The solar-powered school on stilts
By Jeff Salton
November 19, 2009
It's almost as good as going to school in a treehouse. The recently opened Elleray Preparatory School in the Lake District National Park has three class pods standing on stilts connected by a center platform made from recycled materials, such as plastic milk bottles and wood shavings. Nestled amongst the trees, the complex is built to have a low environmental impact and therefore makes excellent use of solar power, rainwater collection, and has an energy-efficient heat pump.
Named the Forest School, its three pods were designed and built by Robert Gaukroger of Kita Design Company, who lives in the same town as the school, Windermere. Due to the school’s extremely tight budget, Gaukroger donated some of his design time and building effort that equated to the cost of one of the pods. He even donated the chairs the students use to keep the design consistent.
The classrooms sit high above the flora and fauna and are constructed from a ribbed timber frame which sits on atop Douglas fir stilts. Buildings are clad in English chestnut shingles and the deck, which connects the three classrooms, can be used as an outdoor teaching environment when weather permits.
As with many of Gaukroger’s projects, the treehouse school focuses on “up-cycled, re-cycled and low-impact architecture and design”. The pods received a BREAM “excellent” score and feature a high efficiency heating and cooling system that utilizes a ground-source heat pump. Rainwater is collected to cut down on potable water use, and solar panels are mounted along the center of each roof to provide lighting for each building.
The views afforded by this tree-top school surely must be some of the most inspiring for young minds.