Discovery College
The new Discovery College, a private independent school by the English Schools Foundation, is an all-through primary and secondary school that serves 1,300 children ranging from five to eighteen years of age. The school provides 24,500m2 covered floor area within a 6,900m2 site that has a permissible building height of 30m. This is a major challenge of the project, when an equivalent standard government school in HK would typically have a site almost twice its size. The design of the School aims to create a “Total Education Environment` that inspires learning and fosters interactions among the students and the teaching staff. By using open plan and extensive landscaped terraces, the natural environment of green hills and sea are brought into the building vista. Through abundance use of natural daylight and ventilation, the new school is designed to raise the students’ awareness of environmental conservation and the concept of sustainability. Unlike the usual school design where statutory required covered playground are placed under building, Discovery College has roof terraces on every floor that are easily accessible from the classrooms to become the extended teaching areas and informal spaces for social interaction. The entire building and its terraces are sheltered by an ETFE canopy, an umbrella that protects the occupants from the weather and also tempers the solar heat and natural ventilation. The planning of the teaching block is based on a 3-class to one shared space cluster for the primary school and a 4-class to one shared space cluster for the secondary school planned on a regular 15m / 3m tartan grid. The smaller grid is a fully integrated service, structure and circulation module set between two standard classroom modules of 7.5m x 7.5m. The modular repetition allows the teaching areas to be re-configured through the use of demountable and re-locatable partitions at specific locations. This planning strategy creates a highly flexible, adaptable framework for the school to make simple short term functional layout changes, with no disruption to the infra-structures such as air, water, electrical services inside these classrooms. The concept of sustainability is holistic in the design of the building fabric. The design of the school incorporates educational requirements for the IB curriculum. The school has a professional standard Performing Arts Centre and a specially designed studio theatre & drama studios fully fitted out. These facilities are available for use by the residential community of Discovery Bay. The amenities, provisions and standards achieved for Discovery College will set a new benchmark for all future international school designs in Hong Kong. The design and planning of the school are driven by environmental considerations. The U-shaped building, comprises of a classrooms and offices on the north wing and the special teaching block on the south, wraps an outdoor courtyard. Classrooms and offices, which require external awareness, benefit from having extensive glazing on the shaded north side of the building for coolness, while the more solid, windowless Performing Arts Centre and the sports hall are located on the south wing to serve as a thermal barrier to minimize heat gain in the atrium at the centre of the school. Very large openings are created in the building blocks on each of the 4 sides of the school. These openings are for natural cross ventilation and daylight. They are strategically located to relieve the claustrophobics of the school by bringing the sights of green hills and the seaside mangroves into the heart of the school. The north and south wings of the school are strung together by the inter-connecting sky bridges and grand stairway. The constant movement of students along the balconies, stairs and bridges turns the atrium into a highly charged theatrical space. Around the atrium students and staff can mingle, play, make public speeches, display artwork, or perform. The interactive nature of this space will make it the social heart of the entire school. Substantial environmental studies have been carried out in the design of the aerofoil shaped, 3-layered air-filled ETFE canopy. The ETFE cushions provide solar-shading over the terraces when fritted but in clear form they permit 94% of natural light to penetrate deep into the lower ground cloister. The shaded area of the canopy lowers the radiant temperature by a significant 6 degree C for the roof playground and provides sufficient thermal insulation to permit the roof-top heated swimming pool to be used all year round. In reducing the solar heat gained by the concrete structure it contributes a significant saving in the use of energy for cooling. The profile of the canopy is designed as an aerofoil to improve air flows under normal prevailing wind conditions. The shape of the canopy increases the air-flow rate along its underside by 1 to 1.5 m/sec over the prevailing wind speed to enhance the removal of hot air at high level. Through stack effect the cooler air in the shaded atrium is drawn upwards to temper the outdoor covered areas, providing a light breeze over the terraces even when the natural wind speed is relatively low. In Hong Kong’s hot and humid climate, this cool, breezy and shaded microclimate created by the canopy greatly enhances thermal comfort for the users. With improved outdoor environment the school has gained a valuable asset in a facility that can be used more often, for a greater number of purposes and by a larger community that goes beyond the limitation of its physical boundary.


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