Small Chemistry Seminars

12:00 - 13:00

Session 3: Inspiring Learning Spaces

A holistic approach to health and wellbeing in creating inspirational education spaces 

Speaker: Robert Hopkins, Regional Director, AHR & Royal College of Physicians

Completed in 2021, the new 160,000 ft2 northern home of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in Liverpool, The Spine, is one of a handful of buildings globally designed to WELL Platinum and rated to BREEAM Excellent. The RCP are pioneers in all fields of medical research and needed a space that reflected this. The building houses a multitude of different learning spaces, with biophilic patterns used throughout, creating an environment that nurtures productivity and innovation. With a philosophy that people will feel healthier when they walk out of the building than when they walk in, The Spine is an outstanding example of using education design to inspire creative learning.

AHR is also designing the new 10,000m2 Health and Wellbeing Academy for the University of Huddersfield. The new faculty building for the School of Human and Health Science will encompass facilities that encourage users to engage strongly with the cutting-edge health education and research taking place there. The site will shape the future practitioners of healthcare and is on target to achieve WELL Platinum and BREEAM Excellent when completed.

Both buildings contain state-of-the-art teaching facilities for a range of health professionals and integrate biophilic interventions throughout. These are not only visually appealing but are also proven to have a measurable positive impact on people’s health through improved stress recovery, and sleeping patterns, ultimately increasing productivity.

Educational spaces which embed the health and wellbeing of their users into the heart of their design can not only impact the way future learning spaces are designed but can also influence health and wellbeing in design across a plethora of sectors. Our presentation will explore an innovative approach to education design, how biophilic interventions can impact people’s health and wellbeing and create salutogenic learning spaces.

What is the Metaverse, and is it relevant to education in Wales, or is it ‘childish’ gaming hype?

Speaker: David Judge, Executive Creative Director, Space Zero

For the last 12 months, Space Zero has been investigating the possibilities of this emerging technology and will be sharing its findings. These point to the far more positive use of this emerging technology in the development of school estates, school as an experience, and more powerful, immersive, memorable, and collaborative learning, rather than the digitally dystopian future people many fear.


14:00 - 15:00

Session 5: Inclusive Learning Spaces

Adapting HCD for SEN and putting it into practice 

Speakers: Lucy Greenland, Project Architect & Simon Kneafsey, Associate Director, Atkins

How do we broaden the engagement process to ensure it is inclusive of all users of a building, particularly those with special educational needs? How are we able to utilise digital tools to capture meaningful data from SEN staff/pupils to ensure their specific needs are acknowledged and integrated as part of the brief and ultimately building?

Atkins’ Human-Centred Design Toolkit is an innovative tool with the aim of improving peoples’ wellbeing by placing the users at the heart of our thinking at both a macro and micro scale.

Together with the National Autistic Society we are researching and exploring how we develop our HCD toolkit to become fully inclusive of all users. This includes direct engagement with both SEN pupils and their supporting staff to gain an in depth understanding of their specific needs and how this information can be captured in both the brief and design of their future environment.

Key aspects of our work include:
- Establishing tailored SEN questions to collect meaningful data from end users.
- Exploring the integration of established SEN communication methods into our briefing/engagement tool such as ‘Picture Exchange Communications Systems’ (PECS).
- Establishing the most important parameters/wellbeing indicators for SEN such as sensory requirements (i.e. Hyper/Hyposensitivity), wellbeing (i.e. anxiety and processing/sequencing of information) and flexibility (i.e. to accommodate for the diversity in SEN needs).
- Exploring innovative analysis methods which ensure that qualities of an environment which are important to those with SEN become an integral part of our design option analysis.

Case Study: The use of the SEN HCD Digital tool in the development of a brief for a new all through school for Pembrokeshire County Council

Inclusive Design: Basic Principles and exciting opportunities

Speaker: Victoria Savage, Architect, IBI Group

Teachers today have to prepare lessons inclusive of a broad reaching spectrum of learning difficulties. And that’s just in mainstream schools! Ask any specialised SEN teacher how many different learning needs their students might have in any given sample of class and it is unlikely to be a short answer. Combined with the growing list of acronyms and politically correct vocabulary, teaching special educational needs could feel like a minefield, let alone attempting to design with SEN in mind. What impact could we as designers have in this ever changing and ever evolving sphere?

