An Exclusive Look Into the World’s First 3-D Printed School

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Maggie Grout, the founder of the nonprofit Thinking Huts, is on a mission. With pressing educational needs and over 1.2 billion children displaced globally as a result of the pandemic, and more than 260 million children with no access to education worldwide, Grout has set out to address this critical issue. She created her nonprofit to serve underprivileged communities, and now plans to build schools out of 3-D printed material.

Humanitarian-driven technology developed by Hyperion Robotics is at the core of the technique. Grout also partnered with San Francisco–based architectural design agency Studio Mortazavi (founded by Amir Mortazavi) to create the world’s first 3-D printed school set on four acres of land off the coast of Africa, on Madagascar. While 3-D printing technology has been used for many projects of late including cars and some aspects of architecture, this will be the first full-scale school using this methodology.

Mortazavi says that the pilot school will be built upon the university campus of Ecole de Management et d’Innovation Technologique (EMIT), located in Fianarantsoa, and will serve local Malagasy students. There will be a campus from preschool through high school for hundreds of students, with different buildings for science, libraries, physical education, music and arts classrooms, and computer laboratories. “We plan to have housing for teachers and, potentially, students,” he says.

The beehive configuration of each school allows for the attachment of multiple schools, should the campus require it.

The Design:

Simple but effective, the design features a beehive configuration that allows for the attachment of multiple schools, and also includes vertical farms and solar panels. The pilot school will consist of a hybrid design featuring 3-D printed walls and locally sourced construction materials for the roof, door, et cetera. “Pockets” on the pod walls allow for vertical farms; these also double as climbing walls for children.

Mortazavi had not taken the current COVID-19 restrictions into consideration for the design, as by the time the first school launches in the summer of 2021–22 (December to March in Madagascar), he is confident that the world will be vaccinated. If it isn’t by then, the students will be required to wear masks, and he notes that they can easily add some plexi partitions on the desks. “Plus, we have ample ventilation at the top of the walls for natural air circulation to keep the climate cool and the air refreshed,” Mortazavi says.

The schools will be outfitted with ventilation for natural air circulation to keep the climate cool while the students are in the building.

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