Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Ecology of a New Campus


A few weeks ago Dr. Hudson announced that clearance and demolition work on the new campus site at Ampang Hilir is already underway. The new campus will feature 25.7 acres of purpose-built campus that will be a beacon for quality international education. It will be not just a school, but also a shining example of sustainable practices in energy, water and resource use. The campus is being designed with Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) Platinum rating in mind. From an “exceptional education meets sustainable design” standpoint it is exactly where want to be in the coming years if we’re building a future based on responsible global citizenship. 
But such developments, no matter how visionary, do not come without cost. One such cost is that of the natural assets that currently exist on the site that, understandably, need to be demolished so that the new campus can be built. There are approximately 250 mature trees existing on the site. There are also numerous small homes and their corresponding garden spaces along with the animals that find refuge and food there. So how does a school with a sustainable consciousness co-exist with the fact that nature will be impacted for our school’s expansion? 
To address that, we have several simultaneous conversations going on that will, hopefully soon, become reality. A survey of the new campus space has identified seven frangipani trees that will be removed, maintained and then replanted onto the new campus. Mr. David Perrau, the Director of Project Operations, indicates that 14 trees will be re-purposed on our new campus by turning them into sculptures and or utilitarian elements (e.g. tables). This use of place-based resources will be augmented by the use of bricks of present homes that can be utilized to highlight aesthetic appeal of the new campus and reduce waste. Beyond that we are currently in conversations with the Global Environment Centre, a reputable NGO, to create an “adopt an acre” type program that will replant a substantial number of trees over a five-year period in an area of high ecological importance. ISKL has participated in tree plantings at The Raja Musa Peat Forest over the years but the partnership currently in process would be larger in scope. It will take a while for our planting to reach the carbon sink capacity of the mature trees on the campus, but planting that many trees at the Raja Musa Peat Forest would allow for an expansion of land that has major ecological benefit, from acting as a water sink for KL and providing a home for many species or animals and plants. 
Once our new campus opens the ISKL community will, no doubt, feel its pulse and recognize the sustainable nature of its design and function. It will serve as an example of the interaction of building space and learning experiences and will feature things such as solar energy, recycling, composting, reuse of water, cooling slabs, passive light maximization and green spaces for study, observation and appreciation. We envision a harmony of building, learning and sustainable design. We expect students to partake in behaviors that, supported by design, will limit the impact on the ecology of the space while simultaneously forming an excellent resource for integrated study. But we will also have a new school “forest” where students can study how it grows, how it works and an example of how schools can change the world. With good planning - which has characterised everything about our new campus - the relationship between the history of our school and the regeneration of natural ecosystems could be the perfect fit. And who knows? Hopefully, with the passage of time, those trees (and any trees planted after that) will grow large enough to be of greater carbon benefit than even the beautiful space we will soon call home.

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