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The need for annexed school classrooms is all too often met with installations of ‘same-old’ ugly portacabins. Where the goal is to create an environment that inspires and invigorates students into reaching their potential, this is unacceptable.

The IAD Company has flipped this approach to school expansion on its head with the design and installation of six new hexagonal ‘Pods’ in Wales.

The Pods represent a new kind of learning environment, designed to support individuals in the care of Orbis Education and Care – a leading UK provider of schools and residential homes for children and adults with conditions relating to autism.

First conceptualised in 2016, the Pods are a response to Orbis’ need for an expandable set of structures for several of its sites, capable of meeting an ever-increasing demand for their services.

The sizing of the Pods is at a scale that is proportional to the human body. This helps put the end-users at ease and creates a sense of going on an adventure, rather than the institutional feeling that standard metal box portacabins generate.

The Pods which are dedicated classrooms have been fitted out with modular furniture, giving teachers complete flexibility to lay out their room in response to the group that will be being taught. A traditional set up of desks-in-rows facing a smart board may be ideal for one group of students, whereas an inward-facing collaborative space can be more appropriate for a class of younger students or for more group focused sessions.

In response to research showing a dramatic decrease in the need for physical restraint in Swedish psychiatric wards following the application of biophilic design - the Pod’s shape, materials, orientation, siting and decoration were meticulously selected to create as many links to nature as possible. The feeling of openness this has created directly combats the typical feelings of ‘entrapment’ common amongst students in conventional classroom environments.

Comparative in terms of cost to a portacabin of similar proportions, the Pods have the potential to reach Passive Haus levels of efficiency with the use of SIPs panels, green/living roofs and mechanical ventilation. Quick-to-build and environmentally considerate, the design has been widely praised by both the planning department and building control for innovation and efficiency. The building control inspector who signed off the project has personally submitted them for consideration at the next LABC awards.

Built as a flexible, long term solution to business growth, the hexagonal structures can be expanded in a honeycomb grid. Their siting has been carefully chosen to allow the site to be added to at a later date.

This combination of cost efficiency, ease-of-build and expandability makes the Pods the ideal solution for a host of applications across a range of sectors.

Mike Currier, CEO at Orbis Education and Care, said: “Our focus is always on providing a person-centred approach and these ground-breaking classroom Pods are just one of the many ways we are able to achieve this.

“We are absolutely delighted with the design that Rebecca and her amazing team at The IAD Company have achieved, and we are honoured to be the first trialling these cutting-edge facilities so that others in the industry may benefit too.”

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