There are several noteworthy elements of the new Copenhagen International School (CIS) building. It’s the city’s largest school, located on a prominent site by the water in the new Nordhavn district, and looks more like a stack of mismatched shipping containers than a traditional campus.
But it’s the facade that first draws us in.
Covering the face of the new building are 12,000 solar panels, which together, supply more than half of the school’s annual electricity consumption.
According to the architects, C. F. Møller, this is a feat that makes CIS into one of the largest building-integrated solar power plants in Denmark.
Each solar panel is used as cladding, and uniquely angled to create a sequin-like effect so the structure avoids looking too monolithic.
“Nobody else has put this many solar panels on a building—or used them as a façade,” Anders Smith, designer and board member of the Property Foundation Copenhagen International School (ECIS), told the CPH Post.
In addition to elevating the school’s green credentials and reducing its carbon footprint and energy costs, the solar panels also play a part in classrooms. Data collected from energy production and use are incorporated into CIS’ curriculum.
The project’s other key ESD initiatives include: high performance thermal insulation, passive solar design, low energy windows, LCA assessments, rainwater harvesting, prefabricated components, LED lighting and natural ventilation.
Then there is the social aspect of sustainability—another core pillar that drove the building design.
As part of his research, Smith visited several schools around the world to find out “what worked and what didn’t”.
“What kind of flexibility and learning environments, but also how do we include other groups into the school?” he notes in a CIS video introducing the new campus.
Designed on the premise that it is part of the community, the school campus is deliberately linked with the public sphere in the urban environment.
According to the architecture team, this meant going beyond the grounds and creating a promenade outside the school that provide opportunities for relaxation and various activities.
With the school catering to over 900 students aged three to 19, the architects also decided to sub-divide the main school building into four smaller towers. Each tower, five to seven storeys high, is specially adapted to meet the needs of children at different stages of development.
“For example, the classrooms for the youngest pupils are particularly large: A full range of functions will take place in and around the classroom, each of which has designated green spaces and areas with drama/performance facilities, PE, etc.,” , C. F. Møller explained.
“The subdivision of the school into four units also creates identity and makes it easier for people to find their way.”
In a bid to design for the future, no two rooms are the same. Ruling out the specification of foldable walls, the team instead created differentiated areas that are intended to meet individual students’ needs.
The four school units are built over the ground-floor base, which contains common spaces, including a foyer, sports facilities, a canteen, library and performance facilities.
These common areas are open for school and local community events, while the base, which includes a shared roof terrace, will function as a playground for the whole school, and particularly for the younger students, a secure environment.
“The word sustainability has at least two connotations for us at CIS. The first one is the choice of materials—natural materials that were used in the building,” Brit van Ooijen, Board Chair of the CIS Board, says.
“The other part of the word sustainable is more psychological in terms of the people that come here. We try to teach our students that it takes time to build and sustain something that’s worth having.”
Images: C. F. Møller.