Page B1.1 . 21 February 2001                     
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    QUIZ

    New School Embodies Environmental and Social Concerns

    by Wissam Jabr

    Editor's Note: In this story, Wissam Jabr describes the approach taken by his firm to this substantial school project.

    In creating an educational environment for "mentally challenged" children and young adults, as architects we faced a few challenges of our own. Beirut's new Abdel Hadi Debs School for Mental Development was to function as both home and school for 575 students plus staff, with a restricted budget but high ambitions for energy conservation.

    The challenge for the Bureau of InterNational Architecture (BINA) was to develop an environmentally friendly facility on a compact site. To achieve this, we selected materials that were quickly available and nondestructive to the environment and designed systems that would be inexpensive and easy to maintain.

    We "carved" out three levels of basements but managed to get natural lighting and cross ventilation into these otherwise gloomy areas. We specified water- and energy-efficient systems for heating, ventilating, and irrigating. The result was a design that could be constructed in only 18 months.

    A Special Project for Lebanon

    The project is unusual for our region because it combines both social and environmental considerations.

    Socially, the school makes a major contribution to the community. Thanks to private nonprofit organizations like building owner Dar Al Aytam, a local Islamic social welfare organization, these otherwise marginalized children can become productive citizens.

    The 140,000-square-foot (13,000-square-meter) school fosters social integration and offers both academic and vocational coursework. To accommodate the comprehensive program, the facility includes a classroom block, dormitory block, multipurpose hall, refectory, kitchen, laundry facilities, and underground parking.

     

    Continue...

    ArchWeek Photo

    Entrance to the Abdel Hadi Debs School for Mental Development, designed by Wissam Jabr, principal of the Bureau of InterNational Architecture.
    Photo: Agop Kanledgian

    ArchWeek Photo

    Aerial view of the new school in Beirut.
    Photo: Agop Kanledgian

     

    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

     
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