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WaterSHED, Wardle Academy, Rochdale

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

BDP deploys low-cost materials with generosity and ingenuity with WaterSHED, a response to demand for more school places in Rochdale that has won a 2024 RIBA North West Award

WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP

2024 RIBA North West Award

WaterSHED, Wardle Academy, Rochdale
BDP for Watergrove Trust
Contract value: Confidential 
GIA: 860m2

WaterSHED is the result of a competition to meet the huge demand for more school places in the Rochdale area without resorting to Portakabins. The school wanted to repurpose a dilapidated former sports hall as a test bed for new forms of teaching and learning. Using low-tech, low-cost and low-embodied-carbon materials, the architect has created two new flexible classrooms and a design technology studio set around a central informal learning space and café. A processional staircase and ‘learning steps’ with integrated seating provide overflow dining space and an auditorium for presentations and special-event performances. The simple but transformative design has been so successful that what was supposed to be a temporary facility has become a central and integral part of the school. This project demonstrates how low-cost materials deployed with generosity and ingenuity can deliver so much added value.

  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
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The original sports hall was very much a traditional, closed off, dark space. Adding roof lights, windows in the north and south facades, and natural ventilation has transformed it into a bright and comfortable environment with visual connections to surrounding school grounds. Juxtaposed with the school’s relatively new but rigidly set-out main building, the sports hall functions as a covered, semi-external space, but offers more flexible opportunities for teaching, independent learning and informal after-school and club activities.

The key principle of the design is to avoid heating the whole hall, but instead to create insulated ‘Sheds’ as a comfortable thermal environment for learning. This targeted approach to fabric improvement was applied to areas where students were more likely to be seated for longer periods, while the central, more transient space is naturally ventilated and retained at a lower temperature.

  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
  • WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
    WaterSHED, Wardle Academy. Credit: BDP
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The low budget naturally dovetailed with an approach to sustainability. This included using standard timber and plywood sizes to minimise waste, low-carbon Fermacell gypsum fibreboards made from recycled paper, and sheep’s-wool insulation. The old sports hall floor was retained, and the furniture is reclaimed. The design team and school have used the project as a learning tool in a variety of qualitative and quantitative ways, measuring the wellbeing impact of using more natural materials, air and light quality within the building, for example.

The project as a whole has demonstrated the value of allowing teachers and children to experiment and iterate ideas in ways that are very difficult within the strictly managed environment of schools that were procured under private finance initiative (PFI) regimes. It therefore sets an example of how much value can be created through an imaginative design process, to create a space that delivers beyond its brief.

See the rest of the North West winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Skyline Property Solution
Structural engineer Waterman Group
Environmental/M&E/acoustic engineer/sustainability BDP

 

Credit: BDP
Credit: BDP
Credit: BDP
Credit: BDP
Credit: BDP

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