A perfect eco-classroom is a fairly tall order and must fulfil many criteria if it is to be worthy of the title. For starters, the building must be genuinely environmentally friendly, from the materials and methods used in its construction and its energy efficiency once in use, through to its sensitivity to its occupants. However, just as importantly, it should perfectly fit your school’s unique set of needs and requirements in terms of cost, location, size, layout, features and appliances. Ideally, the project should also have a minimal impact upon the day to day running of the school and not encroach on the delicately balanced schedules of time stricken staff.
When designing an eco-classroom, there are many things that need to be considered including the choice of the site, the building materials and the method of construction. Wherever possible, natural, sustainably sourced materials should be used and where there is no natural alternative, synthetic materials should, ideally, be made from recycled products. The use of high embodied energy products should be minimised so, for instance, concrete foundations must be kept to a minimum.
To give just two examples, consider a screw-pile foundation system which will have the added advantage of allowing the building to sit lightly upon its site with minimal interference of the surrounding tree roots and water table. Similarly, cedar is an ideal material for the main fabric of the building. It is aesthetically pleasing, allowing the building to blend with its natural surroundings. It is also sustainable and durable and will age beautifully and naturally without the need for toxic treatments.
Of equal importance, particularly in a place where young minds are to be moulded, the building should be sensitive to its occupants. You must consider good air quality and sound dynamics, both of which can be achieved by installing acoustic ceiling board with active air technology and pre-insulated floor panels. The design should also aim to maximise the penetration of natural light and sunshine, as both are essential to how we feel and how we learn. Windows should be large, supplemented by the installation of sun pipes to direct sunlight into the darker parts of the room. When the sun alone is not up to the job, use smart lighting which will tell the occupants when they need extra light to assist learning, and when they don’t.
Lights, together with all other electrical appliances, need to be of the utmost in energy efficiency. Together with high insulation values in every part of the structure, and the use of renewable energy sources wherever practicable, you should be looking to maximise the EPC rating of the building to minimise the impact on your budget and the environment
All these factors are an awful lot to think about for a member of a school’s staff, let alone the time consuming tasks of planning applications, adherence to health and safety guidelines and managing the construction process. The easiest route to fulfil the criteria is to use a one-stop shop approach, seeking the services of a specialist eco-classroom provider such as the TG Escapes.
However, in order to get the maximum benefit from this method of classroom procurement, and to ensure that it is completely personalised for your school’s unique specifications, it must be bespoke from the very beginning. Starting with an experienced project manager and a blank piece of paper, your wish list will be translated into a workable design in collaboration with a dedicated architect. Choosing the right provider will also ensure the entire project is then managed for you, right from planning through to handing you the keys to your school’s perfect eco-classroom, whatever your intended use.
Here is just a small handful of what some of the Learning Escape’ customers had to say about their eco-classrooms:
"The team at The Learning Escape showed us that a tight budget doesn’t mean that you can’t create a fantastic building. It’s clear that they have years of experience delivering a full service, we didn’t even need to worry about the paperwork."
High School Art Block customer
“The building was set up as a PE hall, but was also used a lot over Christmas for shows and it was really nice to have the space to accommodate everyone. The big windows let so much sunshine into the building and the natural light gives everyone an extra energy boost.”
Primary School Hall customer
“The children are inspired by their natural surroundings and it is incorporated into all aspects of their day. The eco-friendly building has encouraged even our youngest children to be more aware of their environment and the importance of looking after it."
Nursery Building customer