Science for Society

Can space technology and childcare create a better tomorrow?

Caroline Wendt
May 13, 2020

At the first meeting of Space Hub Lund, Christophe Lasseur presented the ESA’s MELiSSA project and spoke about circular systems. This led to Brunnshög’s architect Christian Wilke introducing a concept that seeks to create a better environment for children through a circular preschool – and at the same time create a model that unlocks more possibilities for a better future for us all.

The architect Christian Wilke has, with his concept a “kinder garden”, mixed the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of a Child.  

– Daycare is the place where society introduces itself to the child – let us make it a positive and sustainable place, says Christian Wilke. We must address sustainability the same way as if we are going to Mars, we must work with the resources we have. Local solutions create global possibilities and by challenging a local daycare problem we can help save the world.

As an architect, Christian Wilke is aware of the problems that can be encountered when constructing preschools in Sweden. One issue is that demographics fluctuate, so in the time that a preschool has been built, the needs may no longer be the same.

– Today’s temporary preschools are often prefabricated modules that must be placed where there is access to rigid infrastructures such as electricity and water and that often lack architectural values both inside and outside, says Wilke. The buildings have little connection to the pedagogical approach and very few sustainable solutions are offered right now. They are often temporary but also expensive.

This is the background to why Christian Wilke wants to see more flexible solutions in the future as one of many solutions working together. Many green areas of the city are used most often in the evenings and weekends – therefore, the placement of preschools in such environments is fitting. Christian Wilke envisions that the new preschools would benefit from a closer relationship between inside and outside environments and that a large part of teaching could be done outdoors. At the times that the preschool is closed, parts of the indoor areas could instead be used for meetings and evening classes. It is also envisioned that the circular preschool can function without being connected to the regular electricity grid or to the sewerage system. Therefore, when the preschool is no longer needed it is easier to move to another location.  

In outer space, the systems must be circular so that, for example, the water and oxygen being used is recycled as much as possible. Space Hub Lund wants to use the knowledge from space research to investigate whether it is possible to create a quality, yet mobile, off-grid daycare building with minimal impact. As such, a project application to Interreg is being put together. Could the self-sustainable building and its design be transferrable into a generator of sustainable systems and behaviour? And can these ideas and visions be canalized into a single tangible object focusing on the local context and then upscaled for global use?

– Taking inspiration from space research into circular systems – life supporting systems – is just one of many links that can be made. Other areas, such as space material research, will become more relevant in the production of units like the “kinder garden”, says Anders Bengtsson, project manager of Space Hub Lund.

Thanks to the project, the preschool could become a cleantech testbed, where new technologies can be tested, and existing systems can be integrated with other systems. This means that, among other things, rainwater can be harvested, filtered, and monitored to be used and recirculated. Energy can be provided by the sun, wind, fuel cells, or other renewable sources. All traditional materials and methods can be questioned, and only low toxicity material can be used within the building.

– It may be that a new type of culinary system can be developed, with healthy, ecological, and great tasting food. I also hope that an outdoor preschool will attract male staff and challenge traditions, as currently only 3% of the staff in Swedish daycare is male. For suppliers, it would be a stamp of quality to be selected for the project, concludes Christian Wilke.

Translation: Ben Dohrmann

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