Rwamagana Learners School Dormitory

Location

Rwamagana District, Rwanda

Architect

ASA Studio

Client

Rwamagana Leaders' School

Consultant

Size

853sqm (Building)

1500sqm (Site)

Cost

$185/sqm inc. VAT (building)

$140/sqm inc. VAT (total)

Year

2015-2016

Rwamagana Leaders' School is a secondary boarding school in eastern Rwanda with a curriculum that focuses on sustainability. The new dormitory building, designed by ASA Studio, is intended to demonstrate the potential of empowerment in education through architecture. The building acts as a tool that enhances the boarding school experience while stimulating the students and offering a safe and healthy environment. The result is an innovative and socially responsible solution that balances sustainability, cost effectiveness, and functionality.

The adoption of a participatory design approach played a significant role in the positive outcome of the project, integrating the students' inputs, for a better understanding of the space. Thanks to step-by-step construction training, mock-ups, and on-site material testing, the workers learned how to improve their traditional construction techniques and adopt alternative locally available and affordable materials, such as clay, stone, lime and reeds. Simple passive design principles have been eployed to ensure adequate daylighting and natural ventilation, which are fundamental to the interior comfort of students, enhancing their quality of life and study performance.

General Arrangement

The spatial arrangement of the dormitory is driven by the need for a flexible layout that can accommodate a number of different activities in a typical student's schedule. The negative space between bedrooms creates common areas where the students can spend their free time, study and socialise. These spaces are designed to be as flexible as possible to create an adaptive and qualitative environment.

Participatory Process

Collective Visioning

ASA invited students to submit a questionnaire on their functional and aesthetic preferences for each of the spaces in the brief. Where there was a clear majority or consensus amongst students, the designers were able to draw on this information to influence the design.

For instance, the desire to do sporting activities in the common spaces lead to the inclusion of a climbing wall, while preferences over the form and quantity of bunk beds resulted in a bespoke inbuilt furniture system.

Participation Tactics

Students were consulted throughout the process. The architects provided them with physical models of the design to engage and play with in order to gain their feedback,

Capacity Building

The design purposefully utilises locally available and affordable materials in order to engage the local community in the construction process, increasing job opportunities and improving ability to self-instruct.

Sustainable Materials

Earthen Floor

The RLS Dormitory has a cement-free earthen floor, developed by Earth Enable, which is made from different layers of compressed natural material. The first layer is compacted gravel, followed by coarse laterite, and a finely sieved sand and clay mix, which is burnished to form a beautifully smooth top layer. The floor is then sealed with linen oil, which permeates the fine earthen mix and forms a waterproof and plastic-like resin on top. This layer gives the floor its shine and makes it easy to clean and incredibly durable. Earth Enable predicts that in the East African climate earthen floors should last 10-15 years if maintained with a fresh coat of oil every 3 years.

Fired Clay Brick Walls

Walls are constructed from locally fired bricks that are produced by local artisans with clay sourced from the nearby valley. The walls contain vertical reinforcement bars to improve stability and avoid the use of concrete.

Bamboo Screening

Bamboo is woven through metal burglar bars on the windows to give a softer and more natural aesthetic.

River Cane Ceiling

River canes are lashed together to form a suspended ceiling in the bedrooms, which improves aesthetics, quality of light and thermal resistance from solar radiation.

Passive Ventilation

Openings

ASA often implement perforations in their brickwork for both aesthetic impact and to improve the thermal performance of their buildings through passive ventilation and night flushing. In the RLS Dormitory, they have developed rainproof perforations, where a protruding brick on the exterior helps to stop driving rain from penetrating into the building.

Cross Ventilation

To mitigate the heating effect of the metal roof sheets, the building has been designed with an open clerestory to allow unrestricted airflow, encouraging passive cross ventilation

Natural Daylight

Even Distribution

Each bed space in each of the dormitory rooms is equipped with its own glass block window, while diffuse light from high level windows permeates into the space through the suspended river cane ceiling.

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