The vocational school centre GPES in the north of Stuttgart reached the DGNB highest standard platinum. Eight years later, Thomas Stöckle, head of the “New and extended buildings” department at the school administration office of the state capital Stuttgart, looks back in an interview, talks about the special features of school buildings, the opportunities and challenges of certification and explains what pupils and teachers particularly appreciate.
Witold Buenger (WB:) What was the situation before the new building?
In 2002, the local council decided on measures to improve the lack of space at the vocational schools in Stuttgart. In the following years, the city developed a concept for a new school building that combines the vocational school for health and care with the vocational school for nutrition and social services. We then announced a competition for architects and investors and it quickly became clear that we wanted a certified building with the highest DGNB standard.
(WB:) What is particularly important for school buildings?
Since there are always young people in the building who are to learn in a concentrated manner, the indoor climate plays an important role. The quality of the time spent there, not only in the classrooms but also outside during breaks, is also important for learning success. The same applies to acoustics. Since there were site-specific requirements and the property could not be extended, topics such as space efficiency were also important.
(WB:) How did the certification influence the construction process?
It is important that the cooperation with the auditor runs smoothly. That worked very well for us. Everyone involved found it exciting to see how diverse the system is, according to which certification is carried out. Our technical planners found it an enrichment to face the requirements, also because this was associated with many new insights for them themselves. In addition, the general contractor and his architect were 100 % behind the effort to achieve the highest certification level.
(WB:) What was the biggest challenge in the project?
The construction process as such actually went pretty well. The commissioning was more difficult. A building complex of this size actually takes two years to be operated error-free. We only had half a year … which is not much! Accordingly, there were still some areas in building management that were not running smoothly at the time of commissioning.
(WB:) What do you think about building certifications today, after completion?
I liked the approach: The building and its functionality were considered and optimized as a whole, i.e. interpreted and processed as a complex mixture. This is in line with my understanding of contemporary building. That’s why certification definitely brings great added value.
(WB:) Is there feedback from students, teachers or parents? What does it look like?
The teachers are very impressed by the good acoustics of the rooms and corridors, because this makes everyday school life easier. The students regularly praise the outdoor area, which has a basketball area, a bouldering wall, retreat areas, seating and other features. In summer, however, users come across the temperature regulation system. The building has no air conditioning and in midsummer the indoor temperatures rise very strongly on some days. However, this will not change for the time being, because in order to save energy, the city of Stuttgart has decided not to actively cool urban buildings.