Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ecovilla buildings for classrooms

Ecovilla buildingAt Canberra' flower festival, Floriade, I came across an Ecovilla. This is a steel frame building designed for homes and public buildings. It has been used in indigenous communities and would appear suitable for a computer equipped learning centre for such communities.

Construction starts with "mega-anchors" (steel piles driven into the ground), then galvanised steel framework built up. The building is covered with a Tophat curved steel roof. The demonstration building had corrugated steel cladding on the outside and min-corrugated steel on the inside. Usually flat sheeting would be used on the inside for aesthetics, but the min-orb looks good when painted and would provide a very durable finish. The buildings can be made single or two stories high and can be provided with instructions as a kit for local assembly.

It looks feasible to use this system for building classrooms for a learning commons or flexible learning centre. Because the floor is above the ground, it would be easy to add extra wiring underneath for computers.

This is a pre-cut building, rather than a prefabricated one. That is the components are cut to size in a factory, shipped to site as a flat-pack and then assembled on site. The volume of material to be transported this way is far less than prefabricated buildings. The system would lend itself to modular building designs, with a standardised kit of components assembled into different configurations to suit local needs. The system also lends itself to the buildings being easily modified and added to. Local materials can be used to clad the building so it can blend in to the local environment.

The demonstration building had an interesting "Unitank" flat pack water tank. This looks like a giant ice cream tub, being an inverted truncated cone. The tank is transported as flat sheets of steel, then rolled up and assembled on site.

Outside the demonstration building was some corrugated steel which had been perforated into decorative fence. This made me think this would be a good way to make security windows for the Ecovilla, especially if it was equipped as a classroom filled with computers attractive to thieves. Instead of having to fit security screens, a sheet of corrugated steel with holes punched for ventilation could simply be fixed in place at the window.

The building had a solar panel on the roof and LED low power lights inside. There was a composting toilet and a clever shower cubicle made of a curved sheet of the same mini-orb corrugated steel as the walls.

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