Project House of Children
City Innsbruck, Austria
Year of Construction 2008
Execution, timber construction
Schafferer Holzbau GesmbH
Architecture Helmut Reitter
Support structure planning
The “House of Children” is another central building in the new district in the Tivoli area of Innsbruck that was completed in the fall of 2008. Implementation was based on the design of Innsbruck-based architect Helmut Reitter, who won with it an urban building competition. His planning envisioned a kindergarten harmonizing with the existing ensemble of public buildings, consisting of indoor swimming pool, youth center and retirement home, and hence corresponding to the basic concept of “Pavilions in the Park.”
Every single detail is important in a place where children grow up and have their first experiences - that is how the architect describes his basic idea. With this central theme in mind, Reitter considered every aspect also from the perspective of a child and created a modern and functional public building in wood.
The kindergarten building is designed as an elongated pavilion. It combines ground-floor group rooms facing west with exercise, recreation and eating rooms facing east. The two separated areas are connected by a broad middle corridor lit by skylights, which is also a cloakroom and lounge with seating islands.
The first floor, facing north, houses an after school care center. The windows with generous horizontal dimensions provide a fantastic panorama of the Nordkette mountain range.
The kindergarten was built as an all-timber construction in passive house construction. The high proportion of window areas allows the direct visual relation to the neighboring park. The architect quite consciously opted for external walls with a large share of glass in order to disprove the prejudice of the “passive house bunker.” This didn't make support structure planning any easier but turns the kindergarten into an open and light one-of-a-kind place.
The construction as a passive house demands the highest level of accuracy, especially with connection details. That is why all elements should be prefabricated as much as possible.
This requirement was easily met by load-bearing inside walls and ceilings made of binderholz CLT BBS. The BBS elements executed in visual quality allow for a high degree of prefabrication. The workers of Holzbau Schafferer were able to erect the approx. 1,500 m² of floor space and make it rain-proof in no more than 15 installation days. Due to the high proportion of glass, the external walls are executed predominantly as timber frame construction. This timber frame structure was blown out with cellulose on site and filled out with hemp blanket insulators on the installation level.
These and other measures underscore the ecological overall concept of the building, thus fitting in perfectly with the idea of the Tivoli area as the city's “green lung.
Exactly 12 months went by from the start of the excavation work to the handover of the turnkey building. A total of approx. 630 m³ of BSH glulam and CLT BBS went into the building.
“Frequently, I'm asked how we deal with the soiling on the visible surfaces of solid timber elements caused by unavoidable construction site conditions. In my experience, screed splashes can be easily removed with fine-grained sandpaper.
Up to now, I have always had fir wood surfaces - such as in the kindergarten - painted with a light oil-water glaze with white pigments. It prevents the wood from turning yellow and gives it a more elegant appearance. The atmosphere is not so 'sauna-like.' In addition, glazed wood is substantially easier to care for. I am sure that comes in handy in a kindergarten, even though the little ones actually treat the BBS surfaces that look precious and velvety with great care."
Helmut Reitter, architect, graduated engineer
The generous space, plethora of windows and warm wood surfaces in visual quality created a natural atmosphere. The quality of the indoor climate at the “House of Children” is outstanding. Many parents and children are quite enthusiastic over the pleasant smell of wood, which makes you feel good immediately when entering the building.
A study conducted by Joanneum Research, a research institute in Graz, provides evidence for the fact that wooden interiors have a positive impact on the human organism. Two classrooms in a secondary modern school in Styria were furnished with solid timber especially for this study. The remaining classrooms were given the standard furnishing. Over a complete school year, the researchers monitored the pupils, measuring at regular intervals their heartbeat and the so-called vagus tone (= heart protection factor of the central nervous system).
The findings indicate: For the same levels of concentration and performance, pupils attending school in classrooms furnished in wood needed around 8,000 heartbeats fewer per day than their school comrades in the standard classrooms. In addition, they showed a higher vagus tone, which is better for the heart.
The positive impact of solid timber in classrooms can be summarized as follows:
· Lowering of the heart rate
· Fewer mistakes due to lack of concentration
· Less aggression
· Increase in willingness to learn
· General improvement of the quality of lessons
These positive effects have been scientifically corroborated, e.g. by the study “Schule ohne Stress (SOS, School without Stress)”.
Photos: helmut reitter architekt d.i., Schafferer Holzbau, Günter R. Wett