Brook Green Centre for Learning

A unique, quality, exemplar new BESD school in Plymouth

"...everyone who visits the school is really impressed with it; the difference to students' engagement is immense. We are still grateful!!"

Cliff Edwards, Head Teacher

For Plymouth City Council / Midas Construction; £5.5m contract value; completed 2008


This competition winning design is a creative watershed in the latest BESD school design, putting at the heart of the design the complex needs of the users.


This project was for a £5M new build special BESD school built next to the existing 1960’s school building. Gale & Snowden’s competition winning design questioned the competition brief – enabling the new building to be located further away from the existing building, avoiding costly digging into the hillside, and creating a separate access for building works.


The innovative design solution whilst fulfilling all the latest building bulletin standards including BB77, 102 and 93, mixed heavy weight construction on the ground floor creating thermal stability and robust construction with light weight upper floor creating light open spaces and a super-insulated air tight thermal envelope. The resulting design was appropriate for the school’s needs, integrated into the existing site, allowed the existing school to continue until the new one was completed and was a cost effective solution.


Whilst the site positioning, building layout, built form and appearance seem simple, the design strategies, curriculum integration and functional flexibility are inherently sophisticated. The elegant integrated design solution is the result of rigorous and intelligent employment of passive design strategies combined with addressing the complex special educational and social requirements of the school. The building has been designed to be healthy for both the occupants and the environment.


The key features of the design are:


  • The ease of use and management of the building by simple, clear zoning and division of the building layout to allow both school and community use
  • Simple layout with an ‘internal street’ to provide ease of use/ orientation and to facilitate unobtrusive ‘passive’ surveillance
  • The quality and variety of outside spaces and their direct connection/ integration with the educational and social internal areas
  • An efficient, compact layout maximising available floor area for functional educational and social spaces
  • The building and landscape act together as educational tools
  • All main habitable rooms, including all classrooms, are 100% day-lit
  • The building is naturally ventilated
  • The building has minimum energy demands
  • ‘Best Practice’ healthy building design has been achieved
  • Energy required is derived from renewable sources, on-site with potential for Carbon Neutral or energy positive solutions
  • Robust and low-maintenance materials and design
  • Integrated landscape as a tool for learning