Primary School Vella

Bearth & Deplazes

BS Vella maquette (enlarged view in image gallery)

Photos: Ralph Feiner

  • BS Vella maquette
  • BS Vella klaslokaal
  • BS Vella exterieur inkom
  • BS Vella turnzaal
  • BS Vella gang met zitmeubel
  • BS Vella speelplaats met toegang tot turnzaal
  • BS Vella 3D render van exterieur geheel
  • BS Vella 3D render van gevel
  • BS Vella 3D render van ramen in detail
  • Status:


  • Education level:

    Primary Education (pre-school + primary)

  • Address:

    Sudvig, 7144 Vella

  • Client:

    Municipality of Vella

  • Keywords:

    Low-energy building

  • Programme:

    classrooms, exercise hall, auditorium, school grounds

  • Number of classrooms:

    9 classrooms

Energy-efficient school as the centre of the village community

Vella is a village with 1,000 inhabitants and has a diverse structure. There is an old school building at the edge of the village which had to be extended ten years ago. The new building is the result of an architectural competition. Through the careful siting of the new school in relation to the existing school, an inner courtyard was created which serves both as a playground and as a meeting place for the village community. Up to that time, Vella did not have a public square in the village. In this way the school forms part of community life. The existing school buildings were reused as far as possible for the nursery school. The former exercise hall was transformed into an auditorium. The proportions of the new school were based on those of the old school, creating a synthesis between the existing and new buildings. This is further strengthened through the use of the traditional local building style. The new building provides room for 9 new classrooms and a large exercise hall with a stage. This stage can be used in two directions, facing inwards or outwards, by opening the large doors in the front wall. This also makes it possible to put on open air productions in the school yard. The old and new school buildings are interconnected with a passageway.

The school building was built on the basis of a low energy concept. Therefore the school does not have conventional heating, but is heated with passive solar gains. This requires large windows to allow maximum sunlight in, so that solar energy can be stored in the thermal mass of the building. The ventilation system distributes the heat over the whole building by transporting the excess heat from the rooms on the south to the multifunctional hall which faces north. The school is at a height of 1200 metres where winters can be very cold. The building can manage without extra energy for 4-5 days when the temperatures fall to -10 ยบ C. The technical detailing of energy-efficient construction was used by the architects to give the building a stronger architectural design. Window frames are responsible for the greatest energy losses. By finishing off the window frames with insulation and plastering them, funnel-shaped window openings were achieved on the outside, reducing energy losses to a minimum. The result is a solid building which is reminiscent of traditional building styles and in which the facades have an interesting texture as a result of the window designs and use of colour, creating a sophisticated pattern of planes.

The interior of the school building consists of a combination of timber and concrete. The basic concrete structure of the building is necessary for storing heat and was therefore left visible in the walls and ceilings. Corrugated concrete floor plates were used because the extra surface area increases the capacity for storing energy. However, this choice was not only based on energy concerns; the corrugated construction also had advantages with regard to stability and acoustics. Given the hard surfaces of the concrete, improved sound absorption was certainly desirable. In contrast, the exercise hall is completely made of timber. The best possible acoustics were important so that the space can also be used as a concert hall.

Weighing up different concerns is important in sustainable building. It is not a matter of optimising energy everywhere, as other aspects can sometimes be much more important. Because of the importance of the relationship between the school and the village, the architects opted to include a large window facing north. With regard to energy this is a mistake, because the heat losses are too great from windows facing north, but these losses are compensated by good insulation in the walls and roofs. The view of the village church had to be included in the building because it is part of the collective memory of the children. In this respect, the spatial relationship with the village and the church was more important than the energy issue.