Next Generation Relocatable Classrooms: A Winning Vision for 21st Century Learning

Published: Sunday 11 December 2011

Few need to be convinced that the current model of relocatable classrooms do not provide for the needs of 21st Century education and pedagogy. But where do you start to create change? The Melbourne School of Design and the 116 teams of Architects and Designers who entered the "Future Proofing Schools" competition have made a bold start and set the agenda for a new generation of relocatable classrooms.

Seven awards were on offer in the $60,000 international competition. Entries were judged for their response to 21st Century Learning, Sustainability, Prefabrication and Landscape Integration; and how they could continue to adapt into the future in response to rapidly changing enrollments, natural disasters, decanting, remote communities and continually evolving learning and teaching strategies.

Victorian Architects were well represented in the prizes, with NOWarchitecture awarded for Best Response to 21st Century Learning, Enza Angelucci Architect recognised for Landscape Integration, and Architectus Melbourne taking out the major prize. 

NOWarchitecture's vision for a relocatable classroom, The FabTM, impressed the jury with its ability to "support the development of [modern] skill sets needed to be agile, inspiring, supportive of effective teaching and learning and inclusive of the broader community and other cultural and educational organisations."

"The key was creating a single module that allowed unique solutions", NOWarchitecture team member Sarah Hobday-North said. "Relocatables shouldn't be just about enrollments, but also about a school's approach to learning. The wedge shape is very adaptable to different learning strategies, as well as site constraints." 

A myriad of learning communities are possible with The FabTM wedge module - linear, serpentine, clustered, courtyards or block. Internal spaces can be configured for Primary and Secondary level learning environments, accommodate large groups, team-teaching, small groups and discrete classrooms, while movable partitions allow settings to be changed as required. The design also connects with outdoor learning and offers verandahs for weather protection. The in-built wet area creates options for an enhanced and integrated curriculum not possible in existing relocatable learning spaces. 

The FabTM is highly sustainable and almost fully recyclable. Its main components are made from recycled plastic, which in turn are recyclable at the end of the building's life. The floor slab incorporates a water tank to provide rainwater storage and thermal mass to regulate internal temperatures. This 'tank slab' replaces conventional concrete footings which are much higher in embodied energy. High level windows provide natural ventilation and allow night purging, while integrated awnings shade the northern facades.

NOWarchitecture have achieved an aesthetically delightful and truly "future proof" solution, and through the Future Proofing Schools competition, have contributed to a new pool knowledge to inform and improve future designs of relocatable classrooms.

Opening Event - 6-7pm, 12th December, Wunderlich Gallery, University of Melbourne

See all the winners at: