With educational facilities under increasing financial pressure to maximise space and offer adaptable learning environments, what role can glass partitions play in helping specifiers to create a cost-efficient yet aesthetically pleasing interior space which meets demanding performance requirements and what key performance criteria should be considered?
Schools and educational facilities have tight budgets and frequently need to maximise space to meet their changing needs and requirements. With space at a premium and used in different ways, demountable glass partitions have become the go-to interior design solution, playing a vital role in helping create flexible spaces that can be quickly and easily transformed and reconfigured when needed. So what are the key considerations for architects and designers when specifying glass partitions in education environments?
Firstly, communication is key to any learning environment, which is why it’s paramount that glass partitions offer good acoustic performance, both aiding interaction between teachers and students and improving study activities. Glass partitions can often achieve excellent levels of acoustics, particularly double glazed solutions. However, it is important to obtain credible test data from the manufacturer to be confident that the specified system meets the required acoustic performance.
The second consideration is line loads. Potential loads that a partition may face will be different from building-to-building and from environment-to-environment. Line loads in education facilities will typically be more onerous than those employed in commercial environments. This is due to the much higher potential for spaces to suffer from overcrowding. A good example is school corridors at the end of the school day which may be subjected to additional forces from boisterous behaviour. Glass partitions in these instances would typically be required to meet 1.5kN/m loading.
Thirdly, consideration should be given to the resilience of the partition as it will likely be subjected to intensive usage, both in terms of handling and abnormally rough use. In many respects, glass partitions offer huge advantages in this regard, requiring little maintenance compared to masonry or drywall which would require periodic decoration in such environments.
Finally, the building’s fire safety strategy should be considered. All partitions and doors enclosing fire escape stairs and fire escape routes require appropriate degrees of fire protection as agreed with Building Control.
Getting the design of education environments right will enhance learning, teaching and occupant wellbeing. Optima’s wide range of partitioning systems offer style, practicality and functionality, as well as complying with educational building standards. They can therefore play an increasingly important role in the design of innovative and creative educational facilities.