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December 2015                                                                                                               
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We Don't Need No Education.

A lesson learned by Smith + Andersen is that school design requires more than just a passing grade to be effective.


With schools looking to be head of the class when it comes to both sustainability and usability, Smith + Andersen’s integrated services (mechanical and electrical engineering, sustainability through S+A Footprint, lighting, communication, security, and audio-visual) are increasingly becoming part of the lesson plan. Much like the educational institutions we serve, S+A’s goal is to create an inspiring environment in which student success is the end result of a wealth of knowledge and experience being effectively applied.
Q&A with Smith + Andersen Team Members
Smith and Andersen team members group photo of Kevin Farbridge, Andre Drouin, Lyle, Scott, Don Fox, and Rafael Correa
(From left to right)
Kevin Farbridge Principal - Mechanical • Andre Drouin Principal - Electrical • 
Lyle Scott Principal - Footprint • Don Fox Principal - Mechanical • Rafael Correa Manager - Lighting Design

What is different about the built environment for K-12 or post-secondary projects?

Kevin: We approach schools as unique places with unique needs. Not that our vast experience in fields like institutional or health care can’t be applied to education projects – it certainly is. But we also have a wealth of knowledge in areas such as K-12 new build, post-secondary, and school retrofits (both long and short term). Timeline is critical – summer retrofit work being the most challenging. Everyone knows that the academic year ends in the spring and begins again in September and S+A fully understands the implications of a short window for retrofit – and the importance of completing on schedule. We have been involved in the implementation of the masterplan work for the Upper School and Boarding House of Upper Canada College. This project has been ongoing in distinct summer phases since 2008, with a completion date of 2020. The full team gathers shortly after each summer’s work is completed to begin planning for the next year.

What about retrofit projects? How common are they in education?

Andre: Per Kevin’s example, retrofit is a huge part of the work we perform for schools. It’s important to remember that schools, especially in growing neighbourhoods, can often have a number of extensions and additions built years – or even decades – apart. Existing conditions often influence the type of systems that can be utilized. In a retrofit situation, we have to design within existing confines of the building. Additional complexity is added if the existing space is comprised of areas that were built at different stages. That’s why we always emphasize the importance of coordination.

How about education projects from a green perspective? Tell us about sustainability and reducing energy consumption in schools.

Lyle: S+A takes a holistic approach to sustainability with its associated firm, Footprint. It is important that we find the right balance of sustainability measures within a project’s major goals. We see schools increasingly moving in this direction, with sustainability becoming part of most RFPs (requests for proposals). A promising trend that we’re part of is looking at the building itself as a learning tool, with universities, particularly engineering schools, including the “green” technologies, as part of the curriculum. It’s recognized that students are the next generation of engineers, architects, or contractors. Control and predictability for ongoing operating costs is critical to most school boards, and energy efficiency is a significant part of solving that puzzle. An example of this, happening on a large scale: the two hundred Alberta Infrastructure-funded school projects are utilizing the LEED rating system to attain a high energy performance threshold equivalent to 42% better than the 1997 Model National Energy Code for Buildings.

From a design viewpoint, what specific challenges do schools present?

Don: We must keep the end user in mind and that is not always a highly technical operator. School boards are looking for as simple design as possible to meet their objectives. It is critical for us to understand and apply their standard requirements which helps ensure systems are understood as well as maintainable. Another key design considerations is understanding the many and varied uses of the facility. Will the building also be used in the evening, or during summer months?  This will impact things like the number of air handling units required to serve the space, or the amount of air-conditioning required.  And there may be local or provincial regulations to consider, such as the amount of air conditioning mandated by Alberta Infrastructure.

What considerations go into making a comfortable learning environment for today’s students?

Rafael: One area S+A makes a big difference is with lighting design. We place a high consideration on energy efficiency, maintainability and the visual comfort of teachers and students in our lighting design. Our education clients require flexible lighting solutions for non-fixed seating configurations and different kinds of study programs. Portable SMART boards have replaced overhead projectors, and the lighting design needs to address glare so students can see the board from all areas of the classroom. Through the use of LED sources, dimming, daylight harvesting and advanced controls, we can provide schools with significant energy savings, maximum flexibility and reduced maintenance.

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The Smith + Andersen Group includes:
Smith + Andersen (Vancouver), Smith + Andersen Falcon Engineering Ltd., Smith + Andersen (Calgary) Ltd., Smith + Andersen (Edmonton), Smith + Andersen (Winnipeg), Smith + Andersen (London), Smith and Andersen Consulting Engineering, S + A Footprint, and Smith + Andersen (Ottawa).

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