Text description provided by the architects. Krishna-Avanti Primary School is the first voluntary aided Hindu School in the UK. Cottrell and Vermeulen Architecture attended workshops with the school community to understand the religious and cultural ambitions that the community had for the school and to establish an appropriate architecture. Specific requirements came out of this process: a Hindu chapel built in traditional Vedic style as the focus of the school; a music and drama space; a spiritual japa garden; zones where pupils can be barefoot and environmentally friendly construction materials. The school architecture reflects the Hindu community, whilst being a state of the art educational environment and a sustainable building with an integrated engineering approach that provides a low impact, energy efficient solution. The school has one of the highest BREEAM scores for a school in the UK and is fully accessible and inclusive. It was completed in September 2009 for a budget of £7 Million.
The Hindu religion, teaching and the building’s architecture are integrated at the Krishna-Avanti School. At the centre of the school (in plan and symbolically) is a traditional temple and the school is aligned on the site in keeping with Vastu principles. Teaching spaces are arranged around a courtyard facing onto the temple. The whole school is seen as a learning environment, and it is intended that the environment and landscaped grounds becomes a curriculum resource.
The classrooms can be extended out in two directions; towards a spiritual courtyard garden and towards covered outdoor teaching areas and playgrounds and each contains a classroom shrine & quiet area, an area for ICT / whiteboard projection and an area for art & science experiments. Children wear indoor shoes throughout the school and all classrooms have a view of the temple. The classrooms are designed for maximum natural light and optimum thermal comfort using insulation, under-floor heating, acoustic linings and natural ventilation. CO2 sensors display air quality.
The dining and music and drama rooms are an example of a cross-curricula approach. The spaces interconnect with the temple, the main hall, the kitchen and the school allotments. The deities installed in the temple watch over the pupils. Dance, music and Yoga are part of the curriculum – they are also an important part of Hindu worship, hence the connection to the temple. School dinner is a highlight of the school day. All of the (organic vegetarian) food is blessed by the deities and eating becomes an act of worship. Hand rinse and mouth rinse facilities are located in the dining area for hygiene as well as religious ritual. Children and staff sit together on the floor to eat and eating also becomes a lesson in social etiquette and respect. Some food is grown on site in the school’s allotments.
Krishna-Avanti School buildings are also integrated carefully with the school landscape. The landscape is conceived as a series of outdoor classrooms, educational gardens, play gardens with fruit trees and herbs, spiritual gardens, exercise gardens, ecology and wildlife habitat, recycling gardens, outdoor dining, and frameworks for future expansions. The landscape provides learning resources, fuel sources, building resources, food sources, & pollutant cleaning.
Habitats have been created to encourage diverse insect, animal and plant populations. Wildlife corridors have been created across the site to provide safe passage for animals and insects. Ecology is studied and science experiments can be set using the elements. A flood reservoir and a wildlife pond with dipping platform become an outdoor classroom.
The original landscape features were a resource to be used in a positive way. Earth from the building excavations was used to make acoustic bunds and children’s play mounds which also act as sound buffers to control noise transmission from the road traffic and from the playground to the surrounding housing.
A vegetable garden and orchard provide a teaching resource and healthy organic food to be used in the school kitchen. Rainwater collected from the sedum covered roofs is used to water the garden.
Interesting and cultural water features, natural environments and further aspects of Vastu which utilise natural resources encourage children to be sensitive towards all living beings, other religions, cultures and to the environment around them, whilst promoting good character and responsibility. Areas of Ayurvedic plants planted in the landscape teach Hindu symbolism and can be used for cooking and therapy.
The school was the recipient of the 2010 Harrow Architectural and Environmental Award run by the Harrow Heritage Trust and Harrow Council and was listed in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Top Ten Buildings of 2010’.
Kirshna-Avanti Primary School and Sustainability:
Hindus are taught to revere life and nature, considering both as sacred gifts from God. This scriptural tenet is an important principle for the School. Krishna-Avanti Primary School aims to produce socially aware citizens who adopt responsible lifestyles that help sustain our planet.
It is intended that the school be a beacon of sustainability, and waste reduction and recycling will be integrated into the curriculum. Composting bins are provided for all classrooms and the school will be provided with a textile bank as part of a Harrow Council initiative. The school’s vegetarian food policy also markedly reduces the amount of waste which cannot be composted. Some food for the school will be grown on site reducing the need for ingredients to be delivered to the school.
A key driver for the client was to create a sustainable school environment. From the outset, the design team and client set up consultations and strategies to define the material palette, low/renewable energy technologies, community involvement, and future adaptability in order to ensure a sustainable and future proofed design (for example the foundations have been designed to allow the walls to be opened up if open-plan teaching is required in the future).
The environmental engineering systems for Krishna-Avanti Primary School have been conceived and designed to reduce energy consumption and minimise carbon production in a number of fully integrated ways:
Passive Technology: The starting point of the low energy consumption strategy has been to minimise active use of primary energy and harness natural resources where possible:
• Thermal mass has been included to act as a passive buffer to peaks of internal temperature
• Enhanced performance thermal insulation with low U values
• Rain water harvesting and re-use
• Green roofs for enhanced ecological benefit
• Integrated scope for future school expansion
• Natural ventilation with automatic controls
• Teaching spaces and halls optimised for natural daylighting
• External solar control louvres to limit solar gain and direct glare
• Sustainable urban drainage and on-site storm water detention pond
Active Technology: Where active means have been necessary in order to service the school building, a range of integrated low energy and renewable technologies have been specified:
• Ground source heat pumps have been installed to provide up to 68% of the space heating demand of the school building
• Under floor heating works in concert with the ground source heat pumps
• Local thermostatic controls have been specified for control of maximum hot water temperature at taps
• Use of recycled water for garden irrigation
• Heat recovery ventilation systems for classroom sanitary accommodation
• Absence detection, low energy artificial lighting controls
• Daylight sensing and time-clock control of external lighting to minimise energy consumption and light pollution
• Metering of all primary energy use
• Fully automatic and self learning, BMS control system with graphical user interface to optimise control and operation of M & E systems
Energy efficient construction procedures: Contractors practiced reduced waste on site; co-ordinated deliveries; used recycling skips; water use on site was monitored; earth excavations were re-used; hoardings were recycled; recycled crushed concrete shingle and sand were used wherever possible.
Education Integration: The Building Management System is available to staff and pupils via a graphical front end and a visual display showing the operation of the heat pumps is located in the school entrance foyer. The internal environmental conditions in each of the classrooms, the ICT suite and the multi-purpose halls will be constantly monitored by the automatic building management system (BMS). Each classroom is provided with a visual indicator unit with simple traffic light signal lamps to show the teacher and children, the current carbon dioxide concentration within the space. This visual indication is intended to give the teacher an immediate and educational indication of deteriorating internal environmental conditions. The BMS acts on the CO2 sensing to instigate the timely opening of a window to increase fresh air and increase the rate of natural ventilation. The main plant room has a window installed adjacent to the front entrance of the school to allow children and public to view the renewable energy plant.