Kauhava School Centre
The modern learning environments at Kauhava School Centre, which opened in September 2020, also provide recreational facilities for the whole town. Ecophon’s acoustic solutions ensure an acoustic environment that works well for both school pupils and evening users.
Discussions on whether old schools should be renovated or demolished to make way for new construction are currently taking place throughout Finland. In Kauhava, located in Southern Ostrobothnia, it was decided that the old school, which was suffering from a range of interior problems, would be demolished to allow for new facilities to be built.
Planning of Kauhava School Centre began in 2015, with the overall costs totalling approximately EUR 20 million. The premises, spanning approximately 9,000 square metres, offer modern learning environments for 800 pupils, from the first grade through to upper secondary level.
“The different age groups are based in part in their own wings, each of which has their own entrances. The common areas used by all are the dining hall, auditorium, and technology and home economics classrooms located in the centre of the building,” explains the site’s Architectural Planner Jorma Keskikiikonen of architecture and engineering firm Motiivi Oy.
In the evenings, the building becomes a multifunctional space, hosting music and adult education activities. The spaces have also been designed with recreational needs in mind.
“We share arts teaching rooms, the auditorium and the sports hall, to give just a few examples, with our evening users. The school’s yard has also been designed with the broad user base in mind: the games pitches and courts and the outdoor play equipment serve both our pupils and recreational exercisers,” explains Principal Ville Vihla.
Adaptability and versatility
When planning the new school centre’s rooms and spaces, flexibility and versatility were key starting points. The spaces had to be easily adaptable for teaching use and recreational activities.
“Our basis was finding two purposes for each room. For example, the auditorium can be used for both matriculation exams and for small-scale concerts,” states Keskikiikonen.
As many as a thousand Kauhava residents can study, work and engage in hobbies under the same roof on any one day. Given the number of users, the facilities do not seem particularly large in size. However, the spaces can be adapted to suit different needs and group sizes, by opening or closing folding walls, for example.
“When we are holding matriculation examinations, for example, we cannot fit everyone into one auditorium. Thanks to the adaptable spaces, we can, however, combine three classrooms and create an additional space suitable for holding exams in,” Vihla says.
If a group at any point expands beyond the capacity of a classroom, surrounded by teaching rooms each school level has its own lobby area suitable for independent study, group work and open learning.
The spaces were put to their first major test straight away in the autumn, when the school was positively surprised by the number of upper secondary applications it received. The adaptability meant that a larger-than-planned intake of upper secondary pupils could be accommodated.
“In this sense, the school undoubtedly works well and will continue to do so for a long time to come. No matter how the pupil numbers or space requirements change, the building can adapt,” Vihla declares.
An acoustic environment to suit all users
Kauhava School Centre is an impressive site with a personal feel, with a design that plays with both surfaces and colours. The indoor spaces use bold statement colour walls, graphic wallpaper and wood panelling to create an inviting and home-like atmosphere.
The personal feel continues in the acoustic solutions. The Ecophon Focus Ez solution was used in the lobby ceiling, and instead of a standard smooth surface, the panels are positioned asymmetrically, with one side dropping below the ceiling line. Additionally, Akusto Wall panels, most commonly used on walls, were used here on the ceiling of the kitchen area, amongst other places.
“The Akusto panels used in the suspended ceilings feature integrated spotlights, allowing them to provide both good lighting and sound absorption. Some of the spaces feature acoustically-designed surfaces on the walls, too, in order to achieve optimal acoustics,” explains Keskikiikonen.
The users of the spaces were involved in the planning of the spaces and their acoustics from a very early stage. When it comes to music tuition in particular, it is important that the spaces used for teaching are suitable and acoustically pleasant. It was ultimately decided that the music teaching spaces would be located in the civil defence shelter, which by nature offers thick walls and good sound absorption.
Ecophon’s acoustic solutions have been used in all teaching rooms, the sports hall, corridors, lobbies, and dining rooms. Marko Haikka of Sisustus-Nummi Oy was responsible for the installation.
“In addition to the space planning and acoustic solutions, we’ve also tried to influence the noise levels of the spaces through our own actions. For example, meals take place in five sittings, so the number of people and noise level do not get too high,” says Vihla.
Thankfully we have a lot of options available to us to resolve potential acoustic challenges. For example, in the auditorium we can add round acoustic boards to the walls, if acoustic problems arise in the future.
During the autumn, noise measurements were carried out at Kauhava School Centre, with the majority of the spaces performing well. The sports hall proved to be one of the more challenging spaces, where noise rose to excessive levels in places when the hall was full to capacity. The intention is to replace the divider curtains to provide better sound insulation.
“Thankfully we have a lot of options available to us to resolve potential acoustic challenges. For example, in the auditorium we can add round acoustic boards to the walls, if acoustic problems arise in the future,” states Keskikiikonen.
The first school year in the new premises has got off to a great start. According to Vihla, the teachers, pupils and recreational users have taken to the spaces well.
“This is a hugely significant site for all of Kauhava, and it has drawn interest amongst residents of the local area and municipality. It is great to see the finished spaces now in active use,” Keskikiikonen adds.
Text: Eveliina Miettunen / Ground Communications
Photos: Studio Juha Sarkkinen
Kauhava’s new school centre
- Completed autumn 2020
- The school centre was designed for 750 pupils
- The facilities comprise a comprehensive school for grades 0–9 and an upper secondary school
- The building spans approximately 9,000 square metres in surface area