International schools in China have rapidly developed in recent years with the market size exceeding 80 billion yuan and investment scale of new international schools reaching over 1 billion. With the economic growth prospects in the Greater Bay Area and the shortage of local international education resources, international schools in Guangdong Province have grown rapidly since 2019 which has a total of 16 new international schools, accounting for one-quarter of the total number of international schools in China.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Chinese University of Hong Kong have carried out cooperative education in Nansha, meanwhile the world renowned Cambridge University has also expressed its willingness to collaborate with local institutes in the Greater Bay Area, specifically in Guangzhou, Pingshan, and Shenzhen. As a result, admission numbers are increasing substantially. International schools in Shenzhen are growing at the fastest rate in Guangdong province with a potential for continued growth in accordance with current market demand.
The long-term success of an international school is dependent on the investment costs, operating costs, permission and teaching approach; therefore, a huge focus is placed on site selection during the construction phase. Noting the strong economic growth of the Greater Bay Area and the urgent demand for international education resources, second-tier cities have become an ideal alternative to the more expensive first-tier cities for school investors and institutes.
Building a first-class school environment
Students, parents, and schools have a multitude of demands including air quality of facilities, consistent improvement of environmental and engineering quality and integration of digital technology into teaching facilities and equipment. In terms of design specifications, the national standard is very stringent on preschool, primary and secondary school buildings – certain standards are different or even conflict with international school regulations. Furthermore, the implementation of technology tools has increased the complexity of design as this requires the project management team to exhibit an ability for international vision and coordination.
International schools have stringent requirements on environmental protection, especially regarding indoor decoration materials, indoor air quality and harmful substances found in outdoor sports grounds which often requires a strict material submission and approval process. In addition, the fire protection and safety facilities should be designed, constructed and put into use in accordance with national standards as well as the requirements of international schools to ensure operational safety. This includes fire protection systems, anti-collision, anti-fall and other equipment and facilities to utilize together.
For renovated school projects, the impact of construction on daily teaching activities must be minimized. The project management company should be predictive and take strict management measures for the traffic flow, access management, noise, vibration, smell, and dust control of the construction site.
Key milestones are a precondition for school permit applications which cannot be adjusted. To abide by regulations, the project management team should possess organization skills, predict risks and take appropriate risk mitigation measures to ensure timelines can be met and the project is completed on schedule.
Arcadis has a wealth of practical experience in the field of international schools that has equipped the project management team with a deep understanding of the unique needs of international school clients. The team can propose tailor-made constructive solutions for specific aspects of the project ensuring to meet business targets, inclusive of creating clear goals based on the owner’s requirements, sourcing and managing design and construction companies, and stakeholder management.
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