The Building Schools for the Future programme has over £2bn earmarked for long-term investment in secondary schools. Guidance for their construction is contained in the government publication the Standard Specifications, Layouts and Dimensions (SSLD) for school buildings.

It is hoped these notes will standardise schools, which will mean faster design and construction, reduced lifecycle costs and more opportunities for off-site manufacture.

Section one of the SSLD guidance includes performance requirements for different types of partitions and surface finishes.

Performance requirements

Partitions in secondary schools should meet the highest category of BS 5234-2, the British Standard for partitions. These are “severe duty” partitions for areas “intensively used by the public with little care, prone to vandalism and abnormally rough use”.

There are several areas to think about when specifying partitions in schools, including resilience, acoustics, moisture, insulation, fire resistance and sustainability.

  • BS 5234-2 provides test methods and criteria for stiffness; the impact of small hard bodies, large soft bodies, door-slamming and crowd pressure; fixing methods Partitions are expected to have a service life of about 60 years
  • Partitions are vital to a building’s acoustics, as they provide insulation from airborne, flanking and impact sounds, and control reverberation and absorption.
  • Advice on this can be found in Building Bulletin 93 on the specification of acoustic performance
  • There may be hygrothermal variation within a building, so partitions should be able to withstand normal, humid or wet conditions, as required. Extra precautions are required at the base of partitions in wet areas or where wet floor washing is anticipated
  • Where partitions form a boundary to an unheated part of the school, additional insulation may be required to ensure a minimum U-value of 0.35W/m2K
  • Partitions should be designed to resist fire for 120 minutes. The spread of flames across a surface is related to the finish, and the requirements for this varies. For general areas BS EN 13501: class C-s3, d2 (UK Class 1) applies and for escape routes BS EN 13501: class B-s3, d2 (UK Class 0). Information on how glass, ductwork and services are related to the building’s fire safety strategy are included in Building Bulletin 100, on designing for fire safety in schools
  • Ideally, all partitions will achieve an A rating in the BRE’s Green Guide to Specification (an updated edition of this is due later in 2008).

Specification options

SSLD 1 gives three partition wall types: A masonry system based on lightweight, solid concrete blockwork and two metal stud partition systems.

Lightweight blockwork is made of solid concrete blocks with a minimum strength of 7N/mm2. Finishes may be directly applied or lining included for better acoustic insulation.

Metal studs and ancillary components are typically manufactured from low-carbon steel, with a galvanized zinc finish.

Insulation between studs can be mineral wool, modified sheep wool or recycled plastics fibre.

Wall lining options include plasterboard, gypsum fibreboard, glass fibre-reinforced cement panels, calcium silicate board or cement-bonded particle boards.

Surface finishes include paint, epoxy coatings, plastic laminates or ceramic tiling to suit the performance requirements.