Rakafot Elementary School

Kiryat Bialik, Israel

Program: Elementary School
Client: Kiryat Bialik Municipality
Area: 2,600 sqm
Status: Completed 2014


As a holistic approach to sustainability, Kiryat Bialik’s Rakafot Elementary School, Israel, was designed in order to create a wholesome space for the pupils, while reducing environmental impact. The school is part of the city`s vision of educating future generations towards sustainable thinking, by creating a unique and attractive learning environment. This was possible due to productive cooperation between the Mayor of Qiryat Bialik, Eli Dukorsky, and the head of the Engineering Department, Landscape Architect Noam Massad.

The spirit of the school
The main theme of the design concept was the integration between the outdoors and learning spaces, while creating informal activity and educational areas. These spaces add extra value to the pupils learning experience by allowing diversity within the school and broadening their educational horizons. While forming the concept, it was important to create comfortable and healthy environment for the students by applying an overall approach that promotes passive planning combined with active smart system to maintain natural resources. The school complex is organized around a main shaded boulevard that in a sense is the `beating heart` of the project.

Project Overview
The school is a combination of three separate wings, organized along a main liner route. The architectural program contains 18 classrooms, technology and science classrooms, library and administration area. The Total area of the buildings is approximately 2700 square meters that spreads on two floors in each wing.The first stage that was built includes12 classrooms and it will be followed by a second stage that will be completed by the fall of 2016.

Site and buildings
The site has a rectangle shape. The entrance is located in its south side while the length of it is facing East and West. The school scheme is built around a shaded, central, linear space that functions as the core of the school. Trees were incorporated along the space so that it will be an Integral part of the

Internal landscape
The ‘beating heart of the project’ was planned according to site orientation taking into consideration climate preferences while facing the facades of the buildings to the north and south. This space is used as the main pedestrian route, connecting the entrance to the buildings, the school`s backyard, sport hall and playing area. In addition, the dimensions of the rout allow it to be a place for outdoor activity, using its variable areas for the benefit of the kids.

Structure and outdoor spaces
The building was designed to create immediate connection between interior and exterior spaces by using courtyards, a patio and a green roof. The large openings of the building allows vast amount of light to penetrate the classrooms and outdoor spaces, thus introducing nature into the building. The green roof is directly accessible from the first floor as an integral part of the building`s flow. Both parts of the building on each side of the main route are connected by two bridges that create continuous movement between the buildings and the green roof.

The yard
The idea behind the landscape design, designed by Orna Ben-Zion and Barry Ben-Shalom from “BO -Landscape Architects” is to incorporate nature`s softness and diversity within the structures and along the entire project. The School yards are placed in between the buildings and each one has unique characteristics correlating with the different age groups, and meant to provide a range of various activities. This encourages the pupils to learn and experimenting while playing and spending time outdoors. Special areas were designed as a learning eco-space like the winter pond. Local vegetation was restored and became a habitat for butterflies and other local species. Horticulture beds were planned on the green roof, and are being used as an educational tool. Shaded Bicycle parking was planned as part of the facilities offered, to encourage riding to school. Showers within the school serve those who choose to ride.

Soil Preservation and reducing heat island effect
The building is designed with a minimum footprint, and favors gardening and infiltrated surfaces. The second floor is partially cantilevered above the ground floor. This allows more garden area below and creates shaded active outdoor areas, fostering interaction between outdoor and indoor spaces. The green roof generates additional areas for outdoor activities, as well as contributing to overall effort of reducing the temperature around the building.

Energy Conservation
The significant facades of the building face north and south. This orientation allows natural light insertion and prevents uncontrolled and direct heat radiation to penetrate the building. The natural light is enhanced through upper windows and through a unique detail of `light shelves`. The canopy provides shade during the summer and allows heat radiation in the winter. The covered areas along with the green insolated roof help maintain the right temperature in the building. High ceiling, louver windows, additional windows in classrooms and upper openings, all those feature were designed in order to create natural ventilation. Air flow through the vegetation around the building and the patio helps cool the air in the immediate surrounding of the building. The building’s energy is maintained by advanced insulation materials and double glazing. Energy retention is achieved due to the thermal mass. The lighting system is designed to reduce consumption by using energy-efficient light fixtures. Power systems and energy control systems are designed in accordance with the space occupancy.

Conservation of water resources and waste
The site around the building incorporates local vegetation, which requires small volume of water. The permeable surfaces allow the infiltration of rainwater into the ground thus enriching the groundwater. A vegetable garden, maintained as part of the educational program, is placed on the roof and in the yard. Rainwater from roofs and balconies and AC water are harvested for garden irrigation. Recycled source materials are integrated into the building. All materials are chosen with attention to their thermal qualities, durability and recyclability.
Costume made furniture combining recycling bins has been designed for every classroom, as well as in the common spaces. A separating waste recycling center was designed as an integral part of the school entrance.

The comfort and the well-being of students
The building is designed for maximum natural lighting and natural ventilation, which improves the air quality in the school. Introducing natural light and fresh air improves comfort; raise the level of concentration of the users while saving resources. Wall paints are made of anti-allergenic materials. All classrooms and public spaces have an acoustic ceiling for soundproofing.

The Israeli Standard
Rakafot Elementary School is, a pilot project of Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, which encourages the construction of green schools. In order to define the building as a two-star new green building the amount of points needs to be achieved is 67. As part of the certification process, and in order to gain points, the students were engaged in a special corm gathering activity before the unveiling the ground. Also, during the construction, a separation of construction waste took place in order to reuse those materials in the construction phase. The school is currently in the final stages of the qualification process.

Green Planning for the future
The children are the best ambassadors for creating a world based on the values of love for others and love for the environment. This project offers a unique design approach, taking into consideration a variety of aspects in order to create a comfortable learning environment that benefits the students, while reducing environmental impact. Education is the key for upholding a moral society. Therefore, the existence of a green school that physically demonstrates green building principles and values is a major component in adopting the principles of sustainability and the way to create a healthy society, which contributes to the environment and to the values of social justice.