A lesson for us all

30 Jan 2012

Young charity injects sustainable design principles into Burmese facility through international Moving Schools competition

Building Trust International may only be one year old but it already looks set to have a substantial effect on hundreds of young lives by the end of 2012. The charitable organisation has just announced the winners of a unique competition inviting architecture and design studios around the world to formulate concepts for an educational facility for migrant or refugee children which can be relocated should social/political factors command, leaving no trace of construction on the land. An underprivileged community of Mae Sot in Burma is to be the first population to benefit from this inspirational scheme.

Termed ‘Moving Schools’, the design competition looks to provide a long-term solution to the many issues faced by displaced communities in the World’s developing countries, beginning with the Burmese border town of Mae Sot. The United Nations has reported the widespread violation of human rights in the country including child labour and human trafficking, and Burma’s health care system is currently ranked 190th in a list compiled by the World Health Organisation - the lowest of all countries analysed.

For Building Trust International stability is key, as they look to provide more than the shell of a school building for the inhabitants of Mae Sot: “The main part of the moving schools scheme that challenges other education school building aid projects is the ability of the design to be deconstructed and move to a new site and leave no trace while bestowing on its users a sense of permanence when it is in its fully constructed form,” the organisation explains.

The international contest was won by architects Amadeo Bennetta and Daniel LaRossa from Berkeley, California, whose dynamic bamboo-clad concept triumphed over scores of inventive entries. This creative submission incorporates a prefabricated, adaptable framework and heavy-duty, waterproof fabric with a series of bamboo panels, utilising local craftsmanship to enhance the sustainability of the scheme. The design is astonishingly flexible as its flat-pack form can be erected in any location as a courtyard school, single building or independent units, which vastly widens the scope of the community to relocate elsewhere.

Work now begins with community leaders, other aid agencies and Kwe Ka Baung School to refine the design through a detailed planning and fabrication period. In order to minimise disruption to the children’s education, construction is due to begin in the summer holidays (beginning May/June 2012) ready for the students’ return in the 2012/13 school year.

Sustainable design initiatives are paramount in all the development of all permanent education facilities and this concept is no anomaly. Recycled materials will be woven into the design, natural drainage and water collection systems put in place, and natural ventilation integrated throughout.

Building Trust International received such a high standard of architectural designs to its Moving Schools competition that it is now looking to source additional funding to realise a handful of the ten world class concepts entered and is in talks with the headmasters of other Mae Sot schools whose students are suffering from below-par school buildings. It is early days for this project and there is still much work to be done, however the sustainability of this flexible model indicates a new dawn for education in developing communities with architects channelling their talents into finding effective, eco-friendly solutions for those less fortunate.

For more information about Building Trust International and their other inspirational projects, click here.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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