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Safety and costs cutting: Zintek for a new school building construction

Over the past few years, the construction of school buildings has changed direction, to the extent that it is now based mainly on pedagogic concepts, ones which the architectonic design must be functional to. In this new conception, schools are increasingly open to the surrounding areas, becoming a reference place for the community and taking on the role of “urban centrality”.

Among the basic principles of architectonic design, starting from the very first phases of construction, we can identify environmental, energy-related and economic sustainability, rapid time frames, recyclability of the basic components and materials, high energy performances, the use of renewable sources and maintenance costs cutting.

Together with safety targets (fire and earthquake protection), the design must also focus on environmental well-being goals by assessing a series of parameters such as indoor microclimate, lighting, radiations and pollution. Thus, new buildings are increasingly oriented to maximum energy savings thanks to the use of renewable sources and environmental sustainability, which takes into consideration the full waste cycle. Knowing that investing on schools – be they public or private ones – is an investment on the future, it is essential that their design should aim at allowing for serene didactic actions, at enhancing school activities – becoming a multiplier of educational events – and at creating a tight bond between pedagogic-didactic needs and interior and outdoor environments. The possibility to enjoy green areas in the perspective of an integrated educational environment increases the habitability of the building and facilitates learning functions.

In the case of Steiner schools, the design must of course keep in mind Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy and these schools’ specific multi-disciplinary educational process. For the “Novalis” Steiner-Waldorf multifunctional school complex in Zoppè di San Vendemiano (Tv), the architect Giuseppe Guasina worked to apply Frank Lloyd Wright’s concept of “organic architecture” to that of the metaphor theorized by Goethe, giving birth to a “C”-shaped organic living architecture that is capable of changing alongside its guests, in a constant dialogue with the child during their journey to become an adult.

The enveloping shape of the complex (pre-school, single scholastic cycle from grade I to VIII, and high school, from grade IX to XIII) is highlighted by the zintek® zinc-titanium natural laminate covering solution, a particularly complex work of construction given that the various parts of the building present different inclinations and geometries. The installation of a highly energy efficient stratigraphy for the covering brought an improvement not just esthetic but acoustic and of comfort as well, and a sensible lowering of costs, since the coverings don’t need maintenance, and the zintek® laminate, if correctly posed, boast a very long lifespan.

The environments change shape according to the age of their occupants: self-contained and soft shapes for children, with rooms featuring rounded and protective walls; far more marked directions in the rooms occupied by the high school students. The spaces stretch out according to an alternation of concave and convex shapes, featuring specific passage points which open up towards the periphery. This plastic conformation simultaneously allows for both connection between the wings of the school and protection of the students’ movements. In the courtyard, where the kids are free to play, the colonnade of the portico marks the separation from this part, the deepest section of the building.

The zinc-titanium was not only capable of adapting to the dynamic architectonic shape, but also of highlighting its constructive characteristics. A clean, ecological and recyclable material capable which for its durability and low environmental impact respect the basic principles of advanced architecture.