The socially-minded Schoolhouse South Africa (SSA) project resulted in the construction of a 6,000 square foot early childhood development center and teacher training facility in Cosmo City, South Africa. Grown out of collaboration with local groups and residents, the schoolhouse is a beacon for education and passive sustainable technologies, and is a landmark and a source of pride for the developing community. The schoolhouse accommodates 80 students between the ages of 1 and 7.
The building's structure uses earth-filled polypropylene bags placed inside EcoBeam frames. This extremely low-cost system increases the building's thermal mass and eliminated the need for active heating or cooling systems. 'By filling the bags with soil excavated during the foundation-laying process, we reduced waste and transportation while transforming residual matter into a high-performing and resilient wall system,' said the project’s engineering coordinator Daniel Lu.
The design placed a reinforced concrete ring beam atop columns integrated into the wall system in order to increase the building’s interior spans and prolong its useful life. Clerestory windows and child-height portal windows eliminated the need for electric lighting, though it has since been added to accommodate the building’s increased nighttime usage.