Charterhouse School – The STEM Project

Godalming, Surrey
Charterhouse School
Phased: 2021, 22, 23
2,276 m2

Modernisation of science facilities within a Grade II Listed building

The STEM Project at Charterhouse will complete the school’s vision for a ‘joined-up’ Science department. Phases 2 and 3 follow on from the delivery of the new Chemistry Block, completed in 2019.

The brief for the project includes reconfiguring the planning approved design, obtaining new Listed Building approvals and delivering the project with a reduced budget.

Adapting the style of teaching

The key to unlocking this brief included the rationalisation of the circulation around the building and the provision of flexible science labs that meet the requirements of all modules.

The design proposes a new staircase to improve access and net-to-gross area for specialist teaching activities. The existing building required pupils to walk through one lab in order to access another. The new staircase removes this requirement, with all teaching spaces accessed directly from this stair.

The old format of having separate science classrooms and laboratories had to be re-considered, with the new design offering standardised laboratories that both practical and theory could be taught in.

A centralised staff hub allowed teachers to be more peripatetic as opposed to owning a particular room. The infrastructure of power, data and gas services was standardised so there was no ‘preferable’ and over-subscribed rooms in the room bookings system.

Retaining the character of the old

Stride Treglown provided Interior Design services as part of the architectural offering. Sensitive design concepts aspired to respect the context of the Listed Building, which used to function as a Bird Museum. Old biological and zoological artefacts were dispersed throughout the entire building in all manner of forms – old display cases, on open shelves, and in cabinet drawers.

The team set out to record these objects and work with the school’s archivist to set out a strategy for displaying them in laboratories and circulation routes in the new design.

The interiors strategy for the existing building was to retain the character of the old building through the use of heritage wall colours that responded to the function of the space. Contemporary furniture would then be inserted into this space to create a counterpoint, distinguishing old and new.

Live site considerations

As multiple project were happening simultaneously in the delivery of the school’s masterplan, the STEM Project required careful phasing. Phasing and Logistic plans were key in determining what works could be undertaken outside of exam times and during holiday periods.

In turn, the project was split into three phases, all to be delivered via JCT Traditional Contract. The M&E services connections and vertical circulation routes were planned rigorously to ensure there was no abortive work through the phases and that construction operations could make use of greater accessibility through the existing building. In this enabling works phase, a new glazed entrance was inserted into the existing building.

Refreshed facility

The Biology staff were overjoyed to experience their new labs which were delivered in September 2021. The Physics laboratories were delivered in September 2022, completing the project and providing modern facilities for the entire science department at the school.

With the new glazed entrance and circulation route through the building, a new lease of life has been given to the existing building which feels welcoming and interactive.