Sustainable building approach doesn’t have to detract from utility. In fact, a graduate student in landscape architecture from Kansas State University set out to design a playground for autistic children, which ended up having many features of a modern environmentally friendly urban space.
Using key insights from special education experts, Chelsey King focuses on meeting autistic students’ unique educational and social needs. These include the availability of secluded spaces where the children can take refuge from sensory overstimulation, as typical school grounds tend to be open and noisy.
“Most children spend seven to nine hours per weekday in school settings,” says Katie Kingery-Page, assistant professor of landscape architecture at KSU and King’s advisor. “Designing schoolyards that are educational, richly experiential, with potentially restorative nature contact for children should be a community concern.”
In addition to the secluded alcoves, several other aspects of the design allow space for educational activities that promote cognitive development as well as communication and motor skills that are otherwise taught in classrooms. One way in which King achieves that is through the inclusion of green areas, such as a music garden.
This approach also makes possible a secondary benefit of the design, namely its environmental friendliness. That’s because the playground’s blueprint envisions a greenhouse that facilitates horticulture therapy and hands-on interaction with nature, as well as a quiet butterfly garden that helps the children appreciate the value of nature.
Integration of urban gardens into modern building design is one of the hallmarks of sustainable construction.