Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education

Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education is creating an exciting new learning environment and student accommodation for its pupils. Skelly & Couch has been appointed to undertake full mechanical, electrical and environmental design for the pioneering project.

Following extensive consultation with pupils – over 160 young people aged 4 to 21 - and staff of the school, the purpose-built New Academy and residential block will respond directly to students’ needs through the provision of key factors: plentiful space and natural light, strong aesthetic appeal and arduous acoustic specification. The New Academy building’s distinctive triangular shape, colourful exterior and transparent ETFE roof all cater to pupils’ heightened visual awareness and need for visual connectivity.

Skelly & Couch’s emphasis on sustainable and environmental design is reflected in the innovative façade shading, window geometry, inclusion of rooflights for light and air, attenuated natural ventilation openings and use of thermal mass.

Owing to the sophisticated acoustic requirements of the Academy, and the need to minimise environmental noise, natural ventilation is a complex process. In areas where the nature of the accommodation and the location of the site do not permit natural ventilation, heat recovery mechanical ventilation, coupled with the thermal mass of the structure, has been used to eliminate the need for mechanical cooling. This avoids excessive energy use while maintaining a comfortable and fresh environment which encourages alertness, concentration and quality interaction.

Skelly & Couch is currently co-ordinating the environmental and M&E design for the residential block and the Academy, including the hydrotherapy pool and theatre space.

It is envisaged that the spacious, visually striking and yet homely New Academy campus will engage both students and the wider local community alike, and become a benchmark for buildings for the deaf for many years to come.