Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

Gemeentelijke Basisschool Dijkstein, Sint Katelijne Waver, Belgium

Exemplary design categories: comfort, energy efficiency

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The main ambition of the project was to provide sufficient room to move for preschool children, as well as maximum contact with nature. Colour, shapes, acoustics and orientation all helped provide a more relaxed “warm” environment for both children and teachers. This translates into clear spatial organisation : all classrooms are arranged around a common playroom which preschoolers can easily navigate and where they can feel at home; nature-oriented: the playroom looks on to a playing field, classrooms have a covered patio against line of trees, and the water play tank doubles as a rainwater collector; safe shapes: the slanted roof is lowest for the smallest children, there are attic spaces for story-telling and the doors to store rooms are in the form of puppet theatre panels; soft materials: wood wall covering up to 1.5 m in all classrooms, use of gas concrete walls rather than ordinary concrete; pleasant colours: both inside and outside; attention to acoustics: slanted roof and slanted walls in playroom, visible beams (to break up sound waves); use of material : the gas concrete used for roof and walls is porous and absorbs high-pitched sounds; warm floors; and safe doors and staircases.

This school meets the standard for low-energy buildings. The classrooms face south but do not become overheated in the summer as a result of the overhanging roof edge and surrounding greenery; when the sun is low in the winter, the pleasant rays shine in. The rooms that require less energy (playroom) are on the north-facing side. Much attention was devoted to selecting sustainable materials and the minimum use of materials. Whenever possible, wood was chosen: for the support structure, the windows and the interior woodwork – all with an FSC label. Optimum insulation of the building’s skin was achieved by insulating the floor with perlite and using gas concrete plus Rockwool for the walls and roof. Rainwater recovery has been approached in a fascinating way and integrated into the building. The water runs through a downpipe into a water tank in the outdoor classrooms, so the water becomes an educational tool. Sanitation water is purified in the ecological cane field. Floor heating using an HR+ gas boiler was also chosen.

Music lessons are held at the school on Wednesday afternoons for children from the school and from outside. The windows in the shape of musical notes in the north wall make reference to this activity. The school also takes part in nature exploration and education. An extensive weather centre and an ecological cane field are also accessible to the wider community.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
The plans were discussed in several public meetings. The participation of the students and teachers in the design process was very important. The architect began the design process with a workshop during which teachers had to produce a sketch of their ideal classroom. Certain elements were then incorporated into the design. In order to fit in more accurately with the experiences of the preschoolers, the architect’s 3D perspectives were produced at their eye level (0.6 m). Comparisons between the eye levels of adults and toddlers were made in order to illustrate this different perception. During the work, the architect organised several site visits for teachers and pupils.

Activity Areas: 6 classrooms with storage, 4 with a mezzanine ("story-telling attic") and large covered terraces connected with large sliding window doors; 1 central covered play hall; 2 covered outdoor play areas; 1 staff room; 1 classroom for specific student guidance

Project costs: EUR 1,200,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (1)

"The objectives of the task given to the architect were exceeded. This is currently expressed in very long waiting lists (over a year) for new registrations."
School principal

Images (5)

Drawings (3)

Ground floor plan (Registration required)
image/tiff
Credit: Architectenburo OOSTPOOL
Cross-section (Registration required)
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Credit: Architectenburo OOSTPOOL
Site plan (Registration required)
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Credit: Architectenburo OOSTPOOL