Westbourne Grammar School- James Mitchell Centre

Year: 2002 - 2005

As a private school, NOWarchitecture had much more flexibility, but also much more responsibility in defining the Brief and goals of this project. Understanding the diverse needs of the school, required extensive discussion with Administration and Teachers. The decision on the final facility inclusions was based on a detailed physical analysis of the requirements of the School's programs and the existing facilities.

The school and NOWarchitecture took excursions to other schools to develop benchmarks and an understanding of current practices. This process required constant negotiation with the School to achieve a balance between ambitions and costs. This completed project is unique in the combination of facilities, their interrelationship and their flexibility of use.

The Building was designed for maximum usage flexibility and efficiency of space, cost and energy. Consolidated large multipurpose spaces rather than corridors provide circulation throughout the Building, while the specialist facilities inter-relate to allow for a wide variety of alternative functions. Exposed concrete surfaces provide extensive thermal mass and reduces embodied energy and life cycle costs. 

The Foyer is filled with light filtered through low-e glass which is further protected by external canopies. Splashes of rich blue and gold provide focus to the north and south spaces of the Foyer which echo the school colours. Each educational and administration space benefits from carefully resolved windows which provide light and eye relief to views and distribute natural ventilation evenly through the complex.

A stained timber floor and sculpted ceiling in the Theatre provide excellent theatre acoustics, while softer floor coverings and sound dampening ceilings elsewhere in the building support the acoustic needs of learning and teaching. The glazed wall of the Theatre fully opens to connect the Theatre to the concourse at the Lake.

Stormwater is harvested from the Roof and stored underground in a 20,000 Litre bladder tank. This water flushes the Complex‚Äôs Toilets. Overflow from the bladder tank and run-off from the adjacent paving and basketball courts is stored within a Stormwater Retention Lake. This Lake is sited on the north of the Building and cools prevailing summer winds. Excess water is decanted from the lake to fill other catchments around the campus and maintain the gardens and grounds. 

Cooling loads are reduced by integrating natural passive ventilation throughout the Building. Operable windows and skylights ensure even air movement through all rooms and thermal chimneys ventilate the Toilets and Health Centre. During winter, the Foyer provides preconditioned air heated through the glazing.

The extensive north glazing features low-e green glass to improve thermal performance and reduce glare. Shading canopies have been designed for summer protection and to allow light penetration in winter. Western glazing is almost totally eliminated. High levels of insulation and thermal mass reduce temperature fluctuations and 14sqm of solar hot water panels are installed on the roof.

The James Mitchell Centre has been carefully designed to respond to its microclimate, especially as the site is very windy. The building has been shaped to deflect winds and canopies which protect the entries (and shade them) are integrated with spaces to all the wind to pass. This reduces the wind pressure below the canopies, allowing windows to be comfortably opened. The main entries are recessed deeply into the facades and protected by angled walls which clearly define the entry condition.

The James Mitchell Centre was awarded a Special Commendation in the 2006 United Nations World Environment Day Green Building Awards for breaking new ground in innovative, cost effective Environmentally Sustainable Design practices.