skip to Main Content
Candidate The Netherlands 2021

Candidate The Netherlands 2021

image
17.9.2021

Candidate – The Netherlands


Submisstion by: Daan Bruggink, ORGA Architect
Project Name:
De Verwondering, A wooden, biophilic elementary school for 400 students, Almere

Short description


Almere is a Dutch city, located in the province of Flevoland. Elementary school De Verwondering is a biophilic school building (biophilic design is an approach to architecture that seeks to connect building and occupants more closely to nature) and one of the first of its kind.

The hybrid timber frame/CLT building has fourteen classrooms, an outdoor green classroom on the roof and a spacious central area. Natural elements such as natural materials, plants and imagery are present throughout the building and playground. On the inside, living plants are an important part of the architecture. A large part of the facades is also covered with climbing plants. The school is surrounded by a natural and green playground. The green and biophilic elements provide a stimulating learning environment for the pupils. It triggers their curiosity and wonder at nature. Moreover, the natural building has an enormous positive influence on the urban environment and surroundings.

De Verwondering has won The Golden Frog 2021, a sustainable building awards, that rewards the most sustainable project in the Netherlands.

 

Social cohesion


The starting point for the design of this school was to integrate nature and greenery to the maximum extent. Interacting with nature strengthens social cohesion, increases life satisfaction and improves well-being. In a natural environment, people behave more altruistically and less selfishly.

This has also enormous positive effects on the health, physical condition, concentration and learning capacity of our children. Integrating more biophilic elements to our elementary (and other) school systems can  improve the experience of hundreds of thousands of children every year. An improved school experience increases the social cohesion and reduces the rate of school retention as students move through the education system. Those aspects have huge economic implications for our national economy. In addition, the school is a focal point in the neighbourhood as many social activities take place there.

 

Biodiversity


The school’s pupils experience nature as a dynamic process, including the changing of the seasons. Rainwater that flows down the roofs is spewed straight onto the schoolyard and led to a nearby creek. Large parts of the inner- and outer walls are covered with self-growing green walls with nesting for birds and insects.

The schoolyard is home to various ecological zones and habitats. There are shelter, shade, washing areas, dust baths and water and food for birds, bats, insects and small mammals. The schoolyard has a wide variety of native plants, shrubs and trees. Trees are strategically planted to provide a natural sunshade and to offer hiding spots for local birds and animals, boosting biodiversity in the area. There is even an outdoor classroom on the lower part of the building with a vegetable garden and a chicken coop on the green roof.

 

Economic factors


Building with wood has many advantages: it allows a fast and light construction, wood is easy to apply and is widely available. The use of natural principles in heating and ventilation technology also saves costs. There is also great financial gain in the operational costs: by applying natural principles, the building stimulates the learning capacity, the ability to concentrate, the productivity of the employees and students and has a stress-reducing effect. Absenteeism and the turnover of staff are declining by large percentages.

 

Climate


The building was given the highest attainable energy label and was designed to seamlessly fit into the circular economy. Our guiding principle for the energy design was ‘low tech/natural where possible and high tech where necessary’. Low-tech interventions such as optimal orientation to the sun, vapor open walls, natural ventilation and sun shading by trees are combined with high-tech installations that provide sustainable energy and seasonal buffering. The school has its own renewable energy source: an ice vat buffering system. The system combines an ice storage tank and energy from the air, the sun and the ground to provide a long term temperature buffering system which can heat a building when cold, cool a building when warm and provide a hot water supply. It uses the exothermic capacities of the freezing process, meaning that as a liquid changes to a solid, heat is released and the other way around.

 

Wellbeing of visitors/users


The school is ventilated as naturally as possible. Each room has its own climate shutter, which can be opened 24 hours a day. The main hall has two large skylights which, when open, create a chimney effect by drawing out used air, providing the school with completely natural ventilation. All classrooms have large windows letting in an abundance of natural light.

 

The selection, origin and quality of used products and materials (greenery and constructing materials)


The school’s considerable ambitions for sustainability and natural education have resulted in a fully detachable wooden building that completely fits into a circular economy with a strong focus on the natural cycle. The building is largely constructed out of biobased materials: the timber construction is part cross laminated timber, part timber frame. Insulation, interior and exterior cladding and furniture are also of biobased origin. The building’s components are easily detachable and an extensive catalogue of all materials used has been registered in the building’s material passport (Madaster) for later reuse. Trees and green walls are an integral part of the building. The school is nature.

