Balwyn High School – B&C Wing, VCE Centre and Staff Professional Suite

  • area / size 24,757 sqft
  • Completed 2020
  • Location Balwyn, Australia,
  • Brand Architects designed Balwyn High School’s B&C Wing, VCE Centre and Staff Professional Suite in Balwyn, Australia.

    With student enrollments growing beyond 2200, Balwyn High School required at least 20 new learning area spaces. This major B-wing upgrade and rebuild was the initial brief. The new spaces replaced 10 original 1954 classrooms in the asbestos-ridden light timber construction B-wing, with a three-storey vertical solution to create visual transparency and flexibility for 21st century learning.

    Consultation with Balwyn High School’s leadership group led to a larger, more forward-thinking expression of the project. The B-wing redevelopment would leave the last remaining light timber construction C-wing landlocked, and it would be difficult to access the building containing the administration offices and ancillary rooms for future replacement. With restricted site access, Brand Architects proposed a modular three storey solution with construction of the building envelope off-site. This was advantageous for the proudly high performing school, as it greatly reduced disruption to student learning. Brand Architects designed and detailed the buildings, collaborating closely with the modular construction team Fleetwood Building Solutions.

    Bright, open spaces create a welcoming environment for students and staff and aim to positively support physical and emotional health and wellbeing. The open circulation spaces warmly welcome students and staff to the school each morning, with highlight colours in the learning area floor finishes and the natural timber finish in the stairways acting as a visual invitation to the learning areas. These finishes were carefully chosen to encourage an atmosphere of curiosity and calm.

    The new spaces represent a shift from dated learning environments and teaching methods to a contemporary, inclusive, and learner-focused environment that supports the school’s pedagogical vision. Balwyn High School wanted to the current senior student cohort to benefit from large floor areas, thoughtful lighting, bright and cheerful finishes, and circulation spaces – free of student lockers – designed for individual or small group study, breakout learning, and socialising.

    Good acoustic treatment on the walls, floors and ceilings of the upgraded building was an essential part of the design. These acoustic considerations were extended to the circulation spaces, particularly the individual and small group study areas. These areas allow for valuable informal social connection between students.

    The completed project encompasses a holistic sustainable design approach. It is highly energy efficient while balancing sensible levels of capital investment. Features include energy efficient air conditioning, natural ventilation and fresh air movement, energy efficient lighting, and photovoltaic solar panel array. Original material specifications and alternative choices were assessed through the lenses of health, safety, quality, environment and maintenance. Restricted building access informed these choices, including lightweight non-combustible CFC cladding and COLORBONDsteel decking.

    The final design replaced 10 classrooms and existing ancillary administration functions with 24 new learning areas and new administration areas on the original building footprint. The Balwyn High School community is extremely pleased with the result. In recognition of school Principal Deborah Harman’s vision and determination, the school community have named the new wing the Deborah Harman Centre for Learning.

    Design: Brand Architects
    Photography: Rachael Dere