Best value for Early Years buildings

Barry Young
A new generation of children across Scotland will have access to exemplary Early Years facilities, designed to meet their needs and keep within the Scottish Parliament funding envelope.

Scotland’s Early Years facilities are to benefit from new cost-effective designs, as part of the Scottish government’s plan to almost double the funded early learning and childcare (ELC) entitlement—rising to 1,140 hours a year by August 2020, as outlined in A Blueprint for 2020: the Expansion of Early Learning & Childcare in Scotland.

Education Services within local authorities will be seeking ways to develop the best campus facilities for children and staff, across their estates, in preparation for their remit to deliver the extended hours. The Scottish government has made available £476M capital funding to be allocated to successful applicants.

Facilities will need to comply with Space to Grow, the Scottish government’s 2017 guide to help local authority, private and voluntary childcare providers enhance the design of their new, extended or refurbished settings.

Faithful+Gould is working with East Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Futures Trust, hub South West Scotland and the Care Inspectorate on a pilot study to produce three exemplar Early Years reference designs that can be used as a blueprint throughout Scotland. The three designs have been created by design firms Anderson Bell & Christie, NORR Architects, and East Ayrshire Council in-house architectural team.

 

Our role is to ensure that the designs comply with the area metric specified by the Care Inspectorate for Scotland and the cost metric established by the Scottish Futures Trust. It was imperative that all three designs responded positively to both metric targets. We have utilised our commercial services, value management and stakeholder management expertise.

Community input has been very important, with all agencies and stakeholders, as well as the design/consultancy team, committed to achieving the best possible results for the children who will be the ultimate beneficiary. Our role was vital to the management of design expectations and design process, shaping aspirations into cost-effective realities.

Success was underpinned by our close involvement in the evolution of the designs, continually benchmarking the costs throughout the project. We were able to draw on our considerable experience of Early Years affordability, set alongside our familiarity with Space to Grow requirements, and our detailed knowledge of construction methods, materials and specifications.

The priority was to create a stimulating, functional internal and external environment, to promote movement, support play, and provide quality social experiences that nurture independent skills. At the same time, budgetary constraints had to be respected—and the initial design considerations exceeded the cost metric cap.

As cost/commercial managers our prime focus is to drive tension into the design process: stimulating designers to consider occupational and operational aspects; multi-functioning space; as well as optimising specification and component choices. We therefore challenged the designers to compromise on those elements with less operational influence—the building fabric, for example. Our efforts delivered significant savings of £120/m² to the external fabric alone. Our continual proactive value management ensured the design responded positively to budget parameters.

 

The provision of outdoor space, and its relationship with the indoor space, brought further challenges to the project. Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence emphasises a broader learning experience, including active learning and learning outdoors. In 2016, the Care Inspectorate published guidance called My World Outdoors, which encourages further development of high-quality outdoor play, and is referenced in Space to Grow.

Space to Grow also stresses the Care Inspectorate’s expectations around spatial metrics and area compliance. Again, emphasis is placed on the balance between indoor and outdoor settings, and the way in which this should influence the target area of the facility. In line with Early Years curriculum aims of 80 per cent indoor time and 20 per cent outdoor time, the pilot study designs are based on 80 per cent indoor occupancy multiplied by the optimum area required per child. This represented a significant challenge to the team, underpinning the importance of Faithful+Gould’s contribution to cost managing the reference design process.

As this reference project draws to a close, the whole design team is very aware that this is just the beginning for future generations of young children. The consultation process aimed to challenge the status quo, exploring ideas and inspirations for the learning environment of the future - we look forward to seeing these buildings brought to life. The pilot campus designs are now ready for use, with the endorsement of the Care Inspectorate.

Faithful+Gould continues to work on Scotland’s most challenging and inspirational education projects, alongside the Scottish Futures Trust, local authorities, regional hub companies and private sector development partners. Our current workload includes Knockroon Learning and Enterprise Campus for East Ayrshire Council, Lochside Academy (South of the City) via hub North Scotland partnership with Aberdeen City Council, Stoneywood Primary School for Aberdeen City Council, and Invergarven School for South Ayrshire Council.

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