ABU DHABI // An ambitious plan to replace the emirate's ageing schools with environmentally sensitive buildings was more than tripled in scale yesterday. Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), which in May announced its intention to build 30 sustainable schools by 2012, said yesterday that the project would now consist of 100 new schools in the next 10 years. Eighteen would be built by the end of 2011, and another 12 by the end of 2012, Adec said. The schools will use energy-efficient air-conditioning units, and water-saving devices. The electricity that will be used in the classrooms will be generated on site. The schools will be aligned to reduce direct exposure to the sun where possible. Adec declined to say how much the project will cost.
The expansion was announced as Adec unveiled three new school designs during the inaugural Building Schools Exhibition and Conference for the Middle East-North Africa region. A memorandum of understanding with the Urban Planning Council was signed at the conference to draft sustainability guidelines that will govern the building of all state schools. Alberto Treves, the section manager for educational facilities design at Adec, said the guidelines would be released in March or April. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the government agency that oversees schools in Dubai, is drafting its own guidelines for new schools.
Hamad al Dhaheri, Adec's manager of infrastructure and facilities, said 13 of the 18 new schools planned in the first phase of the Abu Dhabi project would replace existing schools. Over 10 years, about 30 of the 100 new schools would replace existing institutions. "Basically, the very old schools have no proper facilities that will deliver our vision of education," Mr al Dhaheri said. All of Abu Dhabi's 301 public schools would be brought up to Adec standards, he added. The council has a two-pronged approach - building new schools and renovating old ones.
"Eventually, we will have either a new school or a renovated school," Mr al Dhaheri said. "Both will be in very good condition and suitable for our vision in terms of applying our vision in terms of education." The new schools will be larger than existing ones, taking up to 1,200 pupils. "In some cases, we are replacing two schools with one new school," Mr al Dhaheri said. In May, when plans were first announced to build sustainable schools, Dr Mugheer al Khaili, the director general of Adec, said: "We are going to target the schools that need to be replaced because of their age and their design first." Yesterday's announcement draws on an Adec study of existing school buildings carried out before architectural firms were invited to submit proposals. The study, the full contents of which have not been made public, found that many school buildings waste valuable space.
They were designed with long corridors and open patios, but, as a result, some classrooms remain so small that teachers find it difficult to use modern education strategies such as team-teaching or group activity work. Many older buildings do not have facilities such as science laboratories and nearly all could be more energy efficient. Adec has chosen three architectural firms from 27 that submitted proposals for the new schools. Studio E Architects, a British company that has won awards in the UK for its work on sustainable schools, has partnered with another firm to design three model schools in the capital and Al Ain. A local firm, Dewan Architects and Engineers, will design six schools in Al Ain, and the international firm Broadway Malyan will design nine schools in rural areas. Abu Dhabi's first energy-efficient schools will feature facilities lacking in many existing public schools, including swimming pools and extensive sports facilities, as well as auditoriums, canteens and bigger libraries, which will be open to the community after school hours. Computer labs and classrooms will be equipped with the latest technology. firstname.lastname@example.org