "The girls when they came here were so excited. This is the future. They have got space to move. It is energising space, about socialising as well as learning.”

This is just the start of Aurecon’s journey with Rangi Ruru Girls’ School, with phase two of the project currently in the design phase and phase three due to commence in the very near future.

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