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Back to basics for school designsJune 2011

Review of Education Capital is highly critical of the previous government's school's rebuilding programme

School design could undergo a sharp U-turn following a review of education capital spending by Sebastian James. 

The report, Review of Education Capital, is highly critical of the previous government's schools' rebuilding programe, calling it "complex, time consuming, expensive and opaque".

The review also accused the Building Schools for the Future programme for "not creating high and consistent quality or low cost." Designs were "far too bespoke [and] there was no evidence of an effective way of learning from mistakes and successes."

The review's recommendations could mark a major shift away from expensive, iconic buildings to school designs based on a set of standardised drawings and specifications.

The review argues that standard drawings and specifications should cover the layouts and dimensions of spaces and walls, and details of how different materials and components will be fixed together. The specifications would be a written description of the standards and performance required of the materials and components that make up the building.

The review has called for a system that continuously learns and improves upon these standardised drawings and specifications, but stops short of suggesting how this would be done, and how it would be funded.

The review has argued for a "single, strong, expert, intelligent client" responsible for the design and the delivery of larger projects. "This body must be accountable for the delivery of buildings on time and to the right budget and quality standards," says the report.

The review also calls for "thorough" post-occupancy reviews to be applied to each school project "without fail".

BSRIA's school's specialist Roderic Bunn said that the review had missed obvious targets. "There is little on reducing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. The report also places too much emphasis on new build when refurbishment and maintenance of the existing stock is more urgent," he said.

Review of Education Capital is available to download from the Department for Education website.