What’s in our new building?
March 31st 2021 by Anand M
This year Intuition moved across the train tracks to our new building at 61 Rawson St, Epping. Having spent over 10 years at our old premises we’re all ecstatic to have finally settled into our newly custom built offices. Moving is never fun, particularly when you’re completely starting from scratch, erecting walls, commissioning new a/c, levelling and putting down new floors, not to mention marrying up two levels by cutting the slab and installing stairs... but as the pictures show it was well worth the effort!
This blog overviews important design decisions and build features to ensure a high quality learning environment for now and into the future. We also provide an insight into the “why” behind a lot of the decision making. At the end of the day most of the decisions were driven by our vision, do what’s best for the student.
DAs and Approvals
Let’s start with the boring stuff dealing with councils and private certifiers … One thing that many people don’t realise is the complexity of getting a development approval for a fit out like ours. You might think well it's just an office right … surely there was already a DA. Well there was, but that’s for business use as an office and the hours of operation are 8am-6pm Monday to Friday. As you may realise that doesn’t work for us. So not only did we need to change the use to Educational use (9B building classification rather than the standard class 5 under the BCA) we also had to change the hours of operation to comply with council guidelines.
Often the tutoring industry gets a bad wrap, much of which is well founded, since many players in the industry don’t take this into account.
Not only is it important to ensure the use is correct, the hours of operation are just as important. One of the first things we had to organise was the change of use and the change to hours of operation. This process was hampered by the effects of COVID and painstakingly took over 7 months. The change of use and operating hours ensure we are compliant with all fire, health and safety requirements for having large numbers of students in a building.
Furthermore, given we are a 9B compliant building we are able to host a wider array of training going forward including accredited courses through Registered Training Organisations (RTO).
Classrooms, Tutorial & Exam Rooms
Rooms are really the key to any building, and for us it's where we are able to do what we do best, teach. A mix of class/tutorial rooms as well as a multipurpose larger exam room. All of these rooms have their own dedicated air conditioning system (for more info read the HVAC section below) new comfortable furniture and new technology. Our classrooms and exam rooms all have digital whiteboards that allow us to have interactive classes and also supports our hybrid classes. Our hybrid classes form the basis to our Intu Remote Learning (IRL) classes. These rooms ensure students in the classrooms as well as those joining online (in real time) are connected and share the experience of a live class. We’ll have another post soon highlighting the differences between live vs. recorded classes.
Our hybrid classes allow our teachers to easily communicate with those students online as well as those in class to provide a great learning experience for both. Our biggest takeaway from the whole ‘learning from home’ during the COVID pandemic shows the importance of being able to connect in real time with students rather than just getting them to watch a video.
All of our rooms also include sound insulation to ensure you can’t hear classes from one room to another.
There is a balance between function and form … you can’t just have something that looks good it needs to be functional, and that is the foundation behind the look and feel of all our classrooms. They are at first functional and work as class rooms. Our rooms are large enough to allow for effective social distancing. We are able to ensure a safe environment during the restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Is that a hole in the ceiling …
One thing people often don’t think about is the flow of people. How can you move people from the outside to the inside in the most efficient way. Well we did … and that’s why to ensure we don’t use lifts that can break down and can get full and have complicated buzzing up and down procedures after hours, we decided to build a staircase.
Having the stairs allows students, staff and parents easy access at all times. Moving up and down the stairs means students can move freely, without the need for lifts. In these times with COVID-19 this further alleviates crowding and students aren't packing into lifts like a can of sardines.
Our lifts still allow for disabled or assisted access to the level. Once here disabled access becomes easy thanks to our large doors and large hallways.
And well the stairs make for a pretty grand entrance!
So how did they do that?
Want to know how they did it? Here's a timelapse of the cut taking place! This is only sample of the work that was needed into order to get the stairs in and safe!
Creating an environment conducive to effective study was one of the main drivers of the new building. Providing an area for students to study allows us to provide assistance and guide students during the year. The vision here was to provide both large open study areas that can be monitored in addition to smaller study rooms for quiet individual study.
Queue the thinking music … what we came up with was a large open space that then backs on glass rooms that can provide a vibrant open area as well as quieter rooms. These areas can be easily monitored to ensure students are following their study plans.
