“Turn trash into treasure” is the slogan used by the Ecobrick Exchange, a collaborative non-profit organisation which creates reusable building blocks by filling used plastic bottles with non-biodegradable litter. This alternative construction form creates opportunities to reduce litter, landfill and unsafe learning environments.
It is a project using these ecobricks to transform a small rural preschool in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, that has won SVA International (formerly Stauch Vorster Architects) and Ecobrick Exchange a prestigious People’s Choice Social Gain Award.
The Architecture for Social Gain Awards, held for the first time this year, were conceptualised by Saint-Gobain, a world leader in the habitat and construction market, to recognise and reward talent in the design of spaces that promote learning and development, as part of the company’s 350th anniversary celebrations.
All digital video submissions into the competition were posted on the social-gain.co.za website, and people were asked to vote for their favourite entry by liking or sharing on social media. The Penguins Play And Learn Centre project secured 2 392 votes to secure them this win.
“Working on this project has provided a great source of encouragement towards our fellow man. So many people have approached us and offered their support and involvement. The EcoBrick Exchange works to create opportunities for people to help people in a manner that’s enjoyable,” says Ian Dommisse of SVA International.
SVA International recently amalgamated with The Workplace Architects, a mid-sized practice based in Port Elizabeth. Workplace Architects were an existing partner of the Ecobrick Exchange.
“Bryan and Debbie Wintermeyer, of The Workplace Architects, heard about the EcoBrick Exchange initiative in 2013 and became involved as project stakeholders. They foresaw the challenge of attaining municipal approval for this alternative construction form and lent their expertise and direction towards the project team. Now, with the town-planning consent to formally construct a preschool in a residential area in hand, we are only weeks away from receiving the approval,” says Dommisse, who heard about the Saint-Gobain Social Gain Awards from an email sent by the South African Institute of Architects and immediately requested the entry kit.
“It has been enjoyable to focus on how the community benefits from a building rather than only a client. It has been interesting to learn how to use multi-media as a tool to engage with the client, the consultants and the community as a whole,” Dommisse says. “I think that the multiple beneficiaries of Penguins Preschool, namely the 55 plus students, the community and the environment, encouraged people to vote for our submission.”
What is next for the Penguin Preschool Project? “The EcoBrick Exchange is in the process of fund raising on behalf of Penguins Preschool to generate the required project costs. To date they have raised 30% and are implementing a range of exciting campaigns and challenges,” Dommisse says.
To view the Penguin Preschool initiative submission video, click on http://www.social-gain.co.za/entries/sg4641-stauch-voster-architects.aspx