Thursday, 3 May 2012

Blackpool students 'School of the Future' design wins cefpi award

Blackpool students win top award!

I'm really pleased that 'the-learning-crowd' senior associate Alison Watson has continued her amazing track record of success with UK students entering the cepfi School of the Future competition.  When Alison, through her company ClassofYourOwn introduced British schools to this exciting international design competition, the hope was to find a team that would make it through to the finals in Washington DC, USA. 

I am really pleased that yet again, through Alison's enthusiasm and passion a range of UK schools took part in the UK competition.

The following is from Alison's blog:

Sponsored by CEFPI and the National Association of Realtors® in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  the American Institute of Architects, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and more than 20 other associations and private companies, the annual competition strengthens public awareness of the importance of well-planned, healthy, sustainable school buildings that enhance student and teacher performance and contribute to community culture and vitality.
The competition challenges students from across the globe to think creatively as they plan and design tomorrow’s green schools to enhance learning, be healthy, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community.

After an exciting UK semi final at the Manchester offices of BDP, one of Europe’s leading interdisciplinary design practices, students from Highfield Humanities College, Blackpool, were chosen to represent Britain with their ‘Ocean Observatory’ learning centre and headed off to America’s capital city to take compete in the final leg of The School of the Future Design Competition, centerpiece of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) School Building Week.

“For the past three years, we’ve been trying to encourage more young people to discover architecture, engineering and construction. We’re big fans of the CEFPI competition, and it’s a fantastic challenge for those students who have worked their way through our curriculum” said Alison  “They already possess a great degree of knowledge, and having the chance to travel overseas and demonstrate their skills is a fantastic achievement. We’re very proud of the students at Highfield for getting so far and extremely grateful to BDP, Blackpool Council and Autodesk for their support.”

All six teams had 15 minutes to present their projects to jury members, then grilled for a further 15 minutes by jurors who pull no punches!  “Facing a formidable 22-person jury would be a daunting experience for most adults, but these students took them on without a moment’s hesitation!” remarked David C. Edwards, CEFPI Chairman of the Board.  “The students continue to raise the bar each year in the rigorous competition. This year’s submissions epitomised project-based learning and demonstrated a deep understanding of the planning process and creating a sustainable future.”

An Award of Excellence went to joint winners Imago Dei Middle School from Tucson, Arizona and Teeland Middle School from Wasilla, Alaska. Both teams received $2000 for their schools for their extraordinary environmentally efficient designs. A very respectable runners up place and well deserved Award of Distinction was presented to Highfield Humanities College of Blackpool, Lancashire.

Imago Dei students acknowledged that they were fortunate to receive a good education and caring teachers so they designed a school for the children of Niger in West Africa who did not have the same opportunities.   They constructed their school from local, sustainable resources creating “polybricks” assembled from plastic water bottles and using bamboo walls to repel malaria-carrying mosquitoes prevalent throughout the area.  Powered by solar energy, the building also makes great use of natural light and employs shade sails of woven bamboo to offer some relief from the extreme heat.  The students’ research efforts were impeccable, leading them to also design a portable school made out of the same materials to bring to communities where children cannot travel to the main school.

The Teeland Middle School team chose to build their facility on a landfill – truly embracing “renew, reuse, recycle” by creating walls made of materials mined from the landfill and covering them with solar wallpaper.  The cement building is constructed with carbon nanotubes, one of the strongest materials available synthesized from carbon-rich compounds such as plastic, which act as rebar.  The green roofs collect storm water and provide insulation. Again exemplifying “renew, reuse, recycle”, one of the three “aerodynamic” school buildings constructed to withstand the strong Alaskan winds houses the homeless, providing them with educational opportunities, an introduction to careers, use of all the community facilities and three meals a day.  Food for the facility and community was grown on campus.
Award of Distinction winner, Highfield Humanities College, UK, received $1,500 in prize money. Coming from a seaside resort community in northwest England, the students designed a building embedded into a sand dune on the sea front that would serve as a space for all learners, including the local community and visitors. Hard hit by the current economy, the team hoped that their unique school would encourage tourism and add to the local economy. The front of the building is constructed of glass that can withstand the pressure of the waves, allowing students to observe underwater sea life when high-tide covers the building. The building is powered by renewable energy including wind and wave power.  Dormitory space in the rear of the building can accommodate 42 students, giving them the opportunity to discover the alternative nightlife of Blackpool.

Three other US Middle schools – Newtown (Connecticut), Seneca (Michigan) and University (Texas), were presented with the Award of Merit, each receiving $1,000 for their own remarkable designs.

“Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year,” remarked David Schrader, AIA, CEFPI  international board member.  “As we watched the presentations, it was clear that no matter how knowledgeable and talented each of the jury members were, the children’s message, knowledge, passion and enthusiasm humbled each and every one of us.  This remarkable day left us all aware that these students truly represent tomorrow’s leaders and our future is in good hands.”

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only US professional organisation whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn.  CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality.  To learn more, visit

To learn more about ClassofyourOwn click here.

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