Our guiding principle for the energy design was ‘low tech/natural where possible and high tech where necessary’. Low-tech interventions such as optimal orientation to the sun, vapor open walls, natural ventilation and sun shading by trees are combined with high-tech installations that provide sustainable energy and seasonal buffering. The school has its own renewable energy source: an ice vat buffering system. The system combines an ice storage tank and energy from the air, the sun and the ground to provide a long term temperature buffering system which can heat a building when cold, cool a building when warm and provide a hot water supply. It utilizes the exothermic capacities of the freezing process, meaning that as a liquid changes to a solid, heat is released and the other way around.

The school is ventilated as naturally as possible. Each room has its own climate shutter, which can be open 24 hours a day. The main hall has two large skylights which, when open, create a chimney effect by drawing out used air, providing the school with completely natural ventilation. All classrooms have large windows letting in an abundance of natural light.

 

The overall design (landscape and optional associated buildings)


Nature was also our guiding principle in the architectural design. The floor plan shows an organic layout, roughly modelled after a tree leaf with two longer leaves, in which the three clusters of rooms are placed in a natural way around the central space. The biomimic roof construction appears to be a large leaf, with the wooden beams forming the veins. The construction is supported by large peeled tree trunks making the wood texture visible and tangible. Resisting the urge to touch these is seemingly impossible as we’ve noticed that nearly everyone who walks by runs their fingers over the smooth wood.

The interior finish is made of wood, cork, clay and straw. All tangible and visible to the students. Inside, parts of the walls will also be covered by ivy over time. For now, we only see the small plants at the foot of the growth rack. The roofs are covered with vegetation and the exterior finishing alternates between wooden planks and growth racks that will guide ivy all the way to the roof. Growing and flowering green walls out of ivy will get bigger and more beautiful over the years. This way, the students will experience the seasonal changes and ever evolving process of natural growth. The playground is naturally decorated: trees, edible plants, fallen tree trunks, water and sand. Both the building and the schoolyard are equipped with nesting boxes for birds, bats and other small mammals and insects. At night the building is dark for nocturnal animals. Living nature is part of the building.

This school looks different with every season and the building, just like nature, will only become more beautiful over time.


The impact on the environment (holistic, circular approach)


It is a fully detachable wooden building that completely fits into a circular economy. The wooden construction is part cross laminated timber, part timber frame. Insulation, interior/exterior cladding and furniture are mostly of biobased origin. The building’s components are easily detachable for reuse after its lifecycle and an extensive catalogue of materials used has been registered in the building’s material passport. Other sustainable, diverse and innovative materials and techniques: columns out of shaved tree logs, wooden hollow-core floor slabs, (unbaked) loam brick inner walls for thermal mass and acoustic cork panels. The building has stored in total 346,2 tons of carbon in the biobased materials and in the wood.

 

The innovation value of the project


There are no examples in the Netherlands and only a few in worldwide education where biophilic design is the guiding principle in the school’s architecture. The biophilic elements are integrated in the design in an exemplary way. Nature is innovatively integrated into the building, but also into the educational system and curriculum. Biophilic elements work together to foster better test scores, optimal health, and increased learning rates.

Furthermore, enabling children to play in schoolyards that provide access to nature has been shown to provide means of mental restoration, better behaviour, and enhanced focus. Exposure to nature has been found to impact the stress levels of society’s youngest members. Children consistently prefer the outdoors; 96% of all children participating in a related study, who were asked to draw their favourite place, drew illustrations of an outdoor location.

De Verwondering is designed with nature-inspired architecture, full of biophilic elements, built from natural materials, blends in the landscape, protects nature, promotes biodiversity and integrates living nature in its construction.

Back To Top
The Green City uses Googles cookies and scripts to analyse your use of our website anonymously, so we can customise its functionality and effectiveness and display advertisements. We also use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google cookies and scripts, with your consent, to enable social media integration on our website. If you wish to change which cookies and scripts we use, you can alter your settings below.
Cancel