Project Description

Insight Early Learning Centre, Melbourne

The Insight Early Learning Centre in the Burwood Brickworks, Melbourne, Australia takes inspiration from indigenous concepts such as ‘Song Lines’, ‘Animal Totems’ and the ‘Dreamtime’, and connects sympathetically to the traditional owners of the land.

It is also the first of its kind in the way of the Living Building Challenge that stands upon and gives back through the Living Building principles of environmental and social sustainability. The centre functions as efficiently as a Flower, through the Living Building Challenge’s performance areas. The Living Building Challenge focuses sustainability around seven petals or criteria; Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.

Creating and fostering the connection to the natural environment is incredibly important for the Living Building Challenge. The centre is directly connected to the neighbouring Urban Farm, allowing for enhanced learning to occur within the natural environment. As a result, there is a strong connection formed between children, staff and ‘Place’. The centre is arranged to foster “place-based relationships,” connecting and educating children about the history of the land and culture of Australia. Each classroom is an animal, based on the spiritual ‘Totems’ given to children in aboriginal tradition when they are born. These classrooms are linked by spaces that incorporate the four elements of fire, water, earth and wind.

To create a place of ‘Health and Happiness’, the centre adopts a biophilic approach to design. This can be seen in the flowing organic shapes that connect indoor and outdoor spaces. Materials throughout the centre are natural where possible or low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). All classrooms have operable windows and large amounts of glazing, contributing to the overall indoor environmental quality.

Colour, light and geometry have been well considered and incorporated into a biophilic design to create not only a healthy environment but a beautiful one.

Natural textures and materials have been paired with the colour palette to create comfortable and relaxing learning environments. Ensuring the centre has ‘Beauty’ is vital in creating a space that both staff and children enjoy spending time in.

The Insight Early Learning Centre is also ‘Water’ net positive. The centre uses one hundred percent rainwater or a natural closed-loop water system for its water supply. All wastewater, stormwater, grey and black water are treated onsite and managed to be re-used. The intention of the Living Building Challenge for the centre’s water usage is that it is harmonious with the surrounding environment.

Energy is supplied from the solar panel network that supports the centre. Selected appliances and fittings are high efficiency, reducing the waste of energy in the centre. This includes the use of electrical cooking facilities (rather than gas) to harness the renewable energy produced onsite. Full height glazing provides plenty of natural light and reduces the reliance upon artificial lighting.

The centre embraces ‘Equity’ in a variety of ways. The design considers accessibility and human scale in the realm of both children and adults, particularly in the bespoke facilities that are designed at a scale that is usable and comfortable for children. A lift connects the two floors to ensure universal access. The classrooms are spacious and welcoming, creating community-based learning environments that encourage creativity and discovery.

The neighbouring Urban Farm next to the centre is a unique and engaging place for children, where they can connect to the natural environment and be part of the wider community. As part of a larger development, the centre provides the amenity of a high-quality early learning centre that is easily accessible via public transport and most importantly, provides young children with a safe and nurturing environment where they can play, learn and grow.

Facts + Figures

Client: Mandalay Capital and Insight Early Learning Centre
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Construction cost: Confidential
Area: 920m²
Programme: Completed 2020

Project Team: Phil Smith, John Moran, Zena Gerrard, Akash Kumar

Construction: Renascent Australia
Landscaper: John Patrick Landscape Architects
Interiors: Collingridge and Smith, Insight Early Learning Centre

Image credit: Blue Tree Studios

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