Setting an example

06 Sep 2012

A prototype of a suburban school in a typical tropical climate in Vietnam

In Vietnam, private schools have traditionally been located in the city centre, but according to recent change in zoning principle, educational facilities are allocated to city's sprawling outlying districts. The mission of Binh Duong School was to cultivate the potential of the outlying site with better air quality and rich green, and to become a prototype of suburban school in a typical tropical climate in Vietnam.

The school is located in 5300 sqm land in Binhduong, a new city which is 30 minutes away from Ho Chi Minh City. The site is in the middle of a flourishing forest with a wide variety of green and fruits running rampantly. This is where folks spending their time under the shade of trees. To pursue a beautiful life, people are in harmony with the nature, making the border between the inside and the outside ambiguous.

The school, which has 800 students, was designed to inherit this generous spirit of the natural land. The 6600-square-metre building consists of a maximum height of five levels, with the intention of being surrounded by the same height of the forest around. Precast concrete louvers and pattern walls are installed in the envelope of the building. These shading devices generate semi-outside space, blocking the direct sunlight as well as working as a part of the natural ventilation system of the corridor space. All the classrooms are connected by this semi-open space, where teachers and students chat, communicate and appreciate the nature. The school is a S-shape volume composed of one narrow strip with a gentle slope, which connects the ground and the roof. Like a topographical hill, the slope lessens the aggressive height between the building and the surrounding forest. The narrow strip with openings on the two side have a great effect on natural lighting and ventilation.

The S-shaped spine creates two courtyards with different aspects, one public, and one private. These courtyards are linked visually through two-story void at the ground level. The first yard, serves as main entrance and gathering place for formal activities of the school. The latter is more casual yard, where students spend their personal time with friends. Zoning of the school corresponds to the characteristics of these courtyards; common functions such as a gym and a library are located around the front yard, while individual classrooms are arranged around the back yard. Teachers at Binh Duong School say the school environment is highly motivating for the students. The design achieves a harmonious balance between school activities and surrounding nature with modern functionality.


In developing countries, it is essential for architects to realize public projects within the squeezed budget: It is a social request. The school was constructed and managed with a considerably low budget. The unit price of the construction was about 250 EURO per square meter, which is cheap in Vietnam. It was realized by a efficient structure system and building components created by local technologies applicable in the country. Running cost of the building is also quite low due to the low-tech energy saving methods. This moderate school proves the ability to become a prototype of the typology in tropical climate.


Binh Duong School is a passive design building, which sublimates ordinary technologies into an expression of contemporary architecture. The materials and technique was chosen to reconcile effectiveness with cost efficiency. The building is composed of ordinary reinforced concrete frames with brick and mortar as mass wall ideal for delayed transmittance of daytime heat energy. Facade components of the building, the louvers and the pattern walls, were made of concrete cast on site, which is also familiar technique in Vietnam.


The external vertical louvers and the pattern walls are major elements of the passive design strategy. Not only does it block out solar rays, it provides a shaded external walkway that does not need cooling, letting the wind flow into the building. These shading devices also enhance health and comfort whilst reducing energy use from artificial lighting. The louvers reduce glare and ensure that harsh daylight is filtered in the classrooms. The size and interval of the louvers, as well as porosity of the pattern walls, were carefully designed to prevent the classrooms from getting direct sunshine and to keep the visual connection of inside and outside.

Though it is currently postponed because of the limitation of budget, the green roof is planned to cover the whole topographic building. The green roof will work as insulation and cool building's surface by transpiration. The swimming pool, located in the private courtyard, is also considered as a cooling device using vapor effect. Thanks to these passive design methods, the school is successfully operated without installing air conditioners into the classrooms even in a harsh tropical climate. Air conditioning is minimally installed in administration spaces and some special rooms such as auditorium, reducing energy consumption greatly.

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