Green School

This structure is probably the world’s largest bamboo building, definitely the most complex and greenest timber structure ever built. It is constructed from bamboo harvested in the hills of Bali, Indonesia and soaked in borax to make it sustainable. It’s an extremely complex structure comprised of two helixes revolving into a double, in the centre. It evolved from standing in a single helix building wondering what it would be like if it went on and on…   The inception of the building came from camping on the land, watching the moonrise over the palms to the east, wondering if this was the right place to locate the heart of the school. It evolved into a multitude of sketches, followed by model after model at 1:100 scale and rebuilt until all the details of the design were understood. The engineers then found the way to make it strong in the wind, the rain and in the event of an earthquake. The building begins its life as it came out of the ground on the 1st of October 2008. The structure is 60m x 25m and the centre tower is 18 m high, built out of 28 pieces of continuous bamboo. A total of 32,000 linear meters of bamboo was used to construct the building without the use of heavy machinery. Fifty workers and eight months later, it has a strong presence on our 8 hectares of land yet is shorter than the coconut trees surrounding, it which gives it human scale. Heart of School, has a total of 1752 m2 of floor space in 3 towers, on 3 floors with 3 stair cases descending each level to the ground. Three is a very important number in Bali to the Hindus, as it has no right angles, similar to this structure, which makes a magnificent space to be in. The building has 20,000 pieces of alang-alang roof thatching that took 4 months to install. The floors are planks made from splits of bamboo, held together by bamboo pins, (hand made dowelling), then planed. Most of the building is pinned in the same manner with the exception of those structurally critical points where we used bolts and injected those joints with cement. The building has no walls so at times you need to erect sails to keep out the wind and rain. This is called controlling the climate as opposed to climate control. The rest of the time you are in the presence of the beautiful breezes that traverse the building. We see the words economically, environmentally and socially sustainable as high-minded concepts and beautiful words, and we think we have done a reasonable job on all three. Economically the school was build for $225,000US = $128.00 m2. It has an artisan roof of thatch, which will have to be replaced every 10 or 12 years depending on the durability of the grass, which will keep the thatchers in business. Environmentally treated borax has an excellent carbon footprint. We have planted 15,000 seedlings of bamboo with 1500 Balinese families, which in 7 years will yield 1,500,000 poles, enough to grow 150 new buildings every year. The longevity of a bamboo building is directly related to the integrity of the roof and we have every reason to believe the structure will last a minimum of 50 years, if the finishes are reapplied and the roof is maintained. By then, we will have grown enough bamboo to replace it 2,500 times over, from the plantings of just the first year. As for energy consumption, it is a lightweight. There will be some energy consumed in the air conditioned bubbles, made from organic cotton and natural rubber but those will only be inflated when people are actually using them. The building is oriented so that both the dry and wet season winds will cool the people inside. There is plenty of natural light in the building for daytime use with 3.75m skylights a top each tower so a minimal amount of electricity will be needed. In the window enclosed IT and library spaces, there will be a 1000 watts of dehumidification running at night to keep the equipment and books dry. There is room in the building for 400-500 people to sit cross legged on Balinese mats on the ground floor and room on the second floor for 250 people to do yoga. In time, there will be an art studio, drama studio, admissions, lounge, coffee shop, library and gallery that will draw people to this heart of the school. We believe the building is universal. A simple farmer from the hills of Bali will be as awe struck as the Master of the Universe from New York. The farmer knows bamboo, mud, alang-alang thatch and is able to tap into the magic of the building in a way he would never be able to in a concrete structure with titanium bolts. The Master of the Universe feels the same magnificence he would, in a great cathedral. Heart of School has the hearts of many people in it. Many people, who are inspired by the building and the school, donate to the Balinese Scholarship Fund and have their names carved in a bamboo. There are 370 names carved to date, which adds an extra human characteristic to this beautiful structure. Although there were architects involved in the Heart of School, the strongest sense of the building came from a sculptor. It was very clear at the outset that the campus would need a throbbing, spirited space and the heart is truly placed. The students are inspired within this forest of bamboo, filling them with wonderment and encouraging them dream. It is yet to tell us what incredible things will happen here and what incredible changes will take place in this building in the future.


27 photos and 4 drawings

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