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Environmental awareness from an early age. Birch School project in Lesnica

Dobrawa Bies
02 of August '21

The elementary school in Leśnica, located in a quiet wooded area, is a project designed by Wojciech Bandyk and Krystian Cięciwa - second-year architecture students at the Wrocław University of Technology. Their proposal is a pro-environmental facility with a simple functional layout, whose program emphasizes building environmental awareness among students.

The project, called Birch School, was created as part of a fourth-semester architecture class, under the direction of Dr. Pawel Horn.

The main goal of our project was to create an environmentally friendly building with a simple functional layout. This was due to the location of the plot and the main group of users - children and teenagers in the age range of 7 to 15 years and their teachers. In designing, we focused on using materials of natural origin, mainly wood, as a substitute for traditional building products. The result was a reduction in energy consumption and carbon footprint during extraction, production and installation, the authors say.

Projekt Birch School,
aksonometria

The students wanted the building to fit in with the greenery of its surroundings

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

The students also wanted the designed building not to dominate the natural, wooded landscape, but to create a symbiosis with it. Another consideration was to open the school to the neighboring plot of land intended for the construction of a kindergarten. By removing the western part of the first floor, an inviting entrance to the school's atrium was created. Such a treatment will allow the children of the two facilities to interact and adapt more easily in changing the place of learning.

Przekrój
i elewacje szkoły

The school and its finishes were inspired by the tree structure

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

inspired by the structure of a tree

The school was designed on an 8 by 8 meter structural grid using CLT glulam technology. The structural module is the result of an analysis of the average square footage of the classrooms. The ceilings were supported by glulam beams, while additional supports in the form of wooden columns were introduced for larger spans. The school's structure and finishes were inspired by the structure of a tree: green facade as leaves, facade boards as bark and interiors finished with light wood as the core.

Projekt Birch School,
atrium

By removing the western part of the first floor, an inviting entrance to the school's atrium was created

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

The introduction of light wood with warm colors into the interiors has a positive effect on the feeling of the space for people of different ages, so that the efficiency of their work can gradually increase. The use of glulam in the structure, facade boards in two colors and a green facade made the building form an integral whole with the surrounding area, the students add.

educational and sports block

The school can be divided into a one-story educational block and a one-story basement sports block. The blocks are separated by a greenery buffer, which is a view opening to the nearby forest. The blocks are connected by two connectors - an entrance hall on the first floor and, on the first floor, a passage to the roof above the sports block. The procedure of lowering the sports block created a zone on its roof intended for leisure and recreation. The roof over the sports block was enriched with low greenery and photovoltaic panels. In the sports block, correction rooms, rooms for physical education teachers, as well as locker rooms were designed on the first floor. In addition, grandstands were introduced in front of the basement part of the gymnasium.

 Projekt Birch School,
rzut parteru

The school is divided into an educational and sports block

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

The educational block was further divided into two parts in the communication shafts. This division made the emergency exits more visible, and also made the block appear visually "lighter". On the first floor the following were designed: classrooms for grades 1-3, a common room, locker rooms and an administrative area. On the first floor were located educational and specialized classrooms for grades 4-8 and a library for students.

Projekt Birch School,
rzut piętra

The roof above the sports block has been allocated for a relaxation zone

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

cultural and pro-environmental values

The surroundings of the project plot are rich in trees and low vegetation, so the authors decided to introduce a number of environmentally friendly solutions that resulted in better integration of the building into the landscape. Pro-environmental technologies and solutions proposed by the young architects include: photovoltaic panels to power the facility, a green roof to eliminate the heat island problem, a green façade to reduce overheating, and colors to positively influence users.

Projekt Birch School,
wejście

Birch School is an environmentally and student-friendly school

© Wojciech Bandyk, Krystian Cięciwa

An important aspect we took into account during the design was the fact that the school is being built right next to a kindergarten. This became a reason to create an opening towards the nearby plot. In this way, we created a common zone where children of different ages could interact with each other, which would result in less fear and discomfort when changing the place of learning," Krystian Cięciwa and Wojciech Bandyk conclude.

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