£18.7m Sandwell Academy

Two Storey 10,000m2 School

This two storey 10,000m2 school was completed during September 2006, opening initially to 180 year 7 students and a lower 6th of 150 students. The school will mature to accommodate 1200 children and is situated in Halfords Lane, opposite West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

BH&M Architects

Sandwell Academy was designed by Barnsley Hewett & Mallinson, who have also worked on a number of master plans for the DFES and the Architect responsible for completing the first new City Academy, The Walsall Academy.

Sandwell Academy has a determination to deliver a genuinely personalised curriculum for all and the support of West Bromwich Albion football club, not only through its location but through involvement as sponsors and governors, reinforces the specialism and its impact upon student motivation and achievement. Physical education and Sport Students receive a broad physical education experience with year 7 typically receiving over 4 hrs curriculum time per week. Business Enterprise concepts are studied from year 7 and initially integrated into the Design and Technology curriculum. A range of business and ICT courses are offered in the 6th form providing students with opportunity to develop enterprise skills; local industry is involved with the delivery and design of the curriculum. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the Academy during 2nd February 2007.

Acoustic design arose as an early implementation of the acoustic control requirements called for by Building Bulletin 93. The Academy is sited close-by to an industrial estate and the M6 motorway beyond; with noise from these sources approaching 60 dBA, environmental noise exposure was a material consideration for the acoustic performance of the external building fabric. Despite this challenge, AAD was able to preserve the design team's goal to implement a naturally ventilated solution, which used attenuated wind catching terminals.

BH&M Architects

With the building envelope acoustic and ventilation specifications resolved, the team turned its attention to teaching spaces. Here, a particular challenge awaited them, which contrasted BB93's strong caution against the use of "open plan" teaching spaces with the Academy's Project Manager, Sir Kevin Satchwell's philosophy... "this will inevitably include a combination of open plan teaching and independent learning areas".

This user requirement included a number of "open plan" teaching areas, some of which were even "duplex" or double height spaces, accommodating activities as diverse as art and technology. For these spaces, there is a real risk that speech intelligibility (i.e. the ability to interpret speech correctly) will be compromised and - if permitted - would be detrimental to the learning process. To address BB93's stringent speech intelligibility requirements, applicable if such spaces are required, a 3D speech propagation "talking head" model was used to support the assessment of speech intelligibility (which is also affected by the background noise level in each space) room shape refinement and surface finish areas for absorption and diffusion. The final result was a combination of a managed teaching approach balanced by closely considered and specified room acoustic design.

Other tricky design assessments included the positioning of the learning resource centre (or library to those still coming to terms with modern language) over a workshop and a galleried sports hall. Both these features necessitated particularly close scrutiny to building fabric and finishes. Although blockwork walls were used to provide the necessary acoustic separation for most rooms, dry-wall solutions were used in some areas at top floor level.

Client: Sandwell City Academy Trust
Sponsor: The Mercer Company
Architect: BH&M
Main Contractor: Bowmer & Kirkland

£18.7m Sandwell Academy

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