Phase 2: Design

Technology and styles

These activities are a starting point for exploring a wide range of influences on the design of buildings. A local tour can help students to consider building designs and materials in the context of their own community. What has worked well? What has been less successful? Students use their ideas to consider materials for a new school.

  • You can use Why are buildings so different? to support a formal exploration of your community, or as stimulus for a recall exercise in class – students can offer their thoughts on prominent buildings in your area. An alternative approach is to get students to photograph and log buildings on their way to school or college.
  • If curriculum time permits, use this before the main activity below – it will focus students’ ideas in the context of their community.

Workshop: what styles and materials would be best for a new school?


  • Consider the different issues designers must balance when choosing materials for a new development (eg cost, sustainability, maintenance, aesthetics…). Can students put these in priority order? Might this order vary for different projects?
  • If you explored the Phase 1 activities, refer back to students’ thoughts about the design of a new school or college – how are these relevant?

Main activity

  • Using What style and materials are best? students ‘run’ a DQI workshop. They research, discuss and agree some possible materials for a new building, in small groups.
  • Students then present their ideas, using Role-play: present your ideas. Those students representing the client group will need to decide what organisation they represent, and the sort of building they are after, so they can offer informed questions.


  • Gather ideas from each group
  • Discuss what influenced their choices – do these match the priorities they established earlier?


Easier/Level 1:
Prepare a single scenario for the class to use: e.g. a new company headquarters, school, youth club, library or entertainment complex – it works well if you link this to a real need or opportunity in your community. Adapt the PDF to suit your students, or keep to a verbal discussion only.

Extend the time given to role-play to allow students to explore the designer – client relationship more.


Students may well find it hard to articulate their ideas on designs. They can use books, magazines, their own photos (if you completed the local ‘tour’) and the internet to find images of buildings that they like and dislike. Use these as stimulus to help them describe their preferred styles.

Answers: What style and materials would be best?

In general terms students should be aware of the idea of ‘embodied energy’ in a product, which is a measure of the total energy required to make the product, including raw material extraction, transport, manufacture and all other steps in its life cycle.

Transporting materials and building components over long distances or from other continents, rather than using more local suppliers, wastes energy and increases carbon emissions, adding to the embodied energy.

Students should research each product and individually or as a class form their own judgements about each material. Useful sites to use include:

More able students can use a more systematic comparison that could include pros/cons, carbon emissions, cost premium over less sustainable options, scarcity, technical benefits such as thermal mass, acoustic properties etc.




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