First grade Groenendaal in Merksem moves into a sustainable school building in the middle of nature

Take lessons in sustainable 'Park class'

September 03, 2019
Gazet van Antwerpen

Near Antwerp and in the middle of a park with a pond: the Groenendaalschool in Merksem is ideally located for a primary school. The first grade students took up residence on the first day of school in brand new and extremely sustainable 'park classes'.

The smartboard shows the word 'I' in a print of a child in front of the mirror. The school year is only one hour away, but the children of the first year of the Groenendaal primary school in Merksem have already learned their first word. In front of them Miss Inge Janssens is shining. Today she has a view of a horde of brand new students in uniform and behind the young dangles the teacher looks out through the large windows at trees and greenery. The walls of the classroom are made of wood and the entire room is decorated in natural tones. It is mainly the teachers and masters of the first who have been looking forward to their first hours in the new park classes, because everything is new for the children anyway.

Energy efficient

The park classes are only for the four classes of the first grade and the two care classes. The Antwerp architectural firm HUB, which is also taking care of the city hall, designed the new classes that combine energy efficiency, circularity and innovative architecture.
"Our energy bill: should fall by thousands of euros. Of course we have to wait and see, but given the high costs in education, that is of course very welcome," says director Hilde Van Thielen. We are in the multipurpose space where all classes come out. Above our heads, the light enters through a dome with large windows overlooking tall trees. In the multipurpose room, all eighty first grade students gather each morning to sing the good morning song, and it is also used for a class-to-class book exchange moment. "That works better than a long narrow corridor where all classes end up next to each other," assures the management.
Inside it is very quiet, both in the multipurpose room and in the classes where the first-years all still practice a bit awkward on the 'i'.
"Master Luc is busy with his class next to our class and I don't hear anything," says teacher Inge. "It is unbelievable. We have been practicing the 'i' here since 2003." Master Luc is busy with his class next to our class and I don't hear anything, "says teacher Inge." It is unbelievable. Since 2003 we were here in container classes that were completely out of- The class of Miss Inge teaches her first word. The new school building has large windows, so that the students are close to nature. lived. I could then 'enjoy' all the lessons of master Luc. I already feel that the children are also calmer from this environment without environmental noise. "

Like in Scandinavia

The weather is nice on the first day of school, so another trump card comes up immediately. Each class has large exterior glass doors. This way nature comes back in a little bit more. "And if it's warm enough, we can just teach outside. Many students don't have a garden at home, for them" this is absolutely ideal. "
The architects came up with this in mind, with the Scandinavian teaching model in mind, where this happens more often. The roof of the school building is also covered with plants.


It took about a school year to build the new classes. A CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) method was used for this.

In addition, solid wooden walls, floors and roofs are prefabricated and then mounted on the construction site. Those building elements: replace masonry walls and floor and roof plates. The advantage of CLT is a huge C02 reduction in construction, it is made from sustainably obtained European wood and the construction time is much shorter.

After the first grade, the students move to the classic school building on the other side of the playground. But in secondary they can go to the Groenendaal College, where students in the park have been taking lessons in a renovated castle since last year. "After, the castle and the park classes, the playground is on the program, we want to make it greener and connect it even more to the park," the management said.

GVA - Rebecca Van Remoortere
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