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Competition makes for excellence in Qld school architecture

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Queensland is firming up its reputation as a hotbed of independent education, there is strong competition for students and that means parents are becoming very discerning about the schools they choose for their children.

Independent school enrolments in Queensland increased by nearly 2000, or 1.7%, from 2017 to 2018. This is the highest annual increase in recent years and nearly double the rate experienced from 2016 to 2017.

The competition has made everyone involved in building education facilities lift their game with nothing short of excellence being acceptable.

Burling Brown Architects Director Brian Kidd says “Design briefs have evolved so significantly over the years in response to the constant evolution and advancement of technology and the burgeoning nature of the Independent School System. 30 years ago, school fees and budgets were tight and as a consequence facility design were less elaborate.

“Where a simple shed once would have sufficed for an arts or sports facility, schools are now giving architects university style complex briefings, and the interior fitouts are now far more technical and complex in nature. There’s been a huge shift in expectations and specialised learning spaces and architectural features are in such high demand they are now driving enrolments particularly in the Independent and Private School sector.”

“Approximately one-third of school age children in Australia are enrolled in the independent and private school systems and this is increasing each year. The statistics are even higher on the Gold Coast and with six to eight schools within a 10 to 12km radius in some suburbs, there is incredible competition,” Kidd said.

“Private and Independent schools find themselves competing for enrolments and this free market is driving the demand for high end learning spaces now more than ever before.

“Parents are looking for far more from a school than its reputation, scholastic achievements or sporting programs. They are expecting schools to provide STEM facilities, senior learning centres, and multi-functional spaces with high quality finishes and full integration and overlay of 21st century technology.

“We will soon see virtual and augmented reality, robotics, 3D printing, laser cutting and drones as the norm, and schools are identifying the need to have facilities flexible enough to move and adapt to change,” he said.

“Coomera Anglican College is a prime example – the school provided a complex and innovative brief which inspired The Pod – a complete sensory learning space and is without doubt, one of Queensland’s most immersive new learning facilities.”

'The Pod' saw an integrated and collaborative partnership between Coomera Anglican College, Burling Brown, and Gold Coast construction company Alder Constructions.

The facility features extraordinary shapes, curves and voids, showcasing a 360 degree amphitheatre for virtual and augmented reality learning. Features like writable walls, retractable AV and 3D printer cabinetry create a minimal yet futuristic design.

The collaboration won Alder Constructions the 2018 Master Builders Gold Coast Housing and Construction Award for education facilities valued up to $10 million.

A.B. Paterson College is another highly progressive school that spent years developing the concept for its $13 million state-of-the-art learning precinct. The College has also engaged Burling Brown and Alder Constructions to deliver the new facility at Arundel, which is currently under construction.


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