Any good facility design starts with a clear design brief which will inform stakeholders from initial concept design and budgeting through to facility commissioning and handover. The brief will often be tested and may be modified throughout the project. An ill-conceived brief rarely delivers acceptable outcomes.
Identifying the requirements for each space
Many spaces are required to support multiple modes of learning as well as non-standard activities, and the criteria for these may heavily influence the physical design. Designers should strive to understand the intended use cases for each space, and brief criteria that support the most critical uses.
For example, AS/NZS2107 is the acoustic standard typically used to define background noise levels within space from building services plant and external noise ingress. This standard provides criteria based on typical uses. Where multipurpose spaces are proposed it is important that the design requirements for all modes are considered when finalising criteria for the space.
Some typical examples of the types of spaces found in education are summarised below.
Meeting and group study rooms
- may also support audio/video conferencing
- Typical flat floor spaces have a flexible layout and may have voice amplification
- Some small flat floor spaces may have no voice amplification
- Collaborative/interactive group work spaces may have microphones at each group table as well as a wandering academic
- Lecture theatres and auditoria are usually tiered or raked and almost always include voice amplification
- Specialist spaces will have unique requirements, for example:
- Discursive (Socratic or Harvard-style) are built to encourage discussion and debate
- Superlabs may have multiple teaching stations with group benches flexibly assigned to each – more than one lab session may be conducted simultaneously
Multiple-use spaces, for example a teaching space may have a secondary role supporting
- video conferencing
- organisational events; and/or
- live performances
Social learning areas
- will usually be briefed on a project-by-project basis
Performance Criteria and User Experience
Once you’ve identified the roles each space must satisfy, you need to consider the performance criteria required to provide an appropriate user experience. Where the acoustics required for a secondary use are more critical than the general case, the tighter criteria should be applied.
For most organisations, a reasonably standardised set of criteria will be applied equally to all rooms of any type. These standardised criteria can also be applied to many specialist spaces with modification, but some use cases will necessitate departures, for example:
- Teaching and meeting spaces fit-out with audience microphones may benefit from the application of more-stringent acoustic criteria where mix-minus systems are used
- General acoustic criteria may apply broadly to a superlab, but must be evolved to allow the use of multiple discrete PA systems. Effective acoustic strategies that fit within the laboratory construction standards must be considered in the space design.
- Acoustics in a lecture theatre with cinema style screening capability may need to meet SMPTE standards for playback in addition to those employed for typical lecture theatre. The specific standard required should be clearly defined during the briefing phase dependant on the needs of the cinema space or function.