Sustainable Growing of Schools for the Future

Lovely playground, square and boring classrooms and poker-face teachers may be the main images flowing through our heads when we recall our schooling time. What we thought about is how to be the first one running to the playground and start break games. As for the school design quality, that is not the first attention for us, even not for our parents.

However, the school is the organisation where children are trained for the future. Most people grow up with the accompanying of the school, which is the initially public space for people to communicate with and may influent the whole life of a person and the development of a time. That child playing with his/her classmates is possible to be a leader, an artist or an architect in the future. Various professional training schools are set up to meet the demand of social development such as culinary schools, dance schools and language training schools, and become a main part of school design projects besides elementary and secondary schools.

Therefore, the school designs (new construction, refurbishment, renovation or expansion) are crucial and concerned with natural environment, urbanisation and urban life, which bring new and more missions and responsibilities to school designs. Schools must to be the organic part of the urban life, no longer to be a closed, even isolated place to their neighbours in a city. Modern school designs present three characters: quality-control is always first, sustainability is in; schools are the new centre of community residents’ life.

Quality-control is always first
Quality reigns has been built up gradually with the development of the society, and unquestionably, it has become the key norm of school designs.

1. Space design quality-control under limited conditions
The social development brings the increase of population and urban expansion. A residential zone’s development often accompany with the growth in school-age population, so new challenges for school administrators and architects are not simply new building space available to meet the demand of school-age children, but also look high and low for available spaces and improve facilities in an existing school to keep up with the competition for students. Effective and high-quality space design is the determinant element of school quality.

Designed by N+B Architectes, the restructuring and extension of the High School Paul Valéry (page 184 in the book) in Menton, France is “characterised by a strong duality”. The exiguity of the available spaces for the extension, associated with a strict urbanistic regulations for the siting of the new buildings. This work on the relief admits a minimum of reorganisation of the programme to install the various buildings and organise spaces. Finally, “a microcosm offering a variety of landscapes” was created.

New construction projects will provide architects more opportunities to realise their ideas, comparing with renovation and expansion projects. However, how to foresee and prepare for future development with premise of realising economical and sufficient utilization of space, for instance, the growth in future school-age population is one of challenges for architects. Gray Puksand designed a primary school “around a series of culturally significant nature reserves”, and created an innovative, spacious and flexible learning spaces “that would enable the facility to adapt to the changing needs of the school community as it grew with the development of the surrounding community”.

2. Extra function value of space designs
Schools are the place where talents start their comprehensive education, and examination points are no longer the measure or decision factors of talents. More and more educators pay their attentions to inspire students’ abilities of understanding, self-study and creativity, in order to train the student to get ready for unpredictable challenges. Therefore, traditional school facilities, such as classrooms, teacher offices and water closets cannot meet the requirement of new education system, and more functional spaces and facitlities are required to improve the spaces’ functional value for abilitiey training, in addtion to traditional knowledges education. To establish good relationship between the students and nature, society, other persons and the future and obtain the ability of understanding, appreciating and creating will be happened in new and high-design-quality schools.

Architects Martin Lejarraga form Spain transformed Our Lady of the Rosary Public School as a kind of jack-in-the-box, to collect fantasies and imagination, knowledge, dreams and colours.

The corridor in Lynnwood High School is also the gallery of the school.

Doors and floors in Munkegård School, designed by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, reproduced Arne Jacobsen’s wallpaper. These designs provide spaces of arts and imagemations to all the students.

Sustainable future
Sustainbility is the most in trend in the 21st century, and it involves all the aspects of school design. Sustainbility has become another norm of school design, including materials selection, daylighting, energy conservation and overall building flexibility, in order to realise “longer service life, but lower maintenance expanses and times” for serving generation to generation. That is the basic aim and architectural principle for all countries to insist and pursuit.

The first consideration of sustainable school design is daylighting and eco-materials. Good lighting effect and air quality are the basic element that ensures students and teachers staying in the space for a longer time to carry on learning activities. A healthy and comfortable learning space is what those parents and the whole society supervise and pay more attention to.

Clarke Hopkins Clarke integrated sustainable education concept and methods to designed Eltham Primary School in Australia. They created a “healthy habitable spaces and minimise environmental impact” – “provide shading to the building during summer and enable light and warmth to enter the building during winter. All timber and composite timber products were re- used timber, recycled timber or plantation/regrowth timber with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or PFC certification”.

Aspen Middle School in Colorado, USA, designed by Studio B Architecture is also a sustainable school. Wherever possible, sustainable materials are incorporated into the design. Those sustainable strategies have resulted in the most energy efficient building on the school campus. The Aspen Middle School received LEED Gold Certification in October 2008 from the US Green Building Council and is the first in the State of Colorado. Let’s return to Australia. NOWarchitecture completed Yackandandah Primary School in 2011, and the architects extend the application of eco and sustainable concept from materials, design methods to students’ education. This design “considers its environmental benefit and impact. Its efficient structure minimises the use of raw materials, while integrated water storage, passive cooling, natural light and ventilation reduce energy consumption and contribute to student awareness of their environment”.

Another reason of promoting sustainability is cost. The most acceptable way of lower cost is renovating, and the users of the building would be willing to stay in a familiar space, but not a new structure needing them to get used to gradually. The public’s supervision to public project budget also make renovation project, especially a school project being with the least argument. Ross Barney Architects reorganised an old building of 1900s into a new school for 646 students. In crowded Philadelphia, its outstanding sustainable features won LEED Gold for the school. It’s definitely yes that new structures also have excellent sustainable design. C+S ASSOCIATI design a completed new primary school in Italy. Series strategies including a green roof, geothermal heating, natural ventilation chimneys, building automation system and the like make the project correspond to “Class A+ of Italian law with a building cost of 1,030 Euros per square metre including furniture”.

Ponzano Primary School’s green roof 

Community’s centre – school’s another value for the society

Modern but busy urban life makes people gradually isolate with other persons, and become sensitive and nerve. School as the necessary public building in a residential zone – community, has gradually open its gate to its neighbours and become a new place where the community residents gather for social life. More surprising to all of us, the safe problem that some people worried about after opened the school facilities to the public has not appeared.

On the contrast, reasonable time arrangement and space design enhance the safety of school campus in nights and vacations. School facilities, such as gym, cafe, and auditorium become the place where local residents and parents gather to communicate with each other after work. That is also a new and direct feedback of public schools to the public and society. Designed by Div.A Arkitekter, Hundsund School & Community Centre in Norway is the first school that serves a hot lunch in Norway. The school café on is also open to the local community in the evenings several days a week, so there is the favourite place of working parents who in Norway have to bring and pick up children from the nursery school.

The sports the “school´s outdoor areas including areas for skateboards, basketball, volleyball etc. are open all week for the use of everyone”. Lynnwood High School, designed by Bassetti Architects has a school centre – “Agora”, “it’s where students, staff and community gather to socialise with friends, eat lunch, admire fresh bouquets from the Floral Shop or smell appetisers baking in the Food Lab”. The school Principal thought that the students can all see each other and be together in this open place, so the school environment is excellent with fewer problems.

Lynnwood High School

School designs has not been a simple project, which just divide classrooms, offices and water closets. Archites are in a new eco time - a time of sustainability and nature and humanity returning. Most countries pay more attentions to students’ ability trainning and future sustainability. The interaction of human and nature, human and society, human with each other will definite the development of the future. School rojects should also improve its social value - feedback to the society and to be the sample of future’s sustainable development.


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