In the city of Khovd in Mongolia, we took part in a competition commissioned by the Governor of Khovd to design what we call the Encyclopedia school. The Encyclopedia primary school is designed to stimulate all-round knowledge and withstand the local extreme weather conditions.
The concept was inspired by the original Latin meaning of encyclopedia from the mid-16th century being “all-round education”.
A building to stimulate learning
The environment in which people are, play a vital role in their learning outcomes. Especially at a young age, children learn a lot from their peers and environment besides their teachers and books. Because it has such a significant impact on the learning curve of children, it is important that this environment is safe, inclusive and engaging.
The Encyclopedia aims at creating a living space that fosters interactions to stimulate learning, improve education experiences and empower children to create a better future.
Cycle through extreme weather
To deal with the extreme changes of temperature witnessed in Khovd, The Encyclopedia is designed as a living building that adapts to climatic conditions and makes optimal use of local resources and environmental factors. On sunny days, the building’s external membrane facade opens, to allow direct sunlight through the fixed double-glazing. During overcast days and evenings, the building remains closed as an introvert cocoon to retain a maximum of the interior radiating heat. The rotating facade is lightweight and easy to open/close on a daily basis (with every sunny day) by the school teachers, and even students, by simply using a bicycle. Two bicycles are provided, someone for adults and someone for children. Involving children in the cycling to adapt their space to weather conditions, will raise their awareness about sustainable matters and inspire them to be innovative.
The building’s circular shape is not only conceptual but also practical. The building is engineered to offer the smallest facade surface for the largest interior area, in order to minimize heat loss.
This circular design is inclusive, promotes respect, tolerance, and a sense of belonging. It is open and transparent, allowing for an unobstructed visual overview and therefore encourages an open honest behavior and the formation of a tight inclusive community. The membrane material covering the entire building allows natural light to penetrate the space, thus creating a lively learning environment basked in natural light.
A holistic sustainable approach and passive heating
The sustainable aspects of this project are not limited to the selection of the materials used but embedded in the design itself. The building is conceived to make optimal use of natural resources and elements. Besides the generation of direct heat, the goal of including a fire is to constantly warm up the ground and then retrieve the radiation heat generated from it. The building is entirely wrapped with a membrane material of polyester fluorocarbon coating. The inner part is covered with removable glass-fiber-cloth membrane. Between the two membranes, a polyester insulator recycled from PET bottles is inserted that penetrates the light. This composition is based on the idea that by convecting the air in-between, the internal environment could be kept comfortable because of the circulation.
A design to stimulate the local economy
The construction materials of the building have been selected to be as local as possible, this is not only in alignment with a more sustainable practice but has direct positive impact on the local economy. In addition, the building is conceived to be easily buildable by the local community thus offering additional jobs and further stimulating the local economy.