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Desert Marigold School Straw-bale Classroom Building

Phoenix, Arizona

(in collaboration with Blossom Design Group)

The design of this four-classroom building for the Phoenix Waldorf Initiative springs from a response to the pedagogy of Waldorf kindergarten education in its gently sheltering and home-like, but opening and unifying form.  It also is shaped to respond to the rhythms of sun, wind and earth, while allowing for compact mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.  Each classroom is further developed to allow the teacher to fully observe the activities in the interior and exterior portions of the classroom while being able to do their “purposeful work”.  The gentle, embracing flow, to and fro, from the classroom door through the story circle, to the gathering area, by the kitchen and out to the play yard are carefully shaped to create wonder without agitation.

This was the first building code permitted straw-bale structure in the City of Phoenix, and the first building code permitted commercial straw-bale building in the Phoenix metro area.  The structure is a non-load-bearing design utilizing heavy-timber peeled-poles as well as concrete block piers, heavy-timber glu-lam beams and an engineered wood roof structure.  The building also has a recycled steel metal galvanized roof, integral-colored stucco, stained concrete floors, highly-efficient fiberglass windows and other efficient glazing, zero-formaldehyde MDF (medium density fiberboard) cabinets, ultra-low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and finishes, graywater-two-piping, and is designed for a future rainwater harvesting system.