Are vertical schools the future as city space runs out?

We have already seen the trend of residential housing taking to the skies in the form of brand new apartment developments, but schools could follow suit as cities start to run out of space.

The lack of space is an issue for many major cities in Australia and will continue to be problematic as the population of Australia continues to grow. It is expected by February this year that Australia will be home to 24 million people, of which almost 5 million will live in Sydney. The problem that Sydney has is that it is confined by the mountain ranges to the west and the harbour to the east. The only way to build now within the inner-city is up.

To meet this growing population, there needs to be more schools to cater for the increasing number of children. One proposal is to situate schools in vacant high rise office buildings instead. The NSW Government have already committed to building four vertical schools within the Sydney surrounds and in Western Australia. The first vertical school has recently opened within Perth’s CBD.

However, not everyone believes vertical schools are the way to go. There are concerns about the potential health impacts and reduced physical activity from not having as much time outdoors. The Minister also has reservations about this new model.

"The lack of recreational facility, the lack of opportunity to integrate more in a freer fashion with people of your own age group, that's a problem. And as a former educator I think that is a real social problem," Mr Collier said.

"It would take a significant cultural shift in Western Australia for that to be palatable to Western Australian families."

Getting the right amount of physical exercise and exposure to the outdoors is important, especially when growing up. Studying in classrooms in an office block, won’t necessarily give children and teenagers this exposure. The city has limited amount of space and green areas to kick a ball, compared to a school having its own oval or pitch.

In spite of this, it is felt that children and teenagers would still get a good amount of exercise by climbing up and down stairs every day. This is a workout in itself, especially when carrying bags and books.

This concept of vertical schools is not new though. Vertical schools are already popular in cities around the world including New York and Singapore. Space in these two cities is also a problem; however adapting to the space limitations and utilising space upwards is definitely an option that needs exploring and researching further.

New vertical schools will provide a brand new perspective though and give students a sense of city life. It will provide a different experience with classes on different levels and perhaps more classes out of the school itself. Art galleries that are close by could be utilised for art trips and classes instead. Although getting to and from school could become more hectic though with the city far busier than a leafy suburb.

With the mining industry slowing down in Perth, the Perth CBD makes a great place to situate new vertical schools due to the city having the highest office vacancy rate in Australia. There are also many inner-city parks to take advantage of for outdoor activities and physical recreation.

The first vertical school in Perth is a private school; however the NSW Government have committed over $100 million to build four high-rise public schools. Designs for the state’s first high-rise public secondary schools which will adjoin a primary school have just been released.

The proposal is for the secondary school to have 14 storeys whilst the primary school will have five storeys. A total of 1,000 students will be able to attend the primary school and another 2,000 students attending the secondary school. This school will be in Parramatta and will transform the Parramatta Public School and Arthur Phillip High School into a vertical school. These schools are expected to open in 2019 and will address the increase in the number of students as more apartments and developments are build in the Parramatta area.

It is thought that new vertical schools will also encourage more international students from Asia to study here. A vertical school in the inner city will allow students to enjoy city life – an environment that they are used to from back home.

For now though, vertical schools is still a brand new concept for Australia which needs getting used to. However they could be the classrooms of the future especially within the inner-city as space becomes restricted.
Published on 25th of January 2016 by Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich
Marty Stanowich

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