Greening Thames View Infants School

UEL installs wildlife-friendly landscaping and an outdoor living classroom with a green roof for the pupils of Thames View Infants School.

UEL’s Architecture and Landscape Architecture students and the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) have been working together to design and build an outdoor classroom and redesign a section of the school field for the pupils of Thames View Infants (TVI) School in Barking. The outdoor classroom and landscaping will allow the infant school pupils to enjoy classes outside and feel more connected to nature, supporting curriculum, personal development, and mental wellbeing. A green roof was also incorporated into the outdoor classroom, and a bug hotel included in the landscaping, providing island refuges for a range of species.

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Figure 1. Breaking ground. The pupils watch the start of the landscaping works with great excitement.

Thames View Infants School lies on the boundary between Thames View Estate, a historically deprived area, and the new Barking Riverside development. These two communities, although geographically close, are currently relatively isolated from each other and have limited interaction. This is partly due to the difficulty of access by foot between the estate and development, a barrier that will be addressed as the development landscaping continues.

Currently, the school provides a key link between these two communities as children from both communities learn and play together there. TVI works hard to inspire all of the children to go on to fulfill their potential and is keen to increase their pupils’ interaction with nature and the outside world.

The nearby Barking Riverside development has blue and green infrastructure centered as a key component of the design. However, local understanding of the significance and benefit of the green infrastructure can be lacking. This can lead to a lack of acceptance of the unfamiliar, with features sometimes being perceived as strange and untidy. Increasing the pupils’ understanding of biodiversity and the role that green infrastructure can play in improving their lives and their local environment may help with community acceptance of these features.

20130930_130435.jpgFigure 2. Green infrastructure formal SuDS ponds in the Barking Riverside development.

The SRI and UEL’s Masters Architecture and Landscape Architecture students began working with TVI in September 2017. The aim was to design and build a structure that could be used by pupils as an outside shelter and, together with the new landscaping of one of the playing fields, could act to support biodiversity typical of the area. UEL students listened to the school’s needs, producing designs which were both elegant and functional. Within a matter of days of receiving their brief from the school, UEL students presented back a range of ideas and took on feedback to produce their final designs.

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Figure 3. The final design, a japanese-style timber frame construction ready for greening.

The following week construction began. Hands busily crafted a japanese-style timber frame which would support the green roof and provide a centerpiece and shelter on the school playing field. The frame of the shelter was assembled at the school where it was fixed into foundations. Earth on the school field was re-contoured to form mounds, providing an engaging place to play. This was then enhanced with new planting. A bug hotel was constructed from wood and set into the end of one of the mounds. Children took a lot of interest during their break times, eager to learn what we were making.

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Figure 4. A bug hotel built into the re-contoured landscaping of the school grounds.

Finally the green roof was added to complete the build. The green roof was designed to promote and sustain a mixture of native wildflowers and grasses, using a substrate formed of coarse recycled brick and aircrete, green waste compost and medium clay soil. The open flower-rich habitat that will develop on this should support a variety of invertebrate species which are currently experiencing habitat loss due to urban development.

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Figure 5. Last, but not least, installing the green roof onto the timber framed outdoor classroom.

This project brought together the UEL Sustainability Research Institute, Architecture and Landscape Architecture students with staff and pupils of Thames View Infants School to create and enhance an inviting, wildlife-friendly place where pupils and nature alike could thrive. We can’t wait to see the green roof and new landscaping flourish throughout the year!

By Sam Jelliman

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