Wednesday 19 June 2019

Space the final frontier

We are almost at the finish of this year's journey at The Institute. The exams are sat, the exams are marked, the students are happy or disappointed and we're all looking at 10 weeks of Summer. Yesterday I was at two final Faculty meetings, because I teach across such an absurdly broad range of subjects.

Apart from Summer, everyone is looking forward to building and equipping and using a promised new Science Building - which I am determined to have named after local hero Yvonne Barr. The contractors have a damn-fool specific limit to the build footprint of 1063 sq.m. No, not 1065! You can see where it came from: innumerate bureaucrats at the Dept Education approve the new building in principle and pull a price out of the air: we'll give them €1.2million. They then consult the manual of build-costs for schools and colleges from the Institute of Quantity Surveyors and divide €1.2million by €1128 per sq.m . . . et voilà 1063 sq.m.  It's never enough! A shiny new building is an opportunity to play your best game with the best equipment and the best facilities and it's only going to come once in a teaching life-time. But every new feature, every aspiration, every required gender-neutral bathroom eats into that rigidly defined footprint.
At the Health / Sport / Rehab / Athletic / Strength & Conditioning faculty meet there was a long, and generally respectful, fight discussion between the advocates for a Dexa Scanner room and the future users of a Sports Rehab clinic. In the compromises and negotiations, the Rehab clinic had been shaved from a comfortable 100 sq.m. to a cramped 80 sq.m. losing a corner of "their" space to a 20 sq.m. storage room. The Dexa-scanner room was also allocated 20 sq.m. but there was no Dexa-scanner [Above, driven by the symmetrical lady in the white coat] in the budget. Could the Dexa-scanner room double-up in space or in time as a store?  Dexa is really DEXA dual energy X-ray absorptiometry - a radiation source that can measure bone-density. It is an important diagnostic tool for osteoporosis and also for strength and conditioning and elite athletic coaching.  But "X-rays"give administrators and health&safety people the screaming abdabs and one regulation requires the presence of one qualified radiologist for every machine. Quite apart from costing North of €30K. So it may never happen.

And what do they need storage for?  Among other things, for a dozen or so Electrotherapy trolleys [R]. As far as I can tell from Google images, an electrotherapy trolley ETT is exactly the same as a tea-trolley except as regards price. Like a jam-jar costs 3c but a "semen capture and retention receptacle" as used so many times by Berthold Wiesner is in the medical supplies catalogue at £30.  The debate went back-and-forth across the floor-plans until I suggested that all rooms have a 3rd dimension called Up: would it be possible to load up half the ETTs onto a hydraulic shelf such as you see at the back of delivery trucks? These could be lifted up and the rest of the ETT herd corralled underneath. That would effectively half the required storage space allowing that much more elbow room for the Rehab effectives. Other useful suggestions were made for secure storage that didn't require a separate room - 'bicycle' locks and cages - and eventually that agenda item was put to bed.

Where do the ideas come from? With l'esprit d'escalier [prev] as I was driving home from work after the meeting, I recalled that we had been delayed twice on the ferry crossing on our Bank-Holiday road trip because I was driving a little red Yaris. All the smaller cars without roof racks were sent up a ramp to a mezzanine deck and had to wait at disembarkation until the trucks and 4x4s underneath had been unloaded. That was the grit that niggles, which had helped create my pearl of wisdom at a Faculty meeting two weeks later.

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