Brazilian School Wins RIBA International Prize 2018

A school complex in northern Brazil has taken this year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA’s) International Prize, chosen from a shortlist of four new buildings by a jury chaired by renowned architect Elizabeth Diller.

President of the RIBA Ben Derbyshire explained that Children Village shows just how valuable good educational design actually is, providing an “exceptional environment” that will only serve to improve the wellbeing and the lives of the children that go to school there.

The ecosystem and the tropical climate in northern Brazil (where temperatures can reach the mid-40s during the summer) was a serious challenge that the architects rose to with aplomb.

For example, the big canopy roof was made out of cross-laminated timber beams and columns to provide much-needed shade, as well as an intermediary space that overlooks the landscape so the environment is comfortable without the need for air-conditioning.

It was constructed using local resources and based on local techniques. For example, earth blocks were handmade on site and these were used to build the walls and latticework, so chosen for their technical, thermal and aesthetic properties.

Not only has this meant that the structure was cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, it also has very strong connections to its surroundings and the local community.

Architects Gustavo Utrabo and Petro Duschenes had this to say about the project: “It has been a joy to see the children making the building their own and adapting the space to fit their needs. We wanted to be prescriptive without being overbearing, to be supportive without being patronising, and to encourage growth and development without cosseting it.”

Timber framing, such as was used here, could well be leveraged to equal benefit here in the UK, with a recent report from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering finding that this kind of construction method could help the country meet its target of net zero emissions by the year 2050.

In order to help achieve this, forestation would need to be increased to five per cent of land, while salt marshes and wetlands would need to be restored. More carbon will have to be stored in agricultural land and changes to building practices should be pushed through to use more wood and cement manufactured with carbonated waste.

The benefits of using timber in the building industry include speed of construction (far quicker than using brick and block techniques), while offsite construction can mean higher quality is achieved because the conditions are more controlled than a construction site.

And that’s not to mention the fact that timber structures can achieve better thermal performances than masonry structures with thinner construction. Timber frames can heat up more quickly than masonry because of their low thermal mass, although they can cool more quickly as well.

If you’d like to find out more about timber framing in the UK, get in touch with us here at Southern Timber Frame today.