The Concertina Principle – Building Adaptable Cities

One of the key land use planning challenges many UK Towns and Cities face is a shortage of school places/  So what was the cause of this – not buildings enough?  Only a few years ago we had a surplus of school places, now as often in a recession the birth rate and immigration rates are falling – suggesting that in a few years time the shiny new schools we are building may be part empty.

The financing of school places takes place over 15+ years but the needs they accommodate are only 2-4 years ahead.  The underlying cause of the problem is fundamental uncertainty and the lack of adaptability of our built environment to that uncertainty.  Whatever number of school places we built for would be ‘wrong’ at some point in time of the building financing.

The solution is to build buildings which can adapt between offices, schools and places of work over their lifetime and which can add or take away a module here or their to adopt to fluctuations in demand.  To an extent we already do this, old primary schools adapted to adult learning centres are adapted back to primary schools.

This is a particular problem in growth areas.  This produces a baby boom in early years and many New Town such as Northampton have redeveloped a lot of school sites.  This needs to be planned in with temporary primary schools to accommodate the bulge in the early growth years.



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