Meet the teacher who designs classrooms for Modularity by Rendine
Only a teacher can fully understand the unique challenges of the classroom environment that fellow educators face every day.
That's why modular construction business, Modularity by Rendine begins with our Design Manager, and former schoolteacher, Amy Van Berkel.
Armed with a Bachelor of Education (P-10) degree and three years' classroom teaching experience at both primary and secondary schools, Amy has lived experience of the environments she now creates for a range of schools from pre-school through to tertiary, both government and non-government clients.
“I loved teaching. Just seeing that engagement, when they learn something new, that lightbulb moment,” she said.
“Modularity by Rendine does lots of education projects, so understanding how the system works, how kids use a classroom in terms of a functional point of view, that's what I look at.”
Now retrained as a qualified building designer - via stints in drafting, labouring for a carpenter and running her own business - Amy can not only deduce the pain points that principals, teachers and school communities experience, but devise solutions.
“Knowing that Modularity by Rendine has someone who has been in their shoes, that's one thing that has come up a lot (in discussions),” she said. “There's a certain lingo that the construction industry use, they talk in terms that the general public doesn't necessarily understand, and the same goes for education. So being able to translate on both sides is very helpful.
“I see part of my job as helping the staff understand what the process is, and making it easy for them. We talk through details like power, and data layouts. If I'm in that space, this is how I would set it out, what do you think?”
Lalor East Primary School principal Linda Richards said she valued Amy's deep understanding of her schools' needs during the design, construction and installation of modular buildings in three stages that replaces 85 per cent of her school's classrooms and facilities.
“Amy has been amazing to deal with, she really understands how schools work,” Ms Richards said. “We've had lengthy discussions about something as minor as the placement of a power point, or the positioning of felt boards.
“The modular buildings delivered by Modularity by Rendine are so much better than I thought we would get. This renewal is going to revolutionise our school in terms of what we can teach and offer the children.”
Using the proprietary Modularity by Rendine construction system, Amy designed a three-stage implementation at Lalor East. The demolition program was carefully matched to the arrival and installation of pre-fabricated modular sections.
“We were able to get new buildings installed before old ones were taken. That meant we could keep the school running without using lots of demountables,” Ms Richards says.
Amy works closely with Rendine's Modularity team to design bespoke solutions for each school, based on purpose-built modules that are precisely manufactured at the company's Geelong factory and transported by trucks to their destination.
“In building, you want to make it as easy as possible, but architecturally you want to make it intriguing, and then you still need to have that functionality,” Amy says. “I try to find that middle ground, to push the boundaries from a buildability point of view and make each design more interesting.”
Amy considers classroom design from the perspective of students as well as staff. Also in her toolbox is Biophilic Design, a suite of environmentally-derived design cues to create stimulating learning environments that also foster a sense of wellbeing.
“Kids need a space that they enjoy going to. The way the education system has changed, it's gone from four walls, teacher at the front, chairs and tables in rows, to very flexible, open modes of learning,” she said.
“Kids will be swapping between classes or groups, so there's a lot more flexibility that the staff and the schools require in terms of their space, not just being confined to a box. But also bringing in that natural environment, so making it a place that's nice to sit in or look out of.”