Questions and discussions will cover:
1. Knowing your client, your user group, your USP.
2. Working collaboratively, consistently and carefully.
3. Pushing for creative solutions and innovative options even within the age-old constraints of budget and programme.


15:45 - 16:45

Session 7: Delivering Learning Spaces

Today’s Construction Challenges? Modular Solutions

Speaker: Sarah Denton, Business Manager, Portakabin

 Ysgol Bae Baglan: An All-Through Community School

Speaker: Simon Trew, Regional Director, Stride Treglown

Ysgol Bae Baglan is a landmark all-through school for Neath Port Talbot and the recipient of the Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Architecture in 2017. Five years on, Simon Trew reflects on the design and delivery journey and the positive impact the school has had on pupils and the local community.


  • Gavin Traylor President of RSAW and Lecturer at the Swansea School of Architecture

  • Sarah Denton Business Manager - Portakabin
  • Simon Trew Architect & Regional Director (Cardiff) - Stride Treglown
12:00 - 13:00

Health & Wellbeing

Wellbeing in Educational Environments and the creation of spaces that encourage ‘school culture’ to develop
Claire Broad, Associate Director – Interior Architecture, Rio Architects, Andrew Baker, Director, Rio Architects & Viv Buckley, Deputy Principal, Bridgend College

In partnership with Bridgend College we will be discussing their new STEAM academy in Pencoed. We will be looking at contributions from the Students that use the facility as well as those with involvement in the development of the landscaping.

Key talking points:
•The creation of ‘non-typical’ areas.
•Importance of visual connection between departments especially in a S.T.E.A.M environment.
•Increased open learning and social settings.
•The inclusion of biophilic design principles, light, air quality, connection to the external environment and inclusion of natural materials.
•The added benefit of Biodiversity; how it’s development and ownership strengthened the school culture.

How and if the above were successful in improving wellbeing and the development of the school culture.

14:00 - 15:00

Additional Learning Needs

Is there such a thing as a flexible ALN environment?
Catherine Ward, Associate, SEN Lead, HLM Architects

There is a common thought that ALN schools cannot be standardised or consistent but require a bespoke approach to their design. However, my recent involvement in the design of several special schools, has led me to contemplate if it is possible to create a truly, flexible ALN environment, specifically for ambulant settings. This is especially pertinent and an important consideration for Local Authorities who are charged with providing an ever-increasing number of ALN places, often with a fluid cohort. How can we provide space fast enough to cope and not compromise on the needs of our most vulnerable children, young people and families.

Predicting and delivering the correct type and amount of places for children and young people with ALN is challenging, as the number of pupils with an EHCP continues to rise year on year particular those with Autism and SEMH. This is putting extra pressure on schools and Local Authorities that have a statutory requirement to educate as many pupils within their own authority as possible.

There are broadly speaking 4 types of special school settings which cover the following specialisms:

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, emotional and mental health
  • Sensory and physical needs

Some special schools are generic, catering for a wide range of needs, others specialise in a particular area, or a sub-section of a particular area eg. autism or SLCN.

From a designer’s point of view, stand-alone special schools are typically divided by Building Bulletin 104 into ambulant and non-ambulant schools. Which category they fall into, will define the amount and type of both internal and external space they require.

This presentation will focus primarily on the needs of ambulant ALN schools and discuss whether it is possible to design highly flexible, agile ALN environments, that allow schools to deliver high quality education and care whilst allowing Local Authorities to maximise the number of pupil places they are able to provide, for a wide variety of primary needs.

15:45 - 16:45


Cefn Saeson Project
Stuart Moyse, Former Deputy Head of Cefn Saeson Comprehensive (and Educational Building Consultant at SAM Education Building Consultancy Cymru Ltd) & Graham Hirst, Managing Director, Ministry of Furniture