Students develop ‘green’ school

June 29, 2009

by Samantha Horn

Three architecture students have partnered with Sankofa Vision, Inc. , to design and construct a new green community school for the city of Shreveport.

The students, Alyssa Andres, Jessie Gray and Zac Zeller, worked under the direction of Kevin Singh, visiting assistant professor of architecture and director of Tech’s Community Design Assistance Center, during Spring Quarter 2009 to develop a three-part plan for the new green school.

Singh said Leia Lewis, founding director of Sankofa Vision, Inc., asked for help from the CDAC in designing the school, which will include walking trails, gardens, a fruit orchard and an outdoor performance space in addition to classroom areas for children and adults.

“The school vision is a collective one that is shared by myself, the board of directors and program team of Sankofa Vision, Inc. (SVI),” Lewis said. “Our goal is to open the Sankofa Vision Community School, which will be an intergenerational learning center.

Also, it will be Northwest Louisiana’s first green school. As a green school, the facility purposefully demonstrates principles of environmentally friendly design and construction techniques.”

Lewis said the school will be utilizing eco-friendly resources such as sustainable building materials, energy efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting and solar technology.

Singh said his students were eager to help with the project.

“Leia Lewis came to the school of architecture last spring asking for design assistance,” he said. “We were definitely interested in working with her on improving the neighborhood.”

Lewis said the school will offer benefits to a wide range of people.

“The Sankofa Vision Community School will umbrella Sankofa Vision, Inc.’s, existing and expanded programs,” she said. “We will build on the success of our central work, the Sankofa Gardens organic community garden. In terms of community development, SVI is building partnerships to establish at the school a green job-training program. The school will offer children instruction in academic tutoring, creative arts and community service.”

She said the school will also benefit adults.

“There will be life-skills classes in GED, parenting and financial management, for example,” she said. “The general public will enjoy educational benefits, too, because the Sankofa Vision Community School is a demonstration project that showcases green technology and lifestyle options that are uniquely suited to our regional climate.”

Lewis said Sankofa Vision is thrilled to partner with Tech for the project.

“We sought a collaboration with Louisiana Tech because of its reputation of educational excellence and tradition of providing high-quality design services to nonprofit groups,” she said. “Professor Kevin Singh and the students, Alyssa, Jessie, and Zac, each brought special energy, knowledge and clarity to the design project. The students displayed sincere professionalism. They were concerned about understanding SVI’s mission and values, addressing our real design needs, providing honest direction and sharing fresh ideas.”
Singh said the first step was to design a master plan for the land and for the house where the school would be.

He said, secondly, the interior and exterior of the building, which was previously uninhabitable, had to be renovated.

Singh said the final step was to design an addition to the building that would serve as an outdoor classroom building.

“The students really did a good job working through the details,” he said. “They composed the master plan really well.”
Singh said the students presented the plans on Earth Day (April 22) and even made use of a bamboo patch found on the property as part of their fabrication.

“It is great to be able to utilize natural materials rather than buying new ones,” he said.

Singh said he enjoyed moving past the designing stage and entering the building process.

“It is exciting when a project goes from a design idea to implementing it and building it,” he said.

Singh said the architecture department will continue to work with Sankofa Vision during the 2009-10 school year to complete the project.

Andres recently graduated from Tech, but will be returning for Fall Quarter 2009 to begin work on her master’s degree and to continue working on the project with Sankofa Vision, Inc.

“When I was thinking about what I was interested in for my master’s [degree], this project seemed to fit everything I was interested in,” Andres said. “I rally like landscaping and architecture for humanity. We have a real client and we are working for the greater good and really helping people.”