Etania Green School

The Etania schools are learning centres for marginalised, undocumented, and stateless kids in Sabah, Malaysia—many of whom are children of legal and illegal migrant plantation workers—who currently have no access to education.

Etania’s ambitious plan is to build 30 centres across Sabah, which will provide a full learning programme six days a week. Hence, it approached social enterprise billionBricks to prepare a prototype school design for the first such school, which will accommodate 350 children aged between 5 and 13. One of the main challenges for this school was its riverside location, which is prone to massive flooding every 10 years or so. Therefore, the prototype school is, not unlike much of Borneo’s vernacular architecture, raised from the ground, albeit in a more unconventional way.

The classrooms are raised atop five decommissioned shipping containers and a mound created from soil excavated for a water harvesting pond—this minimises the structural components needed and stabilises the framework. The covered space below the classrooms is used as a lunch and gathering area, while the containers themselves are used for storage and toilets.

The students can move around the school in multiple ways—via a centrally located staircase, two ladders or the slopes of the mound. This way, the school becomes a place for exploration and overcoming challenges, in line with its educational philosophy.

On the first floor, three blocks are placed alternately on either side of a central veranda. Two blocks contain four classrooms, and the third block on the mound is for the teachers’ room and library. These are oriented along the east–west direction to minimise heat gain; this also means that the classrooms all face the river and enjoy a natural draft of air. Between two classrooms, there are two smaller rooms for group work or for more flexible teaching arrangements. One of the rooms is a reading room with a netted floor for a comfortable reading spot.

Project Name: Etania Green School
Location: Beaufort, Sabah, Malaysia
Completion Date: 2018
Site Area: 470 square metres
Client: Matakana Educational Society – Etania Schools
Design Team: billionBricks; Architecture BRIO
Images: Fernando GomuLya

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