Providing millions of children with education is a challenge to governments all over the world. It takes planning and money to build enough infrastructure like schools and classrooms to meet the demand.
These days designing a classroom or school leaves no space for creativity as budgets and a lack of new innovative ideas drive developers to almost duplicate blueprints in keeping with a universal trend of dull and cost-effective designs. In contrast to the vibrant and enthusiastic youth who will use the classes, designs are often uninspiring, traditional and decades old.
The Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA), a multinational architect practice, aimed to change this with their proposal for a new innovative classroom of the future. According to www.designboom.com, LAVA’s concept consists of a prefabricated classroom unit that can be relocated. The unit can also be integrated into a landscape while enhancing the learning environment, allowing adjustments for the changing needs of remote schools in Australia.
LAVA and ARUP received a jury special mention in an Australian competition called Future Proofing School for their design of relocate-able classrooms for the future. Their proposal was one of 116 submissions exploring diverse ideas for future proofing relocate-able learning spaces. The aim of the competition was to produce effective spaces for 21st Century learning that are sustainable, integrate with the landscape and connect with the school environment, suitable for prefabrication and mass customisation.
Designboom states that LAVA’s concept transforms the stigma of unsightly
and unpleasant moveable architecture. “This proposal attempts to make learning fun and exciting within a sustainable, practical and cost-effective structure.”
The classroom of the future
LAVA’s classroom design has a green roof and several sustainable features, one of which is solar energy, which is generated with the help of a design that operates on flexible clusters.
The buildings are based on a module that adapts to changing learning patterns and class sizes, different sites, unusual configurations and different climates and topographies. According to Chris Bosse, Asia Pacific director of LAVA, the classroom design aims to create a space where knowledge and social interaction can be easily intertwined. “The design anticipates the future by allowing classes to be subdivided into flexible clusters, which can continuously change.” He says rather than being a performer in front of the class, the teacher now gets to communicate in the centre of these clusters and can move around them.
He says the modular facade system, designed for each location, is manually operable and gives flexibility for light and shade, enclosed space or open space, bringing the outside in or the inside out. According to Bosse, the geometry of the module provides a framework for present and future classroom configurations. “A central space is separated by lightweight fabric that allows the classroom module to adapt to one large or three smaller spaces for learning.” He says all the spaces connect to landscape or compatible contexts. “Small and large class sizes are accommodated by the classrooms basic ‘3 Axis’ geometry that allows the interlocking of each module to form large groups with smaller learning clusters.”
Low cost, low carbon
The classroom is designed to be prefabricated, allowing a developer to enjoy various benefits. This means that all the building components will be made off site as complete elements. The floor and roof elements are to be sandwich panels designed to be easily manoeuvrable and connectable.
This prefabricated design can be connected on site using simple connection tools like bolts or screws for the structure. This will minimise waste, the number of elements and construction time. The classrooms can then be deployed at short notice to replace school facilities damaged by natural disasters, or make it easy for schools to adapt to demands.
- Structure: Prefabricated modular timber elements.
- Insulation: The insulation will be chosen depending on the climate at a specific location. It will be applied between the timber joints.
- Roof finish: A green roof will be created on top using grass and plants.
Three service modules
- Walls: Timber structures with lining on either side.
- Operable windows.
- Framework provided for various “smart” infill panels.
- Rainwater will be collected and used for irrigation and various other gray water applications.
Outdoor classrooms visually connected to the interior.
The design of external areas could be part of individual school projects.
- Sun protection
- Light penetration
- PV film
- Air flow
- Thermal mass
- Energy panels
- Sun protection
- Air flow
- Evaporative cooling linked to water storage for peak-load lopping.
- In floor water pipework will be linked to the ground, coupled water storage will provide thermal mass and stabilise temperature while minimising energy usage.
Water collection membrane
- This will be used to collect and store storm water and act as a water reserve for peak-load lopping with evaporative cooling.
- Protection from sun
- Increased area for rainwater collection
- Thin-film PV for electricity generation
- Hot water cylinder and condensing boiler can be interlinked to solar collectors and in-floor pipe work. Excess heat from solar thermal can also be used in conjunction with water storage system to stabilise temperatures.
- Operable facade will be allowing free ventilation in warmer summers.
- Water collection and storage will take place within the expandable membrane store. It can also be used for irrigation and toilet facilities.
- The modular green roof will be an easy addition to thermal mass and insulation.
- Winter warmth can be created by using the solar thermal collectors that will be linked to condensing boilers and boiler toilets.
- A lightweight structure which is well ventilated, comfort will be created with air movement.
- Water storage is de-coupled from the building.
- Large PV canopy can be used to provide solar protection and electricity generation. It should be amorphous, thin-film technology which is well suited to diffuse summer daylight conditions.
- Well insulated and lightweight.
- Water storage is not used.
- Raised building allows free air movement around building and removal of heat.
- The facade panels of the pavilion are operable elements, composed of a framing system and an infill panel.
- The panels can incorporate a wide range of smart materials, specifically chosen in correspondence with the given environment requirements.
1. Framing system
2. Transparent photovoltaic panels
3. Algae tubes
4. Smart electro-chromatic glass
5. Glass louvres
6. Timber louvres
7. Organic woven panels
Written by Nichelle Lemmer