Study plans you ask … that’s right at Intuition we have seen the importance of organised and scheduled study. For this reason we use study plans to aid students in building good study habits not only when at Intuition but also while at home. We’ll have a blog on this soon as well.
Today’s education climate means students need to be connected in order to gain access to their work. Gone are the days of carrying 20 kg of textbooks in your school bag. Today students do the vast majority of their work through the use of their laptops. At Intuition we’ve designed an environment where students can access WiFi throughout the building to ensure they can always be connected. For more information on the technology behind the WiFi and our dedicated fibre Internet refer to the Tech section.
HVAC … You mean AirCon
When you say HVAC some people will look at you with a strange look, but others will nod, this is how you can pick people that have been involved in large scale fit outs. HVAC stands for Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning, so as it suggests its more than just the AirCon. Comfort when in a room is paramount to being able to concentrate and learn effectively. Have you ever been in a packed room and started to feel a bit tired? Sure it might be the lack of coffee or the late night, but chances are one of the biggest contributors to you feeling lethargic is the increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air due to the number of people. This is especially true for teenagers, who often have poor sleep patterns.
Our HVAC system has been designed with this in mind, every room has its own climate controlled unit to ensure the system can respond to changes in temperature across the building. For instance the afternoon sun on the Western side needs to be cooled more than say the eastern side in the afternoon.
More importantly these units also allow us to control the level of fresh air in the rooms with CO2 sensors. When the amount of CO2 rises in a room fresh air from outside can be brought in to ensure there is always the right amount of fresh air. This fresh air also greatly assists with the issues associated with COVID-19, and the need to bring fresh air into the building rather than simply re-circulating air.
The existing base building system, which was installed in the 1970s, would not support these needs and so we decided to invest in a brand new state of the art HVAC system. This system ensures students are kept cool and comfortable while also ensuring there is an abundance of fresh air within the building at all times.
What does this mean for our students and staff? It means having a more comfortable environment to be in and that means a more effective place to study and learn and work.
Technology @ Intu
The best technology is the tech that you don’t really notice. Our building is served with its own dedicated fibre to ensure everyone has access to the internet and our hybrid classes can be run with full HD support. Planning for having multiple Zoom sessions all running at full HD resolution as well as multiple phone lines etc. means you can’t rely on the ‘standard’ NBN instead we went to a dedicated fibre that was laid for us. This not only ensures we can support our current needs but also are ready for the future.
Speaking of those Zoom sessions, we run live classes and live tutorials as part of our Intu Remote Learning (IRL) courses. The challenges with running live sessions can’t be understated, but their benefits make it a no brainer. In an upcoming post we’ll go into why live classes are far more effective than recorded classes, but in short, the routine of attending a class and being able to get immediate feedback makes it the best way to learn for the majority of students.
To ensure we are able to get the best quality out of our hybrid classes we have also invested in high quality capture cards to ensure the teachers text is captured in HD. In addition we have invested in production quality audio equipment from Shure to ensure our teachers are able to move freely around the classroom while still being able to be heard clearly.
As mentioned previously being able to study with access to the internet is a requirement not a nice to have. For this we have installed a large number of wireless access points within the building to ensure all students and staff can gain access safely and securely to the internet no matter where they are.
We also have a secure building with the latest technology in CCTV and door security.
We had a lot of help!
We could not have done this without the many contractors, subcontractors and friends and extended family involved. We wanted to let you all know about the advice and work from some of the most important people and companies during the process.
- DBMG for the entire build, we’ve known Terry for over 15 years and his team's dedication to the project was apparent at every step.
- Maze Construction their work in organizing the DA and approvals, as well as the design of the layout.
- Tello for the amazing work with setting up the Internet, WiFi implementation as well as the overall IT infrastructure.
- I Am Digital for the work with the audio systems, signage and also the music system in the open areas.
- Buckley Connections for their great implementation of our security system for both cameras and door systems.
- Leon Pun for his advice, design and procurement of IT equipment.
Finally, we'd like to thank all of the wider Intu family. The support and kind words we've received over the last few months on the new location has put in perspective the hard work and effort.
For more information feel free to contact us.