A Louvered Academy

Project: Binh Duong School, Di An, Binh Duong, Vietnam
Architects: VTN Architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects), Vietnam

In Vietnam, private schools have traditionally been located in the city centre, but according to recent changes in zoning principles, educational facilities have been allocated to the city’s sprawling outlying districts. The mission of Binh Duong School was to cultivate the potential of the outlying site with better air quality and rich green surroundings, and to become a prototype of a suburban
school in a typical tropical climate in Vietnam.

The school is located in 5300sq m of land in Binh Duong, a new city which is 30 minutes away from Ho Chi Minh City. The site is in the middle of a flourishing forest that contains a wide variety of lush green plants and fruits growing wildly. The school, which will eventually have 800 students, was designed to maximize the potential of this surrounding nature. The 6600 sq m building consists of a maximum height of five levels, with the intention of being surrounded by the same height of the forest around. Precast concrete louvers and pattern walls were installed in the envelope of the building. These shading devices generate semi-outside space, blocking the direct sunlight as well as working as a part of the natural ventilation system of the corridor space. All the classrooms are connected by this semi-open space, where teachers and students chat, communicate and appreciate the natural beauty they are surrounded by.

The school is an S-shape volume composed of one narrow strip with a gentle slope which connects the ground and the roof. Like a topographical hill, the slope lessens the aggressive height between the building and the surrounding forest. The narrow strip with openings on the two sides has a great effect on natural lighting and ventilation. The S-shaped spine creates two courtyards
with very different aspects, one public, and the other private. These courtyards are linked visually through a two-storey void at the ground level. The first yard serves as a main entrance and gathering place for formal activities of the school. The latter is a more casual yard, where students spend their personal time with friends. Zoning of the school corresponds to the characteristics of these courtyards; common functions such as a gym and a library are located around the front yard, while individual classrooms are arranged around the backyard.

According to the teachers, the environment of the school is highly motivating for the students. The design achieves a harmonious balance between the school activities and the surrounding nature with modern functionality. Social Aspect: In developing countries, it is essential for architects to realize public projects within the squeezed budget; it is a social demand. The school was constructed and managed with a considerably low budget. The unit price of the construction was about 250 euro per sq m, which is cheap even for Vietnam. It was realized by creating an
efficient structure system and using building components created by local technologies applicable in the country. Running cost of the building is also quite low due to the low-tech energy saving methods. This moderate school proves the ability to become a prototype of the typology in a tropical climate.

Technological Aspect: The school is a passive design building, which sublimates ordinary technologies into an expression of contemporary architecture. The materials and technique were chosen to reconcile effectiveness with cost efficiency. The building is composed of ordinary reinforced concrete frames with brick and mortar as mass walls ideal for slow transmittance of daytime heat energy. Facade components of the building, the louvers and the pattern walls, were made of concrete cast on site, which is also a familiar technique in Vietnam.

Environmental Aspect: The external vertical louvers and pattern walls are major elements of the passive design strategy. Not only does it block out solar rays, it provides a shaded external walkway that does not need cooling, letting the wind flow into the building. These shading devices also enhance health and comfort whilst reducing energy use from artificial lighting. The louvers reduce glare and ensure that harsh daylight is filtered in the classrooms. The size and interval of the louvers, as well as porosity of the pattern walls, were carefully designed to prevent the classrooms from getting direct sunshine and to keep the visual connection of inside and outside.

Though it is currently postponed because of the limitation of budget, the green roof is planned to cover the whole topographic building. The green roof will work as insulation and cool the building’s surface by transpiration effect. The swimming pool, located in the private courtyard, is also considered as a cooling device that uses vapour effect. Thanks to these passive design methods, the school is successfully operating without having installed air-conditioners in the classrooms despite being located in such a harsh tropical climate. Air-conditioning was minimally installed in administration spaces and some special rooms such as the auditorium, reducing energy consumption greatly.

Project Gallery


Client: Dang Thi Ngoc Bich (Phan Chu Trinh School)
Principal architects: Vo Trong Nghia, Shunri Nishizawa, Daisuke Sanuki
Design team: Nguyen Minh Tung, Le Vu Hong Quang
Contractor: AQA Construction Co, Ltd
Site Area: 5,300sq m
GFA: 6600sq m
Construction cost: 2,350,000 USD