Students at the Williamstown High School, Bayview Campus (WHS), have experienced the benefits of learning and working in an inspirational environment following the opening of major, award winning, building renovations.

With classrooms opening onto an atrium, a luminous learning street and distinctive brightly coloured piping and water tanks, it seems that Spowers Architects have found the right ingredients when it comes to outstanding school design.

Not traditionally involved in school projects, the architectural firm was announced a winner recently at a special ceremony in Melbourne celebrating excellence in educational design.

The Bayview Street campus is both a model of environmental efficiency and a facilitator of environmental studies.

The primary design objectives of the school development were to provide new and positive identity to the school by improving the amenity of the student facility. Stage One is now complete, which incorporates two southern buildings dedicated to classroom-type learning activities. Stage Two comprises a northern building complex that accommodates the gymnasium, canteen and further amenities relating to the outdoor sporting facilities.

Project architect Jenni Webster said the Year 7 and 8 building (which replaced the 1960s infrastructure of the former Point Gellibrand Girls’ School) features recycled timber flooring, captures rainwater from seven water tanks to flush toilets and is orientated for the best solar advantage.

So confident were the architects of the building’s energy efficiencies that no air conditioning was installed.

The school took out the Best Secondary School Award, with Spowers Architects expected to complete the gymnasium and canteen before the end of the year.

The awards recognised the importance of high quality design in complementing and enhancing the quality teaching and learning programs of schools in Victoria.

And with a $1.9 billion investment to rebuild, renovate or extend 500 schools across Victoria by 2011 – and all schools by 2017 – as part of the Victorian Schools Plan, school design has never been more important.

Other winners included Kneeler Design Architects, which won the Best Primary School award for designs at McKinnon Primary School and Rowan Opat Architects which carried off the gong for Best School Project up to $2.5 million for a development of the Timboon P-12 Learning Centre.