A new off-grid teaching space in the UK is set to inspire the next generation of environmentalists. Treehouse designers Blue Forest have created a unique wooden classroom equipped with an innovative sedum green roof that turns rain into drinking water. The solar-powered system is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.
Nestled within mature woodlands on the grounds of Benenden School in Kent, this new environmental education facility raises the bar for self-sufficient buildings in the UK. The designers claim it’s the first building in the UK to process rainwater from a sedum roof into hot and cold potable water using only solar power. The eco-classroom is totally independent of mains water or other utility supplies, partly a necessity due to its remote location within the school grounds.
The building features composting toilets to mitigate the need for sewerage. Previous green roof rainwater harvesting tests have shown nasty chemicals can form when collected rainwater is treated with chlorine. Blue Forest’s system uses a solar-powered six stage reverse osmosis filter plus a UV treatment to get rid of any bugs left after the sedum roof filters out larger particles.
The use of FSC timber in a large circular form rising from surrounding ponds and grasses creates an organic appearance. The meandering walkways add to the sense of discovery as you approach the curved wooden doors.
On reaching the structure, reflections attract the eye around the edge of the roof where a deep copper clad soffit provides shelter from rain or the sun’s rays. Inside is a tranquil hideaway of around 70 square metres, perfect for contemplating the landscape and very effective at focusing the minds of students working on geography, biology and chemistry fieldwork.
Since completion, the building has been a hit with many departments at the school. In demand for everything from salsa classes to private functions, it’s also helping to educate kids in a new way about sustainability and to bolster work begun by the Sustainable Schools Framework.