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Sustainability on the UT Campus: A Symposium

Studio Africa: A UT Austin
School of Architecture
Design Studio for Developing
Sustainable Schools in Africa
Michael Garrison
Professor
The School of Architecture
mgarrison@mail.utexas.edu

We fully admit to being naïve about
building a new school in Uganda
and that our view of Uganda is seen
through our western lens. We have
not lived in Africa and we do not
pretend to know all the problems
and opportunities that a builder of a
new school from Africa would know.

Design Process
Goals
We made it a priority to ask the
students and teachers of the School
what they needed in a classroom.
As a result three main goals were
collaboratively established to create
a new school. The first was to
establish a small carbon footprint
by using local materials and passive
energy strategies. The second was to
implement and encourage safety and
secure building practices. And the
third was to involve the residents of
the local village directly in the design
and construction of the school.
Following these goals we have
developed a “green build” complex
that is fully sustainable, is naturally
lit, naturally ventilated and will be

Essays

In our proposed new primary school,
with the ability to read and write
children will become educated in
agricultural practices that will help
to improve the food supply. They will
learn to negotiate a fair price for their
crops, how to market their crafts,
understand the importance of hygiene
and how to prepare food and water
that is free of harmful bacteria. The
children and residents of the Busia
District village will be educated in crop
production; water from the well will
allow them to irrigate and increase
crop yields and revenue from the sale
of excess crops will be used to sustain
the school.

However, because we are young and
naïve we were not shy about proposing
new and different environmental and
sustainable ideas for designing the
school.

Studio Africa: A UT Austin School of Architecture
Design Studio for Developing Sustainable School in Africa

Introduction

Sustainability on the UT Campus: A Symposium

Studio Africa: A UT Austin School of Architecture
Design Studio for Developing Sustainable School in Africa

Figure 1: Interior of proposed Busia District School classroom

workers. The entire village will be
part of the project so that the culture
of the people will be embedded in the
school.
Concepts
All students learn and absorb
information differently. It is our
concept to engage and inspire the
students spatially while providing
them with a variety of learning
environments. We addressed this
issue by creating several different

learning zones. In our communication
with the local leaders of the primary
school, we learned that they would
prefer a better student-teacher ratio.
This led us to break up the classroom
into different zones in order to
have the potential for small groups
of learning. The most prominent
space in the school complex is the
instructor-lead classroom space. In
this space, we gave visual priority
to the chalkboard and teaching
area, maximized ambient light

Essays

constructed using local building
materials and hand-built construction
techniques. We agree that the goal
of the school design should be
about sustainable design and not
dependency. Therefore it is imperative
that the young members of the village
mix the sand and grasses, which
will become building blocks, dig the
foundation and carry the rocks to fill
the trenches. The women and older
children should assist in stacking the
brick and carry food and water to the

Sustainable Design

Passive Energy Strategies
Passive energy strategies
incorporated in the classroom include
a passive lighting design, passive
ventilation, thermal mass, shading,
and rainwater collection. Due to
Uganda’s equatorial location, the sun
is directly overhead for most...
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