NL Architects recently unveiled their competition-winning plans for a new school in Belgium that is completely covered with a green roof. Organized around a central 'heart', four branching arms pinwheel off the center to provide space for different grade levels. Daylighting, natural ventilation, photovoltaics, and wind power are used in conjunction to create an energy-efficient project, while gardens surrounding the Knokke-Heist school facilitate its connection with nature. The school's green features and innovative classroom design stand to place it at the forefront of the field of education.
The center of the school is a multifunctional hall, which can operate as a gymnasium, a meeting place, a theatre, and a public place for ceremonies and festivals. An internal corridor wraps around the gym/hall and connects to the rest of the school, acting as an arcade for circulation around the building. The school is broken down into primary, elementary, middle, and high schools, and each grade is located in a different section of the school attached to the center. Each area enjoys easy access to the outdoors and views of the surrounding gardens.
Large clerestory windows and skylights infuse the building with sunshine, and the towers help draw hot air up and out of the spaces for fresh, natural ventilation. The entire roof is coated in a carpet of green sedum that soaks up rainwater and insulates the building below. Roof-mounted photovoltaics generate part of the school’s power, while vertical axis wind turbines are set to be installed along the road next to the school. Located near the city center and flanked by farmland, the school is both central and in the country.