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Inner city schools are on the rise – literally

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Reaching the ‘top of the class’ is taking on a new meaning as inner city schools in Australia go high-rise. Now classrooms are literally on top of each other as schools, such as the Arthur Phillip High School in Sydney, reach 17 storeys high.

Cities around the country are seeing urban renewal attracting more and more families to the inner suburbs. Factors include the trend towards more affordable apartment living, the desire to live closer to workplaces and to reduce commute times. As a result, this densification is putting pressure on inner city school populations and causing Governments to turn to vertical schools.

The vertical school concept has been a part of life for students in heavily populated cities including New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and much of Japan, for generations. Now Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney and Newcastle have verticals schools either already operating or set to open by 2022.

In Brisbane for example, the new seven storey high Inner City North State Secondary College to be built in Fortitude Valley, will be the first inner-Brisbane school to be built in 50 years. The school is expected to accommodate 1500 students by 2025, however more than 3,000 additional students are expected to move into the inner city over the next five years (by 2023).

For these land locked city schools the only way to expand is to build up and both Governments and architects are rising to the challenge. However there are many issues associated with designing vertical schools including how to incorporate green space for recreation - which is acknowledged as being essential to help children socialise and learn.
Innovative design is ensuring vital green space and sports facilities are not excluded, with rooftop gardens, gymnasiums, dance studios, indoor sports courts and high-rise running tracks. Atriums are being used to add natural light and terraces are providing greenery and fresh air. However once a school is over four storeys high, stairs need to be complemented by lifts to help students and teachers move efficiently between classes on different levels.

Traffic logistics is also a major consideration in the city with a number of schools incorporating underground basement drop off areas for parents and buses, while also including more space for bike racks to encourage children to ride or walk to school.

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