The magic that Phil talks of has taken on various forms in his projects from two-storey high fishtanks to a curved building designed around the concept of a chrysalis. His projects are varied and stunning, and are a depiction of the way in which early childhood architecture is headed in New Zealand.
In regards to the sustainability aspect of the concept of a nurturing space, for Phil that means using nothing that contains high VOCs or contaminants. “This is something that we just won’t do. It’s critically important in early childhood centres, even more so than in other buildings where the main occupants are adults,” Phil says. “We also won’t use h3 treated timber for decking because that treatment contains arsenic. We believe that sort of material is toxic and unsuitable for early childhood centres.”
Hardwoods are used instead, and materials are chosen carefully for their inherent sustainability and lack of toxins.
At a higher level, sustainability in early childhood architecture means to Phil the need to create high-performing buildings – buildings that are naturally ventilated and well daylit. “This sort of building is also well suited to the New Zealand climate and also fits in well with the concept of nurturing and functionality in buildings designed for early childhood.” To create buildings that are naturally ventilated, that often means large areas of glazing combined with extensive decking and large canopies. Exposed concrete is often chosen for areas of the interior to create a heat sink that absorbs and holds heat in winter, and in summer, sliding doors can be opened up to let in cooler air.
“Many of these buildings are ending up having virtually fully glazed areas, with different rooms that all open up to the outside areas and decking and canopies,”Phil says.
Phil is so passionate about furthering the design of early childhood centres that he’s teamed up with Massey and Auckland University on a research project to investigate the situation inside traditional centres. Monitors have been installed at centres around the country to measure various factors including the presence of CO2, VOCs, other contaminants and ventilation. They’ll also measure the relative humidity, temperature, sound and daylighting. Once those results are collated, the monitors will be installed in five of Phil’s recently-designed centres to look at the effectiveness of the designs he has created and work out how to further develop the architecture for the benefit of our future generations.
Visit Collingridge and Smith Architects on ArchiPro here to have a look at some of their award-winning work.