Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Tougher regulatory requirements imposed by GCC states are prompting contractors and developers to make schools throughout the region more globally competitive and sustainable.
“There is an increasing sophistication in the regulatory controls in the GCC market in general, with some specific developments in specific countries. For example, in Qatar, fire regulations are now far more stringent which affects building height and floor distribution and has affected many projects which were planned at G+3 for student use and now can only go to G+2 for student use. Many countries are now being far more focused on sustainability issues as well as environmental requirements – and are enforcing them,” says Simon Lucas, one of the featured speakers at the International Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) scheduled to take place in Dubai next month.
But school design and build experts also believe that education facilities and design will likely play a key role in differentiating schools as owners seek to stay competitive, given the increasing competition within education market throughout the GCC.
“Information technology will continue to dominate how we teach in the 21st Century. As a result there has been a debate in recent years about the relevance of spaces and buildings when the focus has been on the technology and the ability to teach an international curriculum through the virtual world. We should expect further focus on how school facilities can make the most of technology advancements. It still surprises me that with the exception of a few, school buildings in the UAE do not provide students with the practical examples of the importance of sustainable design when sustainability is now a key theme of any education syllabus,” said Mark Roelofsen, co-founder, IPSEF.
According to Lucas, many GCC countries now have standard designs for the own indigenous schools and while they do not impose these in any way on international school development, many of the requirements they have developed for local schools are applied to all schools.
In terms of design, there are three main emerging trends – a) a significant push on ICT enabled learning environments which affects all aspects of design and M&E services; b) greater sustainability of environmental systems – air conditioning and airflow, among others and c) most importantly, the need for learning spaces to be adaptable over time to meet new curriculum and organisational developments.
“This is a key factor in a more rapidly changing environment on both the demand side and the supply side. Included in this is a greater focus we see on the FFE aspects of builds – the need to see the learning spaces and the equipment / furniture / fittings all as a single design to provide for greater adaptability,” added Lucas.
Other design and build trends, challenges and opportunities will be highlighted at the forthcoming IPSEF Middle East Forum scheduled on 27-28 September 2016 at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.