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Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School


Maosi Village, Xiansheng Town, Qingyang City, Gansu Province, China

Project Description:

In the poor conditions of China’s Loess Plateau region, the design possibility limited by budget and resources is the main challenge of design. There are around 2500 villagers and 200 students in Maosi Village. Their existing schools are either in caves or in simple brick huts.

This eco-school project is a prototype with the interpretation of ‘high science and low technology’ thesis. It emphasizes on a scientific and transferable methodology combining phases of investigation, condition analyses, computer simulation experiments, design, and field construction. Follow the topography, 10 classrooms were planned at two levels for exposure to sunlight, daylight, and natural ventilation. The classroom form is derived from local traditional houses with timber structure so as to be constructed easily by villagers. Thermal mass, roof insulation and double glazing are employed. The semi-buried form together with the direct-gain mode of passive solar system further upgrades the thermal performance.

The new classrooms are cheap and have a far better environmental performance with less energy consumption and environmental impact. The school complex blends smoothly and fits comfortably into the surrounding landscape. The project illustrates to the locals a feasible way, in which by selectively employing their familiar techniques and materials they can easily build for themselves their most effective and affordable ecological buildings.

The project was awarded several local and overseas awards including 2009 UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards 2009 (Heritage Awards Jury Commendation for Innovation) and the Jury’s Special Award of HKIA Awards 2009.

Description how the project contributes with humanity:

In Maosi village, the students used to study in small yaodongs (dugouts carved into the side of a hill) that have poor ventilation and lighting. They are uncomfortable for students as it is very cold in winter and very hot in summer. This project helps village children move from caves to classrooms. They enjoy a better learning environment and create a model for other village schools.

The design of the Maosi Ecological Demonstration Primary School offers an attractive modern and locally suitable alternative to the existing cave schools. It maintains continuity with longstanding local building traditions, in particular, by adapting the environmentally sustainable aspects of vernacular earthen architecture. The careful selection of materials and techniques, combining mud brick with modern technology such as double glazing, has allowed the school to minimize its energy consumption.

The configuration of the buildings creates a liveable space at a human scale that is sensitive to this particular context of the loess plateau. Built in cooperation with the local villagers themselves, the project sends a strong message about the relevance of applying traditional wisdom to build in an ecological and socially sustainable manner.



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