Project: Arvalee special school
Country/city: UK / Omagh
Architect: Isherwood & Ellis
Main contractor: Woodvale Construction
Ceiling contractor: Convery Ceilings
Photographer: Gordon McAvoy
Project size: 5,200 m²
Solo Freedom panels provide a fun, nature-inspired leaf panel design.
Creative sound solutions for children with learning difficulties
Opened in September 2016, Arvalee Special School in Omagh features the latest example of creative sound solutions from Saint-Gobain Ecophon. Working in close liaison with the architect, Isherwood & Ellis, and the school itself, the design team from Saint-Gobain Ecophon were able to produce a bespoke adaptation of the company’s range of Solo free-hanging units as acoustic rafts in order to provide a fun, nature-inspired leaf panel design in the communal area of the school.
The new £10million school building is part of Phase 1 of the Shared Education Campus Omagh, and came about after a fire destroyed 90% of the original school building in 2012. The school later reopened with temporary classrooms but, committed to ensuring that children in the Omagh district with learning difficulties have access to a proper facility, planning permission was given to build a brand-new, state-of-the-art school. This is Phase 1 in the delivery of a £110million plan to build five school buildings, a sports centre, shared education hub building, sports pavilion and other associated facilities in Omagh under the Strule Shared Education Campus (SSEC) plan.
A high-performance sound solution suitable for educational premises
Located at Lisanelly, the site of the old Army camp in the town, the new purpose-built Arvalee Special School caters for children with severe and moderate learning difficulties, providing a suitable school environment to teach skills and learning programmes to support children aged 3 to 19 years.
Belfast architects, Isherwood & Ellis, combined its considerable understanding of special educational needs to create a unique design that caters sensitively and appropriately for pupils of all ages and ranges of educational needs from moderate to complex. Good acoustics are an extremely important aspect of the new school design and this is where Saint-Gobain Ecophon played a prominent role.
Acoustically speaking, learning environments are demanding premises, and for children and young people with special needs it is even more important to get the acoustics right.
“Special schools play to our strengths,” said Andrew Acheson, the company’s Area Manager for Northern Ireland.“Acoustically speaking, learning environments are demanding premises, and for children and young people with special needs it is even more important to get the acoustics right. On this project we worked closely with the architect and the main contractor, Woodvale Construction. At the behest of the school, our design office in England came up with a bespoke design for the ceiling panels leading into the communal hub breakout areas. We used 14 Solo Freedom panels and changed the shape from the standard rectangular panels into leaf shapes, which were then painted green to tie in with an ongoing nature theme in parts of the building. It was a one-off design and has resulted in a very unique feature, which at the same time provides a high-performance sound solution suitable for an educational environment,” said Andrew.
A unique solution that maintains high functionality
“The Ecophon team worked closely with the architect and the ceiling contractor, Convery Ceilings, a skilled installer of Ecophon products to ensure that the job was delivered on time and within budget, including the made-to-order specials. The lead time on the Solo Freedom was tight to keep within the project plan but it was a challenge we were able to rise to,” said Andrew. “The Arvalee School project showed yet again that when it comes to innovative sound solutions, Ecophon can take a creative approach that still maintains high functionality. Optimising the acoustic comfort of the room strengthens and supports key educational relationships.”