Back to school!
“Back to school” means different things to everyone. For some students in Europe, school doors will swing open to reveal an entirely new zero-emissions building, an environmentally conscious infrastructure, improvements such as new heating and cooling systems, or solar panels on the roof.
Other upgrades might be invisible to building users, such as an architect’s choice to use solvent-free materials. One thing is certain: trends in energy-efficient building design and construction are making a difference in schools and universities across Europe. And it’s not only the students and teachers who benefit using the buildings. Our environment reaps the benefits as well.
The Sustainable Energy Europe Campaign counts among its nearly 1,000 projects a number of energy-efficient schools built or retrofitted based on energy efficient principles or operating with renewable energy. A few recent joiners to the Camapign are excellent examples of innovative approaches in green building and construction.
Escola Bressol Municipal La Font del Rieral
Situated about 30 minutes from Barcelona, the city of Santa Eulalia de Ronçana commissioned a team of architects to design and build a nursery school for children aged 0-3. The architects determined that their core aim would be to design an inspirational building that would improve growth and foster children’s health. To minimise the environmental impact of the building, the team gave priority to locally-sourced and natural materials. In addition, they chose to avoid materials containing chemicals and solvents to further protect the health of the children.
Mr Gabriel Barbeta Solà is the lead architect for Ecoarquitectura Xarxa Gabi Barbeta, the network of architects who designed the school. As he explained, “The school has been designed with children in mind. Their future is in our hands, so to change the future, we must not only educate them, but set a good example. Doing so will inspire positive environmental change.”
A variety of building technologies were used in the school, which is called the Escola Bressol Municipal La Font del Rieral. Exterior and interior walls are made of compressed earth blocks (a manufactured material formed in mechanical presses). The structural frame is built with laminated wood. For thermal and noise insulation, compressed earth blocks and cork are used. Considering the prevalence of sunshine in this part of Spain, trombe walls (dense, heat-holding walls) and vegetable pergolas were thoughtfully engineered for sun protection and to maximise heat retention in colder months. A pellet/boiler heating system combined with solar panels and radiant floor heating also keeps the children and staff comfortable when temperatures drop. Finally, rainwater and used water are recycled for use in the building for various tasks including hydrating the gardens and vegetable plants.
University of the Balearic Islands
At the university level, Spain’s University of the Balearic Islands has committed to a three-year renovation and upgrade project. Enhancements include the construction of a large photovoltaic system that will cover nearly all the roofs of the campus.
Also in development is the installation of a network of recharging stations for electric vehicles. Connecting existing campus buildings to the island’s district heating and cooling system is another part of the University’s effort to promote sustainable energy on campus. University officials estimate that the results of the overall activities will decrease CO2 emissions by as much as 350,000kg annually. To put those savings in perspective, consider this: roughly 1kg of CO2 is emitted for every one hour of electric cooking. Therefore, the University improvements are equivalent to the amount of CO2 used if an electric cooker were used 24 hours a day for 40 years! That’s a lot of energy – and a lot of CO2 emissions saved.
For more information and additional project examples about green construction in school settings across Europe, please contact Sustainable Energy Europe’s Media Desk, email@example.com.