Steiner School, Lier, Brussels, 1999
Steinerschool built in 1999 in Lier, Belgium, near the Dutch border, is one of the examples that come to mind when we talk about ecological architecture. What makes it special is its story of construction, in addition to the natural materials used. The region was in need of a separate building for middle school students, but the project was constantly being postponed as they didn’t have enough budget for it. Just until the architect Mark Depreeuw undertook the project.
The architect of Steeinerschool, Mark Depreeuw has always worked on healthy construction and life and looked for an answer to the ideal ecological and sustainable construction in his architecture life begun in 1973. When the exceptional architect of Belgium who has built many houses with straw bales undertook the project, nobody believed he could succeed such a school building with the limited budget.However, he built the Steeinerschool with natural, cheap and recycled materials which cost even cheaper than the budget allocated to him. That responded well to those who didn’t believed him and made him one of the wanted architects in Brussels.
Why straw bales?
The constructions built with natural, healthy, cheap and easily acquired straw bales are among the most special examples of sustainable architecture. Moreover, the straw decreases the carbon emission of the building with its excellent thermal performance. Plus, using the straw bale as construction material instead of burning them after the harvest improves both the environment and national economy sustainably. In addition to all of these, houses built with straw bales doesn’t require any tool and mastery to be installed.
One of the most prominent features that makes this school different from others is that the architect adopted the children and parents to the project. Parents and children worked together with the team of Mark Depreeuw in the construction of Steinerschool. The students study and learn in their own building and consider the school as their second home, which results in improved education and creativity.
The main building material of the school is wood. Load-bearing walls are ytong. Straw bale which has favorable thermal and acoustic features was used between the wooden frames both in internal and external walls. We also should note that no dust, dirt, mildew, insect are present inside the school.
Students of this school grow with environmental awareness. Perhaps the best way of raising environmental awareness in children is to educate them in a school built with environmental awareness.
Rain water collection system in the courtyard of the school tries to bring awareness of efficient use of rainwater to the children.The architect designed a funnel-shaped roof and planned using the water accumulated on the roof in the toilet, but then they noticed that the water accumulated in this system was less than the expected.The rain water is now only used to irrigate the plants in the school. Although the system didn’t operate as planned by the architect, they could show the students how to accumulate rain water practically, instead of teaching it with books.
Steeinerschool is not sustainable only with its architecture. The school holds many painting, ceramics, sculpture and wood workshops to develop creativity of children, in addition to regular classrooms. Students in these workshops produce the furniture to be used in the school and decorate the walls with their own paintings.
Straw bale construction and adobe which are a part of our traditional architecture are now re-discovered and transformed considering contemporary living conditions around the world. Today we are discussing on ecological architecture and green building certifications such as Breeam and Leed; this school built 11 years ago seems to have something to tell and remind us.
In order to have generations more conscious about the environment in Turkey, we need many Steeinerschools. We already have everything required to built such schools. Natural materials, children eager to study, self-sacrificing mothers and fathers. And I’m sure we have nature-lover, creative architects just like Mark Depreeuw.
Imagine a Steeinerschool in an Anatolian village… Why not?
UEL, MA Architecture
In collabration with Ekoyapı magazine, Turkey. Content of Ekoyapı magazine” Sustainable Education Buildings” file.