Space for Learning

Community workshop in the Gardens Pavilion at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London. Horniman Museum and Gardens


Whatever the project, three costs are likely to be involved:

  • Consultancy costs – e.g. research, access, acoustic – to establish the right space and fitting out for your needs
  • Physical costs, including build, design, furniture, fittings and equipment
  • The costs involved in running or maintaining the space, including staff and resource costs to achieve your learning outcomes with audiences, and maintenance costs

Remember to factor-in the costs associated with ensuring that a wide range of people can participate in consultations, including travel expenses and fees for facilitators. If building work is involved, there will be the capital cost of building or renovating the space, including professional fees and some contingency and inflation funds.There is also the ‘hidden’ cost of staff time for those involved in the project, such as that spent on research, meetings, considering plans and documents, and visiting other institutions and sites.

Whether a learning space costs £500,000 or just a few hundred pounds, the process is the same:

  • Clarify uncertainties or gaps in the budget for the learning space
  • Involve someone in the team who understands costings and balance sheets
  • Be prepared to negotiate for what you want, and renegotiate any unsatisfactory allocation of funds
  • Establish a quality standard for materials used, and for the furniture, fittings and equipment to be bought
  • Compare different materials, furniture, fittings and equipment before making a choice
  • Estimate running costs for the space in terms of services, materials, and day-to-day maintenance
  • Be realistic about what you can afford
  • If you have to value engineer your requirements, think creatively about other solutions, assess the implications of compromises, and then make decisions
  • Devise a future timetable for buying what cannot be afforded in the initial fit-out
  • Create a business plan to sustain the ongoing work which will happen in the space

Inevitably at times you will have to compromise on costs. Reassess your needs and establish and negotiate for what is an acceptable compromise for your particular site and the activities you plan. Your consultation with audiences should allow you to prioritise the needs for the space, and therefore to make consistent decisions about what can and cannot be compromised.

Always ask three questions when deciding on costs:

  • What is essential and cannot be compromised on?
  • What can be set aside or abandoned without jeopardising your priorities or principles?
  • What can be introduced or reinstated in the future?