Catholic School Integrates Ecology
Laudato Si’ – On care of our common home, is the second encyclical of Pope Francis. It is considered a wakeup call for Catholic organisations to take their environmental responsibilities seriously and commit to developing an ‘integral ecology’. Catholic Education within the Archdiocese of Brisbane has a vision to embed and embody ecological values in school programmes and practices. San Damiano College at Yarrabilba, a new co-educational secondary college by Brisbane Catholic Education opening 2021, will adopt an integral ecology within its community from the outset.
Integral ecology objectives which relate to the built environment include:
- An aesthetic appreciation for ecosystems, including human design and creation;
- An understanding of the cycles of natural systems and the impact of human activities on Earth’s systems.
These objectives have been embedded within a detailed master plan concept, which was a close collaboration between client, architect, landscape architect, ecologist and engineers.
The master plan has created a framework for the future building design, which has considered:
- The climate crisis and rising energy costs as a key priority;
- Biodiversity and responsible water use and management;
- Data collection and management for wider engagement with BCE school development services.
The aesthetic appreciation for ecosystems was a key design item. The existing stripped site was described as ‘hostile’ by a soil scientist, so investment in soil amelioration and a quality landscape with big shade trees will create a place of beauty and a shaded sanctuary for students and wildlife alike. The narrative of imbuing the site with beauty has been a key overlay for the development of both the master plan buildings and landscape.
At the building scale, materials are proposed to be locally sourced, robust and low maintenance. Structures are positioned for good passive design, capturing desirable breezes and filtering light. Roof planes are orientated for solar systems and roof water is collected and celebrated.
Overland flow paths are naturalistic, created as a sequence of ‘pool and riffles’ which link to a new wetland with a natural edge housing a variety of species. The design has also considered opportunities for day to day interaction with natural cycles and systems, providing opportunities to educate and experience the site as part of a wider bio-region.