|Function / usage:||
Child care center / day care center
Wooden / timber structure
Reinforced concrete structure
Boulay-Moselle, Moselle (57), Grand-Est, France
Crèche de Piblange (2012)
|Coordinates:||49° 11' 10.46" N 6° 29' 19.52" E|
|gross floor area||915 m²|
Detailed Description of the Childcare Facilities in Boulay & Piblange
The owner, “La communauté de communes du Pays Boulageois”, launched an architectural competition in January 2010 in order to build simultaneously two childcare facilities: one of them in Boulay, with a gross floor area of 1000 m² and the other one, fifteen kilometers further, in Piblange for a gross floor area of 350 m².
Despite the size difference between the two buildings, they both benefit from an open parcel and an urban context that imposes very few planning restrictions. Architect Paul Le Quernec thus chose to explore this great contextual freedom and was therefore able to design these buildings by focusing on optimal functionality, safety, and comfort, regardless of their size.
Childcare facilities and nurseries are not intended for children but babies…, which conditions the behavior and the sensitivity of the parents and the staff. The infants’ fragility and need for protection and care must be taken into consideration and as such integrated into the architecture. That is why the architect, Paul Le Quernec, chose to develop a uterine concept, which was only made possible due to the unrestricted urban setting.
The entrance is set back from the street and so from the traffic. In order to strengthen the visitor's perception of feeling safe, it “submerges” into the building. Paul Le Quernec wanted to avoid dead-ends for vehicular circulation, so the access is through a one-way lane that limits parking maneuvers and decreases the risks of accidents involving pedestrians, children or strollers. Moreover, the drop-off area is next to the sidewalk, so that the parents do not have to cross the street with children in their arms.
The interior of the building is organized around a highly protected circular central space. Children’s spaces gravitate and converge around this center. Views crossing through each part of the building, are centrifugal and centripetal. The surveillance and the security are thus at the maximum level. At the very center of the building, the circus tent-like wooden structure ends with a 3 meters wide vaulted ceiling made of polycarbonate, which ensures that the daylight may be provided during the entire day.
For the purpose of safety, all interior fittings have been designed such as to make all the right angles disappear and to offer smoothly curved walls. Sharp edges are also rounded off. The building is so characterized by this feature that even the external walls “undulate” around the internal spaces.
Cardinal points were also taken into account during the design process of the buildings. All technical and administrative spaces are located on the north side of the building while saving the south side for children’s spaces. The exterior spaces, of course, south-facing. In order to provide children with a playground protected from sun or rain, which they can use regardless of weather conditions, the building's roof extends to cover these spaces.
Another result of the centripetal organization is that it removes the need for hallways in these two buildings. Every children space is directly linked to the central area. In addition to its aesthetic effect and ergonomic benefit, the real gain is by saving space. Thanks to this system, the architect was able to save about 100 square meters, which gives a hallway ratio of 11 %. This benefit allowed a design for both buildings that respects BBC (Low Energy-Use Building) regulations without overrunning the provisional budget of our client.
For the child-care facility in Boulay, it was the south-facing orientation and the natural incline of the site that gave Paul Le Quernec the idea of creating platforms with a cascade effect for smooth integration into the environment. Each platform corresponds to a function, like gardens, playgrounds, educational gardens, etc … The centrifugal shape of the facility reflects the situation of the site, which is literally surrounded by other educational facilities. This building has neither a “main façade” nor a “back façade”, but as a circle that has only one edge, it has only one aesthetically homogenous façade, which can be seen from all around.
In the case of the micro-nursery in Piblange, the architect chose to build on the flat part of the site, which is on the street side, so that the building would face southward. Moreover, as the facility is at the entrance of the city, it plays a key role with its dominant position and it requires particular attention for the façades’ design, like the child-care facility in Boulay.
Despite their atypical shapes, both buildings have been designed to be built using traditional construction methods and materials. The façades are made of insulating clay bricks, covered by 20 cm thick re-enforced mineral wool external insulation. The external surface is covered with a classic coating and then painted according to a pattern that the architect determined. Internal surfaces are coated with plaster. The load-bearing internal walls are made of reinforced concrete and they support the roof built of glue-laminated wooden beams that are curved but mass-produced in order to decrease the manufacturing cost. A single layer damp-proof membrane covers the roof.
The internal partition walls are made of double plasterboards, which are curved or straight. Perforated plasterboards cover the ceilings, improving overall acoustic comfort.
The project also includes an under-floor heating system, covered by linoleum. Internal ecological paints are solvent-free. In order to reach BBC (Low Energy-Use Building) energy performances, the doors, and windows are made of wood.
Technical Features and Energy-Saving Technologies
The architect proposed natural gas-based heat production for the childcare facility in Boulay and a heat pump for the nursery in Piblange. HQE and BBC standards in France (HQE : High Environmental Quality; BBC: Low Energy-Use Building) also require a high-efficiency heat recovery ventilation system, which was incorporated into the design and the estimation of the building’s cost from the outset of the project, as well as many other energy saving systems. In order to verify the calculations and the efficiency of the deployed systems, especially regarding the air-tightness of the building, two blower door tests were specified by the architect: the first one when the enclosure is completed, and the second one when the building was delivered to the client.
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