Brick, concrete or some combination of the two are typically what goes into school structures. But have you ever seen a large school building built from bamboo? Located in northern Thailand, Panyaden International School is unlike most schools around the world. Here, earth and bamboo replace typical building materials throughout the campus. Nestled among rice fields just 15 minutes from Chiang Maj’s city center, the school teaches young students with diverse backgrounds.
This forward thinking institution not only works to make sure the students have a strong academic background, but also helps them to lead diverse, multicultural lives. For example, the bilingual curriculum is enriched with teachings about environmental responsibility and Buddhist principles.
“Love Nature,” the school’s motto, is present everywhere. The holistic education aims to not only teach children the standard reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also practical skills, like how to grow their food. The school weaves this environmental approach into the fiber of the campus. All the buildings have been able to reduce their carbon footprint by 90 percent with eco-friendly materials.
Apart from sustainable building materials, the electricity use is also minimal since all the rooms are naturally ventilated through their architectural design instead using of air-conditioning. This is possible largely due to the warm Thai climate. The eco-campus also has a biogas plant, waste water processing system, and gardens to teach kids how to grow plants and recycle.
To continue their sustainable mission, the school recently built a large sports hall completely made out of bamboo. Entirely designed to align with the school’s mission and Buddhist principles, the structure's layout was influenced by the lotus flower and created without any toxic materials. Inside the hall, kids can play different sports such as futsal, volleyball, basketball, and badminton. Those less athletically inclined can embrace their flair for drama on the stage embedded in the front wall of the open hall.
Balconies flank the expansive floor plan so parents can watch their children as they compete and perform in the arena. Most impressive is that while this massive 782 square meter bamboo structure can hold 300 people, it has a carbon footprint of zero. The bamboo, a remarkably unique building material, absorbed carbon faster than any carbon released during the process of treating it with natural Borax salt, transporting it to the campus, and construction of the structure. The building can support itself without reinforcements because of how the builders specially wove the bamboo together. For example, this sports hall is expected to last at least 50 years.
Much of this structure wouldn’t have been possible without the architects behind the project. Chiangmai Life Architects and Construction is a group based in Thailand that specializes in eco-friendly and natural building methods. The team designs and builds everything from factory spaces to houses to offices. In the process, they only use natural materials such as bamboo, earth, and rocks. By blending modern technology and design, they can form striking designs out of simple materials. Projects like these prove that it is possible to fully integrate nature into architectural design and hopefully it will inspire others to follow their example.