The modern design of the St John’s College Pre-Preparatory School features many considered details, such as zinc alloy roofing and cladding.
School environments, particularly where architecture dates back a century and more, can be intimidating for boys aged five to eight. But the 230 boys at the newly completed St John ‘s College Pre-Preparatory School in Johannesburg are enjoying comfortable year-round learning surrounds that have been praised by parents and teachers.
That the modern design of the school could serve as prompt for a heritage debate was a worry, says the headmistress, Mrs Jane Lane. St John’s College, with its stone buildings designed by two great men of South African architecture in Leonard Fleming and Sir Herbert Baker, was founded in 1898 and occupies a commanding position in Upper Houghton. The concern came to nought. The new Pre-Preparatory School building, which replaced one built in the 1960s, has been described as absolutely magnificent, says Mrs Lane.
Mostly single-storey, it is positioned between the excavated Houghton Ridge and the school playing fields. It houses six classrooms, an art/drama and therapy centre, music centre, library, computer centre, hall and administration block. All spaces have been designed with natural light and ventilation in mind so as to provide the most comfortable year-round learning environment.
The attention to detail by TC Design Architects has greatly impressed parents and teachers, professionals who are normally conservative in their approach, says Mrs Lane.
The music centre facade cladding in Rheinzink zinc alloy has been likened to a music sheet with the pattern of the cladding joints and colours conceptually relating back to the musical composition of the school song. The 400m² facade is in a combination of Rheinzink pre-patina blue grey and panels of pre-patina graphite grey.
Rheinzink, which is maintenance free, offers reliable protection for generations and can be fully recycled, was one of the materials selected as economical to maintain in the long term.
TC Design Architects say that where possible they considered “cradle to grave” recycling opportunities.
Hot water taps are fed from micro instant electric heating elements, the most economical option in the short and long term. Heating to the classrooms, library, computer laboratory and the hall is provided by a heat pump-driven under floor piped system. The steel roof sheeting has a double sandwich layer of thermal and acoustic insulation between it and the exposed birch plywood ceilings. Double glazing is provided throughout to ensure a well-insulated shell. Provision has been made to introduce a grey water system to feed the hall toilets and to be used for irrigation.
Rehabilitation of the landscaping to the exposed ridge will take place in time. Planted roofs have been utilised to enhance biodiversity as well as to soften the line of the walkway and integrate the elevation into the backdrop of the ridge.
Zinc alloy for roofing and cladding
According to Stephen Wilkinson, Rheinzink’s sub-Saharan Africa regional director, the choice of Rheinzink for the facade of the block which book-ends the school to the west is yet another example of how South African architects are increasingly turning to the zinc alloy, as a long-lasting and maintenance-free building material, to enhance design options and to meet the challenges of energy efficiency and sustainability.
Rheinzink’s angle standing seam system was used for the installation by Rohde Roofing. Led by Fred Rohde, a master roofer who learned the trade of hard metal crafting in Germany, Rohde Roofing has been installing Rheinzink since 2005.
Wilkinson says durability is a vital consideration in the choice of roofing and cladding material and together with the zero-maintenance quality of the pre-weathered sheet finish, Rheinzink provides a complete technical and sculptural solution.
He says energy use and sustainability are essential design considerations both during the construction process and for life-cycle building costing and with Rheinzink’s low primary energy demand and 100% recyclability, all criteria are successfully fulfilled.
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