Berea College Ecovillage - Child Development Lab

Berea, Kentucky

This Child Development Laboratory located on the grounds of the Berea College is a high performance center to become an icon for early childhood professionals.  The building makes use of renewable and non-polluting materials.  It is a low-energy, high efficiency building featuring daylighting, some passive solar design strategies, as well as rain water collection for garden watering and toilet flushing.

The Child Development Lab is a teaching and learning facility for the Child and Family Studies Department as well as a childcare facility for approximately 120 children. In addition, it will provide multi-purpose gathering, teaching and conference space for use by village residents and community members on weekends and evenings.

A single entry from the north can be monitored from a main office adjacent to the entry vestibule having stairs and an elevator to the second level classroom and community spaces. All interior spaces are collected around a central winter garden, a large open area for large muscle activities serving as the main circulation route for all the children’s spaces, which are organized according to age groups, infants through 5-year olds. At the heart of the building, the winter garden becomes a two-story atrium with south-facing clerestory windows providing winter warmth and a summertime cooling stack for warm air to collect and leave the building.

The downstairs spaces can be secured from access on evenings and weekends at the entry vestibule, where visitors would arrive for events and conferences. The two main spaces upstairs have observation windows into the children’s spaces below for use as classrooms by the Child and Family Studies Department. When the childcare facility is not in use, these rooms convert to community use for classes, conferences, seminars, and other gathering. The meeting space on the east side provides a panorama of the entire Ecovillage with the tower of Draper Hall in the distance.

The color used throughout the building are specifically chosen to appeal to young children, and are calming to both the children as well as the staff.  A safe and fun playground and an observation deck for students and parents complete the design.