Heathfield Children’s Centre is an integral part of the local community and a hub for child services.
Young people love the building
The child friendly play areas and the brightly coloured materials are loved by parents and children. All the areas are secure and have soft surfaces, so staff can let children play without supervision. The design has contributed to improved behaviour from children as they find it easier to acclimatise to the space and engage more readily with others.
The strong team was essential
Heathfield benefited from a strong team who supported the design from the start:
- the headteacher of the primary school was involved in the selection process
- consultations with the children’s services team engaged stakeholders
- the contractor developed a strong relationship with the architect which resulted in a smooth construction phase.
The two-stage tender process worked well
The two stage tender process produced an accurate budget and the project was built with minimal cost or time overruns.
The first stage focused on the extension of the existing nursery. Once the initial tenders were submitted, the client decided it was more cost-effective to demolish the existing nursery and build a new centre. The second stage saw a new proposal and a more realistic budget.
Cutting the building size was a false economy
Heathfield has rapidly expanded its original programme to include baby clinics from the local hospital as well as the health and education services offered by SureStart. Space is now an issue, with plans to expand the centre by roofing the courtyard and enlarging the office space.
25 square meters was trimmed from the building during the cost cutting period, which was clearly a false economy. Although the resulting lack of corridors and open plan layout makes it easy to keep an eye on the children, the centre’s staff say that the lack of connectivity between rooms makes the building awkward to navigate.
Management problems could have been avoided
The ventilation system is not working properly and the centre tends to overheat in the summer. This could have been avoided if the centre management team had been involved in the design process or if there had been a proper handover from M & E contractors. However, the centre management team were not appointed until after the building was completed.
The public should have been consulted more
The tight programme meant that the consultation process wasn’t as rigorous as it could have been. Although sessions held with teachers and the council were useful, meetings with the local community were poorly attended and there was little community input into the design of the centre.
Since it has opened the community have embraced the centre and the services it offers, and it has become integral to the delivery of child services.