According to UNICEF, 34,000 Mongolian students live in dormitories as they are unable to stay with their nomadic families while studying due to inclement weather and long travel distances. Our proposal for the new Tsast Altai school addition is designed to capture and retain as much heat as possible in a given day, climatizing the classrooms and gym while extending their function to become bunked dorm rooms at night to accommodate the students of nomadic families, which account for close to 40% of the national population.



Known as “Land of the Blue Sky,” Mongolia’s most abundant natural resource is sunlight. The new school is placed in a location that minimizes the overlap of annual shadow footprint from nearby buildings, with a shape that is purely derived from optimal orientation to the Khovd sunpath; every element that composes the envelope contributes to capturing sunlight and solar gain. The new addition establishes a relationship to the existing school by defining a shared courtyard entryway as a common playground. An attached greenhouse combines with a blackboard thermal mass trombe wall to form the hallway which doubles as a verdant library and agriculture classroom, and facilitates both passive and active solar heating for the building.



Using tables with integrated mattresses on the underside, a desk that seats three students is simply turned upside down and stacked to create bunk beds. This solution obviates the need for storage, and along with noise-dampening moveable curtain partitions, results in a floorplan with ultimate flexibility and no wasted area; a classroom transforms into a lecture hall, gym, or dorm room in minutes.



A warm bed and radiating blackboard provide the nomadic students with a creative outlet that is both recreational and functional. Nighttime drawings can be photographed and sent to the parents; a kind of virtual refrigerator pinup designed to bring families closer despite physical distance.



Material selection focuses on low-cost, locally sourced products, including adobe brick, polycarbonate glazing with integrated PV panels that can be partially subsidized by government programs, and an insulated sandwich panel assembly for the roof. To further shelter from the harsh conditions, the structure is bermed in the ground and the excavated soil is used as earthbag insulation in the walls, to pot the greenhouse plants, and to construct the backyard amphitheater that functions as an outdoor classroom and communal gathering space.



The Tsast Altai addition is a building rooted in local culture and shaped by climate, maximizing efficiency of space and energy to perform beyond traditional educational architecture and better serve the Khovd community.




Khovd, Mongolia


Building Trust international


100 sqm




Design completed


Concept Design