Rural Based Early Childhood School : 2010
The 557 sq.m Evelyn Mitchell Infant School was designed for and constructed on a sloping site in the rural community of Top Hill, Clarendon, Jamaica; utilizing The Ministry of Education's basic planning standards for the design of Early Childhood Institutions.
It replaced a small community run Basic School housed in an existing aged and cramped wooden structure on the grounds of the adjacent church. As part of this process, the school population was significantly expanded to take additional students from the adjoining communities, in turn becoming a Ministry of Education approved 'Centre of Excellence'. The new facility also Incorporated a feeding and transportation programme for all students.
The site planning strategy was to create a terraced arrangement of walkway linked buildings
and a protected landscaped area, an immediate source of visual relief for all of the surrounding rooms. Wide and 'gentle' steps, link the upper part of the site where the access road and church are situated, to the lower part containing the auditorium and play areas.
All the interior spaces fully utilize natural lighting through the use high-level glass windows that were incorporated within sloping mono-pitch roofs. Operable north facing louvres and open eaves were also provided for relief of hot air and additional light when required , especially given that for budgetary reasons , no insulation or ceilings were conceptualized for the roof level. The roofs (both sloping & flat) also facilitate the collection of rainwater, which is stored at 'basement' level and pumped for use in the bathrooms. Shading was achieved through building orientation, deep overhangs, and adapted versions of the verandah in the form of the walkway colonnade and a balcony.
The predominant building materials are concrete for the substructure, floors and walls. Steel trusses are used for the roof structure, with glass / louvre inserts and corrugated sheeting on top. For cost effectiveness, basic concrete finishes were used for the ground plane.
Each classroom has an adjoining semi-enclosed enclosed teaching area and bathroom/shower. Space for future expansion was provided below two of the classrooms. The auditorium is accommodated underneath the administrative offices, taking advantage of the sloping terrain. One of the project's mandates, was the 'branding' of the school in the company colours of the benefactor.
Construction administration on the project proved challenging, as not many visits were possible due to the distance, remoteness of the site and difficult road access. The 'on the ground' experience of the selected the local builder, whose only means of contact was by a mobile phone, proved to be critical in seeing the process through. Selected sub-contractors also had this general difficulty when it came to the installation of building components and general follow-up.