Shaping the Place of Learning
01 Jun 2010
‘Smart building can help to make smart kids’ is the claim of US based Project Frog, who are hoping to change the face of educational buildings worldwide to create a stimulating and eco-friendly environments for school children.
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‘Smart building can help to make smart kids’ is the claim of US based Project Frog, who are hoping to change the face of educational buildings worldwide to create a stimulating and eco-friendly environments for school children. “We’ve seen the future — Now we are building it!” is their ambitious motto.
Mark Miller, the co-founder and innovative architect of Project FROGs smart buildings, is on a mission to change the way we build. A keen environmentalist he not only recognizes the importance for more responsible and sustainable construction he is also aiming to push back the boundaries in smart design by utilizing technology to pre-fabricate safe, healthy, affordable buildings that radically reduce energy consumption and construction waste.
To achieve the best results they use advanced pre-engineering that reduces raw material requirements. Building methods are virtually waste-free and use a high-recycled content. During the installation and construction Project Frog have managed to reduce on-site waste from 30% to near 0% — this means that there is substantially less environmental impact than a more traditional construction. Once complete the buildings use up to 75% less energy and have highly efficient clean energy generation. They even offer a waste-water management system.
Project FROG are concerned about building obsolescence, for this reason they use high quality materials, steel frame and flexible layout extend functional life. They also choose what they call ‘clean material’ content to allow for ease of disassembly and to facilitate potential recycling.
At Project FROG the ethos stretches far beyond an eco-building programme. In the US around one third of children are educated in portacabins, that provide a far from ideal learning environment. Many UK schools are in a similar circumstance with conventional school building being supplemented by ‘temporary’ cabins to accommodate class numbers. As part of his design concept, Mark realised that issues such as day-lighting, glare management, temperature control and acoustic optimization can all have a beneficial effect on learning — if the mix is right. Mark points out that: “initial studies have shown that a good educational environment can enable students to perform up to two grades better.”
It is the schools themselves that are the substantiation behind these claims. At the Vaughn Next Century Learning Centre the school has earned the nickname, “The Little School That Could”. It is a model for school reform locally, nationally and globally. Raising academic achievement through programs such as accelerated English learning and school-wide literacy, Vaughn vastly improves the future prospects of students from highly disadvantaged backgrounds. The school continues to stay ahead of the national school grade ratings and have immediate plans to open two state-of-the-art FROG classrooms to enhance their new sustainability program. The unique curriculum will focus on lessons in sustainable practices, using the FROG buildings as a 3,000 square foot of teaching tool. The aim will be that students will be aptly prepared for a future in green jobs within the California area.
Watkinson Independent School in Hartford, Connecticut is a centre for science and global studies. Project Frog has provided it with three, interconnected, energy neutral classrooms to support its advanced curriculum. These buildings offer 3,812 square foot of learning space and were put together as a fast-track project to meet the schools programming needs and budget. They were delighted with how new classrooms offered a healthy, sustainable, and productive energy neutral environment for students and staff alike. The result of the build was a state-of-the-art, sustainable learning complex designed to excite young people about science while teaching them how to be global citizens and stewards. They are proud that their new classrooms now reflect the creative spirit of the school as a whole. The objective the school envisage for their future is as a nexus, where the disciplines of science and global studies interact, resulting in long term ethical and sustainable actions from its students.
To find out more about their other schools and learning institute programmes you can visit their website:
The future is looking bright for Project FROG and for the many young people who will be benefiting from the unique, learning environments that its programmes provides. If the concepts continue to bear fruit it could well mean that this will be the shape of schools to come.
Image: Mark Miller introduces his innovative learning environment. Courtesy of Project FROG
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