Looking Towards the Future of Brockwood Park

Over the past four years, the staff and students at Brockwood Park have worked with the trustees of the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust Ltd. to develop a long-term estate strategy. We felt we needed to develop such a strategy to respond intelligently to the following challenges and opportunities: a) it was becoming increasing difficult to provide adequate accommodation for the full complement of 65 students and the optimal number of residential staff required to educate these 65 pupils; b) the trust was in receipt of a number of legacies that provided us with the rare opportunity to contemplate planning over and above ongoing operational costs; and c) the area around and including Brockwood was soon going to be declared a National Park, which would then have meant that no further new construction of any sort would have been feasible at Brockwood.

The primary conclusion of this estate strategy exercise was that no amount of renovations to existing structure was going to allow us to meet the ongoing and anticipated needs at Brockwood. As a result, we explored at length the feasibility of building new structures for accommodation (the use of the new space for any use other than accommodation has prohibitive value-added tax (VAT) implications). We have settled on a site for these new buildings at the site of the old garages and the sunken garden opposite the art barn (see site plan attached) and have developed a concept that includes seven pavilions (see design below) that will house 20 students and provide accommodation to 6 staff and their families. Additionally, the plans also include a sports/performance hall as part of a second phase of the estate strategy. Currently, the legacies we have received over the last 10 years along with additional pledge made by generous donors will cover about 85% of the preliminary cost estimate of £1.8-2.0 million for the seven pavilions – these cost estimates also include the monies we anticipate will need to be spent to make the much needed renovations in the main house, garden rooms and the cloisters.

The pavilions have been designed with an architectural firm with excellent credentials for building using sustainability principles. We are also likely to engage some of the builders who helped build the Krishnamurti Centre and the art barn. These firms have had experience with incorporating a degree of self-build into their work plans. Incorporating such a self-build at Brockwood would allow a unique educational opportunity for students and staff at Brockwood.

The trustees have been keeping a watchful eye on the current economic situation in the world and have come to the conclusion that it will be to our advantage to undertake a building project during a recession when material and labour costs are controllable to a greater degree. Additionally, the recession has had no impact on the enrolment at the Main School – in fact we continue to maintain a sizeable waiting list. Taking into consideration these and several other factors, the trustees have taken the decision at the 40th reunion to move ahead with the next steps of the building project, which will be to obtain full planning permission from the local authorities and more accurate costings. With these in hand, we anticipate to break ground in summer 2010 and hope that the new accommodation buildings will be ready to be occupied for the school year beginning in September 2012.

We are excited about the new project and will be reaching out to everyone to request assistance to raise the remaining 25% required to complete the pavilions and also to help raise the funds needed to embark on the sports/performance hall.

We are keen to hear what you think about these developments as we feel a dialogue with Brockwood alumni on this topic would be of value. Please send us your feedback/concerns/questions and we will make every effort to address them.

Q. Can you explain a little about how you came to settle on 7 pavilions for the student/staff accommodation & why the sports hall/theatre is set down into the ground.

A. The architectural brief for the new student/staff accommodation was actually written from the perspective of anticipating one large building, probably on two storeys in order to fit within the confines of the site. Three different architectural practices were approached for their views on the project and it was partly due to the innovative approach of Roderick James Architects Ltd, from Totnes, Devon, who came up with the concept of a series of pavilions that gave them the edge over the other firms. RJA argued persuasively that one large building would impose itself more on the site, would probably be more expensive due to increased need for design professionals – structural engineer, heating engineer, M&E engineer and less flexible in terms of budget. RJA explained to us that they had recently done some low cost timber framed houses in the New Forest and these had come in at approximately £150K each…they thought an adaptation of these house types would be ideally suited to repetition as student/staff accommodation and this has proved to be the case. Also, they proposed involving the students and staff in the build process and again this was seen as an attractive proposition for Brockwood.

With regard to the question of the sports hall/theatre building being set into the ground, the location for such a large building was always going to be difficult given the exquisite setting of Brockwood. Not only does the building have a large footprint, it also, by necessity, has a large volume as the height clearance required internally for basketball is 7 metres. RJ Architects again proposed a quite innovative solution by proposing to set the building down into the ground by about 1.5metres and giving it a curved green roof to be planted with sedum (see attached photo) There was little choice in the siting of the building, planning restrictions prevented a green field setting and really the only possible location for it was in the current sunken garden in front of the art barn…serendipitously this also provided a natural opportunity to set the building lower than the other buildings nearby and so, with the proposal to sink it a further 1.5metres into the ground, the planners were satisfied that it would not be an imposing structure as many sports hall inevitably are.

These comments were posted by Mike Davies, visiting architect from New Zealand, writer of the original brief used in the selection of RJ Architects Ltd.

Q. How has sustainability been considered in the design for the Accommodation buildings?

A. We specialise in the design of timber framed buildings. Roderick James was one of the founders of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth and therefore sustainability is embedded in the ethos of the practice. We look at reducing embodied energy in the construction of our buildings and the use of timber as a primary building material is key to this approach. We also design our buildings to reduce the energy demand in the first place, by super-insulating the fabric and solar orientation on site to benefit from passive solar gain. We then look at how the buildings can benefit from the additional of renewable technologies such as solar panels, wood-chip boilers, heat recovery & ventilation systems etc. This work is in addition to the renewable energy studies undertaken by Thames Renewables that were commissioned by Brockwood and funded by the Carbon Trust, which provide further advice with regard to the reduction of the carbon footprint of the existing and proposed school buildings.

Q. Can you explain how the design for 7 pavilions can be considered sustainable compared to a single building?

A. Our approach to this project has been one of Eco-pragmatism; therefore, we consider sustainability issues in conjunction with other design and context issues. The grounds of Brockwood are incredibly sensitive and therefore the proposed buildings need to address issues such as the clients brief, building adjacent to the Listed school building, visual impact, landscape impact, existing trees and the forthcoming designation of the area as the South Downs National Park next year. It is only through the careful consideration of these issues together, that an appropriate design solution can be found. Therefore, the low level, domestic-scale pavilion structures offer a flexible and adaptable solution that reduces visual impact, enables flexibility with future funding issues (i.e. not all pavilions need to be built at once – whereas a complete single building would have to be built) and also provides opportunities for client involvement during the construction process (as referred to by Mike Davies elsewhere).

Mike Hope RIBA

RODERICK JAMES ARCHITECTS LLP

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