The medieval town of Montrottier in southwestern France just received a modern update with the addition of a kindergarten and primary school near its historic center. Designed by Tekhnê Architects, the Montrottier School makes use of solar passive design, natural ventilation, efficient systems and a rooftop photovoltaic array. Materials were chosen for their proximity to the site as well as their impact on air quality.
The decision to place the new primary school in the heart of the town was made by the whole community. A plot of land was available with a close proximity to the cultural center, town library and cinema, and residents thought it would help enliven the city center. The project was designed by Tekhnê Architects to fit on a steeply sloping site that overlooks farmland beyond. The Lyon-based firm mastered the sloping site by incorporating buildings and access points on different levels with the help of walkways and bridges.
To minimize energy use, the project is oriented to make the most of its solar exposure – it accepts the sun’s heat in the winter, while the interiors are shaded in the summer. Daylight permeates into all of the classrooms, and natural ventilation plays a big role in the building’s climate control during the warmer months. The envelope features thick 25 cm walls with high-performance insulation, and it’s clad in locally-sourced pine with louvered shade panels in necessary places. Heating is provided via a biomass boiler, which also provides heat for the cultural center. A building monitoring system lets the administrators know about the air quality in classrooms and when windows can be opened. Finally a rooftop photovoltaic system provides more than twice as much energy as needed by the entire school.
The city and school also made sure to create a safe and non-toxic environment for the children. To achieve this they sourced materials that were non-toxic, low-VOC, low-maintenance and durable. Rainwater is collected in tanks and used for sanitary purposes as well as for watering the vegetable garden. Roofs not covered in solar panels are planted with sedum to reduce stormwater runoff. The project is a lively space that encourages growth, and its proximity to the town center encourages life and activity as well.
Images ©Jérôme Ricolleau